In today’s review we’re going to have a look at two relatively small Friends sets. I’ve rolled them into a single article to make it worthwhile in terms of volume and because there’s a potential little twist to this.
The first set is the Heartlake City Park Café (41426). The name sounds grandiose, but in fact it’s really just a tiny waffle stand – of sorts.
The point why I’m using “of sorts” is that while the whole thing is modeled after those little shallow sheds you can indeed find in parks or on the sidewalks of cities like Paris for instance, which really aren’t more than boxes, it doesn’t quite qualify as a waffle stand or even “café”. A newspaper stand? A flower stand? Just fine, but not anything to do with food. There would be some serious hygiene and safety concerns.
This becomes clear once you open the doors. On the real thing those wouldn’t even be glass doors, but rather just solid doors with all sorts of little utilities, hooks, compartments and so on on their inside, so once opened those could be filled with goods for presentation, i.e. newspapers, flowers or souvenirs.
The actual working space would make any safety engineer’s hair stand on end (and a hygiene inspector’s as well). Things would topple over and fall down all the time, the workers would constantly bump into their kitchen appliances and furniture or burn their fingers. All those very adult concerns aside, the thing that bothers me most is that the model just doesn’t breathe that sense of a busy food-related kiosk.
You know, if this were real they couldn’t keep up with demand with only one waffle iron, There’s no mixing machine for the batter, there’s no coffee brewer, no fridge and the selection of fillings and condiments is at best sparse. Point in case: It would have been easy for LEGO to throw in at least an apple, banana or cherry and extend the model further in the back to add some more stuff. There’s no reason it only needs to be eight studs deep.
Getting to the good parts, there’s of course the new 1 x 1 heart tiles with the waffle grid print along with the older square tile version of similar ilk. Having had some Magenta window frames ever since the Heartlake Pizzeria (41311) from way back then I figured having matching door frames might come in handy one of those days – whenever that may be.
The yellow flowers are indeed actual Yellow, not the usual Bright Light Orange. That’s a pretty funky thing and one of those “I thought they had been around for years already.” moments, when in fact the color has never been used for this element. It seems trivial, but such is the world of LEGO and their inconsistent usage of colors.
Speaking of which, and this will come as an even bigger shock and you may not believe it, this set is also the first time in over forty (!) years the 1 x 1 round brick is available in Medium nougat. Given how suitable it would be for building plants and some other things and that e.g. the complementary palisade 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks with their wood stem imitations have existed in this color since forever, one can really only wonder about the company’s logic in these things.
To cap things off, there’s a small table where potential passers-by could perch and chit-chat while eating. You know, those annoyances that the kiosk owners always put smack in the middle of where you walk and you have to navigate around. Nothing special to see here, but it’s good that after quite a while at least the squirrel is available again and with a new eye print to boot.
Now for that “special twist” I hinted at earlier. There may actually be a way to turn the waffle stand into that little flower kiosk with a relatively cheap investment. That’s where Olivia’s Flower Garden (41425) comes in. But first let’s look at it on its own merits.
Did I say merits? Well, sadly it doesn’t have any. This set literally feels like someone at LEGO took a tour in their storage facilities, discovered a few leftover pieces from other production runs and then told the designer to make something of it. Each of the separate items could just as well be one of those models you get in the various LEGO magazines’ foil packs. They have been reduced to the bare minimum.
The little cart is reminiscent of those electrically powered baggage carts you see at airports or wholesale markets. It wouldn’t really make much sense outside those scenarios, but who knows? Maybe Olivia is running a big greenhouse like the ones in The Netherlands covering acres of ground that you can see from the airplane when approaching Amsterdam?
Unfortunately this isn’t the case. All you get is a tiny, tiny piece of elevated flower bed/ gardening table under an angled glass window. What makes this even worse for me is that there is not a single new piece in this set (at least they use the new binoculars piece on Zobo, though). By that I especially mean some newly colored plant piece, naturally. You know, had those leaves been Dark Green or Sand Green and we finally got those daisy blossoms in Medium Blue or another new color I’d be much happier.
Now back to my original argument: Combined with the leaf elements of the waffle stand the contents of this set could be used to re-dress it as a flower stand and if you have some extra parts from other sets to throw in, this may be even more feasible. At least in my world this would make much more sense.
As a conclusion I have to say that neither of the two are extraordinary sets by any stretch of the imagination. While the waffle stand at least tries to be a bit original and when remodeled and repurposed could actually look quite nice, the supposed “flower garden” is just a bad joke at the cost of the customer. The irony is that I get what they were aiming for, but again LEGO‘s laziness and forced cost-cutting rear their heads, preventing the sets from being much better.
Especially the “flower garden” is in no way the 10 Euro they are asking when the actual value feels like 5 Euro. Naturally, lower prices on the open market mitigate this somewhat, but even then it still feels unwarranted. This could just as well have been a 4 Euro polybag. The waffle stand fares a bit better as it boasts at least some new and unique parts. For a 15 Euro street price at a MSRP of 20 Euro that’s okay. Not great, but okay.