When food establishments become ridiculously successful, of course, they're going to replicate. But behind almost every franchise is its disenfranchised staff. Well, people who think they are anyway; those just don't want to be there looking like the world owe's them a living, not just a hourly rate for being behing a kitchen counter.
If only proprietors would enthuse their teams with as much enthusiasm as they infuse vanilla into their custards, I'd be more than happy to be milked for the likes of expensive ice cream.
But, I hear ya, you's guys at the counters of Five Guys. I too have once been at the helm of a burger bar myself. All that grease in the air, the grease in your hair?! I get why you might have a face like a smacked arse at Domino's, but at a lovely dessert bar?
These gems are places of joy and decadence, so won't you give me a goddamn smile where a single scoop is costing me a fiver!
Chin Chin Labs Camden is no exception. Perhaps an excessive use of nitrous oxide in the ice cream has frozen the hearts of its staff as not one smile passed their sullen lips.
If ice cream, usually the stuff made of sunshine lemon drops and lollipops is what you want, you shan't find it here. Nothing of the corny sort. On this day in the London rain, their main concern was putting Korn on the Spotify playlist and cleaning up! (Almost 2 hours before closing time I might add.)
To be honest, I'd spent almost an hour in the whiffy pit of Camden Stables and this shitty atmosphere meant I couldn't wait to leave either.
Ice cream you’ll find, but turn away from this icy lair if you’re in search of sweetness or coffee and cake.
Ok. It’s not a precedent for shops in London to be terrible at coffee, (it's so often the case), but this coffee, in particular, tasted like it had been burned in the fiery flames of hell. Also, the coconut cake underneath my Mango sorbet was a bitter, bicarbonate-y tasting disappointment.
The blob of frozen sunshine yellow in my bowl did little to bring any cheer.
It wasn’t only Spotify radio announcing My Vitriol is back for 2017.
Thanks to the likes of Chin Chin Labs, we’ve seen it all now: Breast milk ice cream, milk-pudding smoked over hay, ham sorbet (probably). Heston, you and your snail porridge opened quite the gate.
Sure, diversify our pallets from priggish plum pudding, but please I implore establishment owners to keep up with the passion for service and most importantly: Practice your pastry craft chefs! The epitome of success is getting repetition right. Master your meringues, slave over sugar coz London at present, is a disappointing landscape of chains for me and Joe Blow right now.
Even, sadly, The Pudding Bar, didn’t go far.
Here’s how it went down:
I finally succumbed for the want of a good crumble, to be drizzled in dessert; was lured in by the talk of this parlour's sweet treats that surfaced in Soho. I could only ignore it for so long.
"Bar me from the Pudding Bar", I declared to my dinner dates on previous occasions. Save me from pop-ups to save my buttons popping off, I said! This was a danger spot I had been avoiding.
However, London, one of the most brilliant cities in the world has a severe lack of dessert bars and yet, this one opened...next to another one; one that's rather well renowned.
In sweet anticipation, the dining floor from outside was a mystery, the view inside was concealed by its steamy and condensed windows. I could only think of the possibilities of sweetened condensed milk.
Filled with dessert diners, the place was packed and in various stages of carb comas; exhibit a. a table of girls screeching in hysterical fits of sugar rushes, exhibit b. deserters who’d missed main courses elsewhere, just to delve into third cake base. All delirious from sweet overload.
As we entered I was not hit by heavenly sweet smells, but by a damp mouldy mix of mildew with an unsavoury sweaty pong. (It was raining and there weren't enough windows open, but for the number of calories this gimmicky place guffs out onto Greek St, carb-karma awaits. (Good job there were a lot of stairs to climb to the table before reaching dessert heaven.)
So in this sweaty Bikram/bakery, we were thankful, we were h away from the offensive odours on the opening floor, up past the kitchen where comforting smells of burnt sugar and butter caramelising, reassuringly followed us to the top.
I needed no persuasion to choose the signature dish, classic Baked Alaska with a maple meringue. Although I favoured the sturdy looking ball of ice cream stacked on apple cake over everything else offered, I'd like to have said I crumbled to the Pudding Bar's charms, but no such crumble was there on the menu.
Neither was any sort of 'Pudding' really, nor sponge, nor (my favorite in any form) custard! No signs of anything puddingy at all! I don’t understand PB, indeed why would one alight at Soho to, if anything, not be enlightened?
So, what else could our pudding party have from the menu?
(Done to) Death-by-chocolate (snore); a bore of a Smores Cheesecake. Cheesecake?!? (Urgh, how easy is cheesecake to make) and for chocolate satisfaction, that's all that was on offer.
For the tangy fancier of you; Lemon Polenta cake.
Now, since Nigella has taught us all how to perfect pouting and polenta cake, a restaurant's offering that is dry and not in the slightest lemony and unadventurous in its presentation is just a plain as plain flour, mistake.
Feeling cold towards this stinky stuffy space was just the tip of the iceberg.
I know it was a pop-up, but slap-dash decor, falling to pieces furniture, chipped miss matched grannies crockery; I found charmless. Acceptable in Hackney for kids from the 80s, but this style has since franchised itself out so much to be branded as trendy. Now it's just pretentious, lazy and passé.
PB, has (like my belt holes) stretched its residency into the new year, so please Pud your money where your mouth is and perfect the menu, craft those recipes until you're shit hot as molten chocolate good at them and then call yourselves a pudding bar.
Until then, I'm Pudding it past me. Next time I'm gonna stop for the weightily moist cakes, glistening in the window, sliding onto the glass shelves next door. Tsk! Fancy, 'pudding' a dessert bar next to the famous Maison Bertaux anyway?! What a sweet cheek!