Via Basilea 28, Lugano, Switzerland
On a driving holiday in Europe, we found ourselves checked into the Continental Parkhotel in Lugano, a lovely lakeside city in southern Switzerland. The hotel overlooks the old town, across a railway line, and consists of a grand old building, plus a newer annex where the cheaper rooms are.
Normally the breakfast buffets at hotels in this part of the world have a selection of hot food, bread, cold meats, cheeses, and fruit. Sometimes they have cakes or tarts. But as I surveyed the offerings on this fine morning, I spied, lurking between a row of doughnuts and muffins, a procession of vanilla slices! Having the luxury of taking whatever I wanted for breakfast, I first filled up on healthy things like muesli and fruit, before returning to the buffet to grab a vanilla slice.
Surveying it as I return to my breakfast table, I notice the slice is very neat and professional looking, like it came out of a kitchen of a master patissier. It’s an almost perfectly square and straight rectangular prism, except for an odd defect of a couple of craters in the plain white icing on top. From the selection in the breakfast buffet, all of them had some problem like this with the icing, so I took the least marked one. The pastry layers look dense and biscuity, rather than light and flaky. The custard is an appealing pale to mid yellow colour, but shows some evidence of slight cracking, as though drying out a little bit. Probably its role as a hotel breakfast buffet item hasn’t done it any favours.
Being in a fancy hotel dining room, I’m reluctant to pick the slice up to eat by hand. It slice breaks easily under a fork, which slices through the layers of pastry and custard without causing any squeezage or oozage. Picking it up, I see the bottom layer of pastry has many small dimples caused by pricking with a fork before baking. But the pastry is disappointingly soft, with no crispness or particular flake. It’s almost like a thin slice of cake, rather than pastry.
The custard is also disappointing, being sweet, airy, light, and with an odd graininess to the texture. It’s a little bit like the eggs had curdled slightly during cooking and produced a mass of grainy textured proteins, although it’s not clear this is an egg custard to begin with; it’s more like a fluffy buttercream that has somehow gone grainy. There’s very little vanilla flavour, with the overwhelming taste sensation being of simple sugary sweetness. Very disappointing.
Vanilla slice: 3/10.