For some reason, it is drilled into us from nursey age that there are three meals a day. I would like to propose that there should be a fourth meal and that one is clearly the tea and cake course. Not that I need to tell you, dear reader, I’m sure you’re like me and somehow find yourself conveniently next to a cake at a certain point in the day, when the sugar levels have dropped and you need a press on the accelerator.
For me, that’s at 11am – the pre-lunch power-shortage – and then again at 2:30-3, when lunch has been and gone, there’s still a few more hours of work and suddenly my keyboard looks incredibly comfortable, maybe I should rest my head for a moment…
It’s at this point that I know I need cake. And tea, cosily steaming away but hiding its caffeinated buzz in plain sight. My first job got it right. I was a shop assistant selling cookware and while polishing Le Creuset can sustain a person spiritually, the post-sandwich lunch yawns were powerful enough to make my eyes water. Right on cue, I would hear my manager boiling the kettle and, even if there was no cake, there would always be some M&S triple chocolate cookies for sugar-filled dunking purposes.
Just like my cookshop manager, Toulouse also has its priorities in order. This is a city that knows what to do with tea and cake, and that usually involves tea shops making a lot of it and ruthlessly displaying them in the windows like scantily dressed women in Amsterdam. Cakes, cheesecakes, tarts, pies, Toulouse is here to spoil you rotten, and we haven’t even got to the cheese and wine course – that the fifth course, the pre-dinner stomach-liner.
So when you visit Toulouse, prepare by fasting for a few days beforehand. Here are the salon de thes that you will wish you could squeeze into your suitcase to take home with you…
Tea and Cake in Toulouse
The cosy: Flower’s Cafe
This isn’t the first time Flower’s Cafe has honoured these pages, and that’s because this author is a most ardent fan. As is most of the population of Toulouse. At almost any time of day, in all weathers, there’s a queue snaking its way around the building and down the street. And that’s because of the cake display in the window.
It doesn’t leave room for much negotiation, does it? See cake, want cake, eat cake. When you’re finally seated, you’re led upstairs to the cosy tea room which always brings to mind Madam Puddifoot’s in Harry Potter – it’s stuffed with little tables, mismatched chairs, a few cosy armchairs, and for some reason, a big cuddly teddy bear.
Last winter, I found myself at Flower’s at least once a week with my friend Sarah – we evidently needed our tea and cake fix to shun the winter blues – and I recently returned. This time I went with my friend Joy who had been fantasising about their banoffee pie for weeks, we shared two decadent slices of dessert – banoffee and a chocolate, caramel peanut tart, its thick caramel oozing out the sides.
The tea selection is equally impressive with black, green and floral ranges, although, if you like English Breakfast with milk prepare yourself for frothed UHT. Maybe steer clear and stick to coffee.
Flower’s Cafe website is here
The quaint: Bapz
‘Bapz’ brings to mind bread rolls or I suppose heaving breasts you could sling over your shoulder, so ‘quaint’ is the not the usual synonym, but the Bapz in Toulouse is idyllic. Styling itself on a traditional English tea room, although I have yet to visit an English tea shop decorated in this many parasols, it is another cosily cluttered cafe. China plates and tea cups are stacked all over the place, and if you arrive before the rush, you could snag a table at the back, along a bench covered in cushions or one with two winged-back armchairs.
Just like Flower’s, you are almost rudely pushed in front of a display table of cakes and tarts and scones. Everyone does the walk up to the display to choose their temptation, and I went for – after consulting the waitress for her recommendations – the chocolate mousse cheesecake.
The base was crumbly, almost like a flapjack, while the topping that I’d expected to be almost cloyingly rich was smooth and subtly chocolatey. The slice was a Bruce Bogtrotter-sized portion and yet I put it away with incredible ease. And my coffee was served in the cutest little tea cup with a ruffled rim like a lady’s upside-down petticoat. Despite the name, Bapz serves you a quaint afternoon repose on a bone-china platter.
Bapz’s website is here
The al fresco: Le Salon d’Eugénie
This Saturday, I realised I was gazing into space as I sat at my computer. Therefore, I packed up my things and took my work to the Toulouse city centre because I knew a slice of something sweet from Le Salon d’Eugénie would sustain me. On a busy weekend afternoon at a café like this, there is no way you can calmly take out your laptop for a cosy 3-hour work session because the death stares from the people queuing outside will be enough to make your computer explode. So, it was a quick but necessary calorific stop.
My friend Stefany joined me and we ate fraisier – the French classic of sponge, cream and strawberries – and a slice of tart d’Eugénie, their own meringue pie drizzled in raspberry sauce, with a skyscraper of meringue adorning the top. We ate outside on this cool April afternoon, the easiest way to get seated, but I will certainly return once the weather is warmer to enjoy the iced teas and coffees, and no doubt another slice from their outrageous cake display.
Le Salon d’Eugenie’s website is here
Any eagle-eyed tea fans will have noticed the Bonnie from the Bonnie and Clyde combo of tea and cake has been rudely side-lined from this review line up and, honestly, I have no excuse, I find sweet foods very distracting. Plus, do all of these elaborate sweet treats really classify as cake? Probably not, but hey, the 3pm sugar-cravings are calling, as long as the suspended fork is carrying something sweet, it doesn’t really matter what it’s called.