“18% gratuity for table service? $8 for a latte that was just average? A 45 minute maximum loitering time? The M should stand for moneybags, lady!”
– A numbers guy prior to head exploding (taken from Yelp)
That’s probably as negative as reviews for Lady M get. The cakes are undoubtedly divine, the displays are gorgeous, and the service is genuine. At the same time, I walked out of the boutique bakery thinking- should I be concerned that I just shelled out more money for a slice of cake and coffee than my brunch at Delicatessen?
It’s a rare occasion that I actually drive into the city, but I did so this past Sunday morning and let me tell you- driving in the city on a rainy Sunday is awesome. I guess everyone just stays indoors because there was absolutely no one on the road. When the streets of New York are bare, you begin to see the genius behind the architects of the grid system and the programmers behind the traffic lights. All you need to do is wait through one red light because when that light turns green, the rest do so in a sequential succession, like God parting the Red Sea for Moses. I got us from Union Square to the Upper East Side (78th St) in literally 5 minutes. I kid you not. According to Yun, I’m more efficient than a cab.
The other great thing about Sundays is free parking! So we were easily able to find a spot a block and a half away on a residential street. Lady M is pretty low key. If you’re not looking for it, you could easily miss it. It was a lot smaller than I thought it’d be. Essentially, it’s a large glass door that enters into a long narrow display of cakes and tables lined against the walls.
We walked in, with the Mille Feuille prominently displayed by the window, followed by a Strawberry Shortcake, a Meringue Cake, and then the Green Tea Mousse Cake. I asked permission to take photos (I read somewhere on Yelp that photos were forbidden but since I didn’t see any signs, I figured I might as well ask) to which they readily honored my request.
Lady M Mille Feuille ($40-75)
If you just want a slice of cake, you’ll have to decide long and hard because sitting down will cost you 18% of whatever you pay. That’s right. An automatic 18% gratuity tacked on to the bill of ALL parties. That’s a bit ridiculous, but anyway… They do serve brunch but most people grab slices of cakes and dessert with tea or coffee. I can’t even imagine trying to eat brunch on those tiny round tables that barely fit our three coffees and three slices of cake. The cakes aren’t labeled with prices per slice, but I think as a general rule of thumb, you can count on them being around $8.
Here were my thoughts:
Lady M Mille Feuille: $7.50/slice
This is Lady M’s signature cake. In fact, our server said that most people come in with their hearts set on a slice of this beauty. Translated literally from French as a thousand leaves, think about layers of crepes delicately stacked on top of one another with a thin layer of sweet crème. There’s a sugary glaze on the top most layer to seal the deal. Each bite is light though clearly, this is somewhat of a dense cake. While I thought it was absolutely delicious, it actually fell a bit under my expectations, especially for a $7.50 slice! At $7.50, I would have much rather ordered a slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.
Blasphemy you say? Well, even so, I guess it’s one of those things that you have to try if you’re at Lady M’s.
Strawberry Mille Feuille: $8/slice
This is another type of Mille Feuille, and at Chinese bakeries, we call this a “Napoleon.” Our server told us that while fewer people order this cake, those who do always love it. This was the cake that I chose and I have to say, it was indeed delicious. It’s a bit messy to eat just because of how flaky the layers can be, but the flakes of pastry crust are just so delectable with the slightly sweetened cream. There’s a thin layers of free strawberries on the top most layer (I wished they weren’t so stingy and actually used some slices on the bottom layer) but oh wells. It was like floating on clouds, eating strawberries and whipped cream.
However, at $8 a slice, I think next time I’ll go to Chinatown and buy a Napoleon cake for $10. Clearly, the cake won’t be as good, but there is only so much of a difference that I think that quantity makes up for the lack in quality.
Green Tea Mousse Cake: $8/slice
If you like matcha flavored desserts, this is for you. The matcha is really strong and you can tell that a good grade of matcha powder was used. The cake itself is spongy and light and the mousse compliments it really well.
Once again at $8 a slice, I’m not sure if I’d ever order it again. It was good, but not fantastic. I think even a slice of cake at Magnolia sells for around $5.
As expensive as the slices are, if you want to buy a whole cake, that will really set you back. The Strawberry Shortcake will set you back a whopping $80. The Strawberry Mille Feuille will set you back $70. The signature Lady M Mille Feuille will set you back anywhere from $40-75 depending on the size.
So looking at it from that perspective, I feel like we got off relatively cheap. The slices aren’t huge, but I don’t think that they’re really making any extra money off of you if you order by the slice.
Iced Cafe ($4.50)
We all also got coffee. I got the iced version, which is priced the same as the hot coffee. The coffee was actually a bit sour; I doubt it was cold brewed. But I do have to admit- when they brought out the liquid sugar, I was like WHOA! This is awesome and so clever! It totally solves the problem of sugar not being able to dissolve in cold coffee! They also bring out a ton of milk, cubed sugar, and even rock sugar. So even though it was the most expensive coffee I’ve ever bought, that liquid sugar almost justified the price.
My conclusion? Come here once, but not again. It’s an experience in itself but that’s it. The only time I’d ever buy a cake from there is for a really special occasion. Even so, there better be flakes of gold garnished on the frosting for me to pay that much. I’m willing to pay for good food, but I realized that philosophy does not extend to slices of cake…