This is not a philosophical post.
I’m not about to get all deep and meaningful.
I literally just want to talk about cake.
Whilst Yelp lists are great, there’s no way to expand on why each restaurant is worthy of inclusion, so I thought I’d do so here instead. It seemed obvious to start with those places in London where I personally go (on a far too regular basis) to indulge in cake, pudding, desserts, and their associated chocolatey, fruity, creamy brethren.
LET THEM EAT CAKE.
(Sorry I’m not sorry).
S.A.I.D.: 41 Broadwick St, London W1F 9QL
These guys are the new chocolatiers in town and BY GOD if they don’t know how to use their product. I personally prefer the individual truffles up the road at Paul A. Young (drool) but the cakes here are incredible. Rich, varied, utterly indulgent; their chocolate-based recipes are the ones to pick (with the exception of the brownie). They do a particularly good turn in fruit and chocolate combos, especially if – like me – you believe that chocolate is generally sullied by the inclusion of anything remotely healthy. The pear in their pear and chocolate cake keeps the sponge incredibly moist, almost gooey, and adds another layer of flavour. They also do a raspberry-chocolate concoction which is basically a small slab of cake with a gigantic pile of chocolate mousse-type icing dotted with raspberries throughout and it is decadent beyond all manner of superlatives. They charge £3.50 per (enormous) slice.
MAISON BERTAUX: 28 Greek Street, London W1D 5DQ
The decor may be bonkers and the staff equally so, but the mouth-watering goodies arrayed in the window are enough to stop the most hardened low-carber dead in the street and send her dazedly through the doors, demanding a millefeuille be deposited directly into her mouth. Fruit, pastry and cream are the name of the game here and cost around £5 each. Upstairs feels a little like a forgettable train station waiting room, despite graffiti by Noel Fielding and ubiquitous Christmas decorations, but it nonetheless remains a popular location for dates, meetings and time-killing (although most of that will be spent choosing what to eat).
HAWKSMOOR AIR STREET: 5A Air Street, London W1J 0AD
Everybody bangs on about Hawksmoor for the steaks. My advice? Get your meat fix at Flat Iron, then make the five-minute walk to Hawksmoor for their sticky toffee pudding which – despite costing £8 – is honestly one of, if not the best version I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. They also do a fantastic and beautifully-presented chocolate salted caramel tart, and I’m told that their peanut-butter shortbread is divine although I haven’t tried it myself. Yet. That reminds me, I really must book a table . . .
THE SHIP: 41 Jews Row, Wandsworth, London SW18 1TB
Hands up who loves a classic British pudding? If your mitts are raised then you fail, you should be using them to shove rhubarb crumble into your expectant face. Anyway, The Ship is another location for a fantastic sticky toffee pudding (£6.25) which was in fact my favourite in London until I went to Hawksmoor. Dangerous fact: I actually prefer the main courses at The Ship. Strip me of all rights to culinary pretension if you will, but their Sunday roast is excellent. Unfortunately there’s little else of interest nearby but no worries, you can hang around this gastropub for hours. Just don’t forget your red trousers and/or artfully side-swooshed hair.
THE BREAD MAN: Berwick Street Market, London W1F 8TE
It may just be a stall but it produces arguably the best brownies (£2.50) in Soho, plus the tastiest and cheapest Portuguese custard tarts (£2). As well as a range of fresh and surprisingly cheap sandwiches, you’ll find a fast turnover and cheeky banter. Be warned, those of a nervous disposition: it’s specifically Australian banter, which means it contains a healthy dose of swearing and sex, which I enjoy almost as much as cake. The banana bread is pretty good but Bread Man’s USP is that he really knows his tarts.
