London: Sweet Spots

Usually famed for the quintessentially British afternoon tea à la Ritz, a host of new sweet sensations have swept across London town. Too good to resist, these tantalising treats promise to tickle the tastebuds of everyone including the most sugar averse amongst us. If anyone possesses sufficient self will to turn even a nibble from one of these spots down, I applaud you. Admit it, haven’t you always wanted to eat the milkiest soft serve known to man, dolloped inside a crispy crepe come waffle cone shaped as a fish? I thought so. It gets better… They’re all easily portable, a time and life saving phenomenon for the constantly rushed millennial. If these treats’ ability to be handheld is properly taken advantage of, squeezing in all the decadent desserts on this list in one weekend is a mere walk in the park! Embark on said feat at your own risk of entering sugar overload, although surely, a little overindulgence from time to time can only be good for one’s health. As they say, some simply eat to live, others live to eat. It doesn’t take much to figure that I most definitely fall in the latter. Eat your way across London, taking in some of the city’s landmark sights as you go along. The recipe to happy travels couldn’t be simpler. And don’t worry, this is no wild goose chase! Yours truly has painstakingly taste tested to ensure that only the crème-de-la-crème is served along the way on this tasty trip. It’s a tough life.

CRONUTS @ DOMINIQUE ANSEL, BELGRAVIA

 

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Remember hearing about people queuing up around a New York City block for hours waiting to get a bite of the baking world’s newest mind-blowing masterpiece? The item in question was none other than the glorious cronut, a croissant meet donut hybrid that went against the sanctity of everything refined and French. Absolutely everyone was twiddling their thumbs whilst waiting idly, all in an attempt to get their hands on what was the modern day equivalent of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. Fast forward a few years and you’ll probably still find people standing there waiting. The line might not have stayed quite as long, but the occasional bun fight for these baked goods continues to break out. Here’s a little secret though. The pâtissier extrodinaire behind this trademarked sweet triumph, Dominique Ansel, a culinary demigod if we’re completely honest, opened an outpost right next to London’s Victoria Station in late 2016. So maybe it’s not quite a secret anymore, Eater has included it on their roundup of the 13 Best Bakeries in London, whilst Monsieur Ansel’s delectable patisseries feature on Timeout’s list of London’s most showstopping desserts. Nevertheless, it already runs laps around its famous counterpart in New York. Why? Well for starters, you won’t have to show up before 7:30am, as is the recommendation of the New York bakery for anyone vying to buy a cronut. Stepping through the hallowed doors into London’s dessert heaven, you’ll find a smallish crowd gathered but rest assured you need not fear the teller reciting the three words you never want to hear, “we’re sold out”.  This probably all sounds far too good to be true, and you are most certainly questioning the humble cronut’s ability to live up to the hype. After all, it isn’t much more than a circular, donut-shaped croissant popped in a deep fryer, achieving the perfect golden exterior. That’s where you are oh so wrong. Nothing can quite encompass the first bite, taken after at least five silent minutes spent staring at the glazed beauty perched perfectly before you. This sugared halo, filled with silky smooth cream – each month showcases a different seasonal flavour combination – is everything and more you could ever ask for from a dessert. Flaky, buttery, and oh so gooey, if you aren’t hungry yet then maybe this isn’t the post for you. More of a traditionalist? The smorgasbord of delights is bound to make your heart skip a beat or two; dig in to the crispy almond croissant, or chocolate eclair with its satin smooth glaze. This place is the stuff of dreams.

A DONUT @ PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET

Combine two of what I will argue are the greatest past times, shopping and eating, as you stroll down Notting Hill’s Portobello Road. Join the throbbing crowd of tourists taking in the trinkets, ranging from genuine antiques to absolutely absurd who knows whats, with a jam-filled golden donut happily in hand. Sold at a stall in the midst of the hustle, it’s the perfect snack to tide you through. If you have the time, head just off Portobello Road to Westbourne Grove and grab lunch with those who’ve long since abandoned London’s louder spots; whilst a table at firm favourite Granger & Co. is hard to come by, their featherlight scrambled eggs, and pretty much everything else on the menu, is worth the wait. Otherwise, other trusted neighbourhood go tos – including 202 and Ottolenghi – dish up equally as delicious brunch staples. Not quite a culinary masterpiece, but nevertheless scrumptious in its honest simplicity, what’s not to love about this little £1.50 delightful donut? Plus you might even stumble across some hidden treasures whilst you’re there, now that’s what I call a bargain!

