Sweet relief: where to find the best desserts in the UK's capital
In a city as gastronomically diverse as London, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to the best foodie destinations. Luckily, for those with a sweet tooth, dessert devotee Imogen Lepere has the answer. She rounds up the capital’s top ten places for pudding, and what not to miss at each. So grab a spoon and let’s dive in...
From An Opinionated Guide to Sweet London by Imogen Lepere (£9.95, Hoxton Mini Press)
Retro ice-cream sundaes in a 300-year-old department store
Where: The Parlour, Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER
Nearest Tube station: Green Park
When it comes to ice-cream credentials, Fortnum & Mason is second to none: it introduced the Knickerbocker Glory to the UK in 1955. Still a classic on its menu, this many-layered strawberry and pineapple dessert looks as if it has sashayed straight out of a nostalgic American movie – except Fortnum’s version is made with ingredients befitting the royal family’s grocer. Too cold for ice cream? Its intense, single-origin 70 per cent Nicaraguan hot chocolate, crowned with a cloud of whipped cream, is equally decadent.
The crème de la crème of London’s pastry scene
Where: The Connaught Patisserie, The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
Nearest Tube station: Bond Street
With its Venetian glass lamps and marble counter, the Connaught Hotel’s pâtisserie resembles a jeweller – the gems here may be edible but they’re as dazzling as any others you’ll find in Mayfair. The showstopper is the Connaughty Hound, a feather-light chocolate mousse and crunchy hazelnut praline cake in the shape of the mutt on the hotel’s crest. At £14 a pop, it’s more pure breed than your family pet, but Nicolas Rouzaud’s three-Michelin- starred expertise was never going to come cheap. Opt to sit in to enjoy a complimentary madeleine with your coffee.
Plantain waffles at London’s first Nigerian tapas joint
Where: Chuku’s, 274 High Road, N15 4AJ
Nearest Tube Station: Seven Sisters
Siblings and co-founders Ifeyinwa and Emeka Frederick are on a mission to educate Londoners about Nigerian culture. Everything from posters written in Hausa to a rhythmic Afrobeats soundtrack celebrates the warmth and vibrancy of their motherland. Cocktails and creative sharing plates abound, while comforting desserts champion Nigerian ingredients. The plantain waffle is a case in point: fluffy, moist and with a satisfying chew, it’s the ideal texture to soak up puddles of salted caramel ice cream and maple syrup.
Imaginative afternoon tea in a historic hotel
Where: The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NJ
Nearest Tube station: Green Park
This unusual afternoon tea pays homage to the artisans tucked away in the surrounding secluded streets of St James’s. A zingy white chocolate and lime top hat nods to Lock & Co, the world’s oldest hatters, while a cupcake with buttercream shaped like a rose is an (almost) too-pretty-to-eat homage to ninth-generation perfumer Floris. Eat your way through chocolate cigars, tiny tuxedos and a selection of savoury finger sandwiches while relishing the atmosphere of one of London’s most fascinating hotels.
Polished French-Japanese pâtisserie
Where: Lanka, 9 Goldhurst Terrace, NW6 3HX
Nearest Tube station: Finchley Road
There’s a personal touch to everything in Lanka’s light-flooded space. Masayuki Hara (previously of Michelin-starred kitchens including Le Gavroche) bakes all the elegant cakes daily and his wife, Mina, decorates them. Their bestselling green tea strawberry cake – simply three layers of tissue-thin sponge sandwiched together by fresh cream and juicy strawberries – is proof that sometimes less is so much more.
Proper puds in a time-warp diner
Where: Regency Café, 17–19 Regency Street, SW1P 4BY
Nearest Tube station: Pimlico
A sign above the door proudly saying ‘Established in 1946’ sets the tone for this fuss-free caff. Orange juice in a glass bottle and bubble and squeak served without a hint of irony are par for the course, but its secret trump card is pudding. There are only ever one or two on offer and they’re always rooted in British nursery food circa 1940: from cherry pie to great, gooey hunks of bread-and-butter pudding in puddles of steaming custard. Go easy on the builder’s tea, though, as there’s no bathroom.
