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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)


The Knickerbocker Glory is the ultimate ice-cream sundae (Ola O Smit). Opening image: cream-filled fancies (Clare Winfield)

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.

Visit Fortnum & Mason

The signature chocolate and hazelnut Connaughty Hound  (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit The Connaught

Vegan plantain waffle topped with blueberries and dairy-free ice cream (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Chuku’s

The decadent afternoon tea at The Stafford London takes guests on a journey around historic St James’s (The Stafford London ©️ Simon Brown, ©️ The Stafford London)

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.

Visit The Stafford

Lanka’s layered green tea strawberry cake (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Lanka

Robert de Niro graces a wall of Regency Café, which has often been used as a film location – even aptly appearing in Layer Cake (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Regency Café

Sally Butcher’s peach and chilli pan-fry (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Persepolis

Luscious, custard-topped artisan crumble to go (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Humble Crumble

Brown butter and honey custard tarts done right (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Marksman

Rinkoff’s famous ‘crodoughs’ filled with custard, salted caramel, chocolate fudge and more (Ola O Smit)

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.

Visit Rinkoff Bakery

Natty neighbourhoods

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

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