BUSH HALL DINING ROOMS: 304 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London W12 7LJ
In a surprise left-field (or West-field – HAHAHAHA) turn, an otherwise-grimy road in Shepherds Bush produces some of the best puddings around. Bush Hall Dining Rooms apparently cannot put a foot wrong and serves up wonderfully British puds, either traditional and oft-ignored (sherry trifle; Knickerbocker Glory) or creatively twisted (Pimm’s pannacotta with mint, strawberry coulis and cucumber garnish; crumble with Earl Grey custard). The mains are fantastic too, and along the same lines of trad-with-a-twist but to be perfectly honest, if you live over east then you’re unlikely to schlep to SheBu just for a meal. However, if you find yourselves going to a gig at the Bush Hall or the O2 Academy, I highly recommend you end your evening by staggering over to the Dining Rooms for some vino and trifle.
OTTOLENGHI: 63 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AD
I assured an awful lot of people that Ottolenghi did hand-made chocolates and only recently realised I was confusing it with nearby Melt. Oops. If you followed my advice, I can only apologise, both to you and the nonplussed serving staff. You’ll just have to trust I’m not lying when I say that their cakes truly are melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Think light, infused, tangy sponges; the sort made of polenta and decorated with pistachios and twirls of lemon rind. (You can also get excellent salads for a starter if you fancy cancelling out the bad stuff. Oh, and you can buy the recipe book too but that’s just a bit too much like hard work). Cakes are around £4 to take away.
YAUATCHA: 15-17 Broadwick Street, London W1F 0DL
You may not expect it at an upmarket Chinese restaurant but one of Yauatcha‘s calling cards is their individual, brightly-coloured, designer cakes. They look like works of art, and are priced that way too, at £8.50 for something the size of a macaron. The dimsum is fantastic – amongst the best in London – but if a loved one deserves something beautiful (because they’ve, like, given birth or won an Oscar) then pop in and buy a takeaway cake. The thing that looks like scarlet velvet – seriously, it literally resembles a tiny fabric-covered cushion – is a mousse-filled extravaganza, pleasingly tart, and topped with gold leaf. Decadent!
CAMELLIA’S TEA HOUSE: Top Floor, 2.12 Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW
Loads of people come to London wanting afternoon tea. Folks, it’s a dream. Seriously. I mean, we Brits drink tea morning, noon and night, and I laugh in the face of those who only eat cake at 4pm. That idea of picking up a cup from a doily-covered table, extending our little fingers and delicately nibbling a cucumber sandwich whilst saying things like “oh but my dear, Lady Strudel-Hunter simply insisted that Maximillian would make an excellent match for darling Millie” DOES NOT EXIST. It’s a hangover from about two hundred years ago and most of us are descended from the peasants who grew the cucumbers rather than those who got to eat them. Anywayz: feel free to ignore my rants and head on over to Fortnum & Mason if you so wish. It may be amazing; I wouldn’t know; I don’t have a double-barrelled surname and a rifle range, nor fifty quid to drop on a meal that isn’t even an actual meal. But if you want to indulge in the contemporary, affordable version then head on over to Camellia’s. They do really good cakes with a frankly inexplicable range of teas, it’s not remotely stuffy, and it’ll only set you back £6.50 for the lot. Plus the scones are huge. It’s central, but off the main street, so unlikely to be accidentally discovered. If you must have tea with your cake, then have it here.
CANDY CAFE: 3 Macclesfield Street, London W1D 6AU
An unexpected one, but deserves a mention nonetheless. The Chinese are not known internationally for their puddings (hence, perhaps, the perceived strangeness of Yauatcha’s window display) but having lived there, I know what they’re hiding. Guangdong in particular has managed to import recipes from Hong Kong and Taiwan and they’re almost as creative with the sweet treats as they are with their mains. Candy Cafe is the only place I’ve found in London which authentically serves up these unappetising-sounding desserts, and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to those who haven’t experienced the original, if you have and are looking for a bit of nostalgia, head here. Or if you just want to indulge in the full Chinatown experience and have had your fill of Cantonese cuisine around the corner, shun the banana fritters and finish off your meal with a pit-stop here. Puddings are a few quid each (it’s hard to be precise; the bill was in Chinese). The service is atrocious but that’s what makes it so real.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on great places for cakes and puddings and I’ll be sure to try them out (because I am nothing if not thorough in my research, and would hate to be considered a flake). Let me know if you’d like any other round-ups and I’d be happy to oblige!