Playful Persian puddings
Where: Persepolis, 28-30 Peckham High Street, SE15 5DT
Nearest Tube station: Peckham Rye
This quirky corner café in Peckham has been around for nearly 20 years and its peach and chilli pan-fry has featured on the menu for almost as long. It hits all the notes of traditional Persian cuisine: punchy chillies, soft, sweet peaches and contrastingly sour barberries, all crowned with a scattering of rose petals or mint. Owner Sally Butcher loves reimagining ancient recipes and this very pink pudding is her spin on khoresht, a savoury Iranian stew. Stock up on sweet things such as sesame brittle, sugared almonds and sholeh zard (saffron rice pudding) at its delicatessen next door.
Gourmet crumbles made to order
Where: Humble Crumble, Old Spitalfields Market, 12 Horner Square, E1 6EW
Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street
Only a company that’s truly confident in its products could consider such a self-effacing name. In this case, that confidence is fully justified. This is crumble as it’s meant to be: tender chunks of fruit topped with shortbread crumbs and creamy custard fragrant with Madagascan vanilla. The ballet-shoe-pink façade of its pudding bar in Spitalfields Market matches the optional additions of blow- torched marshmallow and dried rose petals... if the option’s there, it would be rude not to.
Nostalgic custard tart in a Hackney gastropub
Where: Marksman, 254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
Nearest station: Hoxton
Although it was built in 1865, this East End boozer was reincarnated as a much-lauded restaurant in 2015. Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram, both St John veterans, draw on London’s history to inspire a menu of smoked, salted and pickled plates. However, there is only one dish that’s so popular you can (and must) reserve it when booking: their deceptively simple, wobbly-yet-smooth brown-butter custard tart, served on golden pastry and topped with a sprinkle of salt. It’s the sort of thing your grandparents made – but far, far better.
A family bakery since 1911
Where: Rinkoff Bakery, 224 Jubilee Street, E1 3BS
Nearest Tube station: Stepney Green (Other location: Whitechapel)
The name ‘Rinkoff’ is as entwined with east London as jellied eels and rhyming slang: to date, four generations of the family have stood at this legendary bakery’s stoves. The secret to its huge success lies in moving with the times. Sure, it still sells apple strudel made to the original family recipe but it’s the ‘crodoughs’ – layers of crisp croissant dough, fried like a doughnut and temptingly iced – that keep the quadrangle outside its shop humming. The most coveted of the lot are salted caramel; get there by midday or forever wish you had.
If you’re after that ‘village in the city’ feel when you next visit the The Big Smoke, consider bedding down in either of these cosy, central London communities
Hidden between London’s prime shopping district and its nightlife hub, Fitzrovia is a breath of sophistication and Zen amidst the city’s hubbub. Once home to the likes of John Constable and Virginia Woolf, its literary and artistic heritage is visible on every corner. Begin your trip in refined luxury at the boutique Charlotte Street Hotel, whose subtle prints, charming crockery and plush furnishings are down to founder and interior designer Kit Kemp. From there, enjoy ‘me-time’ in lavish beauty parlour Radiance London, which serves up unmissable massages (our pick is the Deep Tissue Energiser), before finishing off your pamper session at Saco Hair, a minimalist salon offering starry styles via a new range of Supernature products boasting amla, horsetail and wheatgrass extracts. When it comes to food, it has to be an evening at Michelin-starred Hakkasan. Head into its intimately lit interior to sample a menu that features Cantonese delights including oatmeal Dover sole and stir-fry black pepper beef with Merlot. The signature Hakkatini cocktail (vodka, Campari, Grand Marnier and apple and orange cream bitters) is a must.
A fashionable stomping ground since the 17th century – Charles Dickens, Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney are just a few of its famous residents – Marylebone Village has all the charm of an English village, with glamour credentials to rival the King’s Road. Start your stylish induction on the High Street, admiring the Georgian buildings housing London brands – swing by Designers Guild for luxury interiors inspiration (its prints can be seen at many a hotel and restaurant in the capital), or get an A-list glow at Organic Pharmacy’s new concept store, where power facials and vitamin-packed smoothies abound. As night falls, wander winding Marylebone Lane to join smart locals at 28°-50°, a buzzing bar with a list of 30 superlative wines, before devouring eastern Mediterranean sharing plates of charred cauliflower, aubergine dip and grilled courgettes at Delamina, just opposite. Care to recline after all that indulgence? Retreat to The Marylebone Hotel, where spacious suites with spectacular terraces, marble-lined bathrooms and a brasserie with a cool neighbourhood vibe make for a deliciously opulent but comfy base.
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