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SOFT SERVE @ MILK TRAIN, COVENT GARDEN

If you asked me what I imagine floating on a cloud feels like, I would tell you I hope identical to the sensationally shameless and entirely gluttonous experience of eating the ice cream from here. Nothing can quite surmount the sugar fuelled bliss this place provides. Don’t come here expecting your £1.00 seaside staple soft serve, with multicoloured hundreds and thousands the most adventurous option on the list of toppings. Oh no my friend, Milk Train takes the cake for achieving the seemingly impossible and reinventing the wheel. The humble summertime favourite that is soft serve ice cream just received a million calorie makeover. The sweet scents floating down the cobbled lane sparks a wave of uninhibited childhood glory; sadly the speedy metabolisms we all once took for granted don’t join in to make a grand return. You can’t help but let out a sheepish grin as you step inside, overcome with both excitement and the realisation that you definitely won’t be leaving here without sticky fingers and ice cream dripping down your chin. It’s hard to resist the pang of nostalgia; making an important life decision, i.e. choosing a flavour, hasn’t been this difficult since I was five. Much thought was put in before I finally decided to bid farewell to any last remnants of self control and order the full monty, cotton candy, caramel corn, and all. Never have you seen something so majestic; a snow capped soft serve peak rising out of an outlandishly enormous candy floss cloud. There was no way I was about to let thoughts about the evil truths of calories and cavities, that seem to plague almost every chocolatey conduit to happiness, ruin this. If you’re going to come here, embrace it. The treats scream over the top, and definitely double as a meal and a half, but then again none of this stuff mattered when we were kids, so even if only just every once in a while, why should it matter now?

SOFT SERVE @ BAKE 麵包屋, CHINATOWN

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Fun fact: you don’t have to jump on a plane to Seoul or Shanghai to try some of Asia’s trendiest treats. You know the ones I’m talking about, they’ve been flooding your Instagram feed for months, leaving your stomach rumbling whilst you calculate how long it’ll take you to save up to cross the globe. Head to London’s Chinatown to find favourites like giant xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and ice cream filled bubble waffles. Google the bubble waffle and you’ll most likely be directed to the recently opened Bubblewrap waffle, that has had lines snaking out its door since day one. Walk across the street though, and head in to BAKE 麵包屋 for a whistle stop tour that somehow squeezes the entire Asian continent’s deliciously exotic delights in to its small four walls. BAKE showcases perfect bubble waffles, and soft serve heartily dolloped in to fish-shaped cones, their signature take on the Japanese classic, Taiyaki. Although I am yet to figure out the full meaning of this place’s name, given my inability to decipher the second half, I can guarantee you’ll find me visiting again. Although the soft serve is limited to two flavours – vanilla and matcha green tea – the rich milk ice cream is delicious enough on its own. The shop itself adheres to a similar simplicity, unapologetic in its no-frills approach. But with the ice cream cones made right in front of you, still warm when you take that first bite, not quite too sure what to expect from a sweet in a fish shape of all things, there’s not much more that’s needed to ensure you will leave as one very satisfied customer.

MACARON ICE CREAM SANDWICH @ YOLKIN, MULTIPLE LOCATIONS AROUND COVENT GARDEN*

A good macaron is without a doubt my favourite creation to grace the shelves of bakeries; there’s very little you could do to improve upon this painstakingly handcrafted, steadfast classic. That’s what I thought until tasting Yolkin’s reinvention of every one’s summertime favourite, the ice cream sandwich. Deconstructing both the the macaron and its frozen counterpart, by replacing the cookies with a giant macaron, with homemade ice cream in place of the macaron’s signature buttery frosting. Providing slightly more of a sugar rush than the typical dainty macaron, one of these pretty pies is plenty. Almost too beautiful to eat, this handheld delight nails the joy of the ice cream plus some form of biscuit combo, throwing in the perfect photo opportunity on the side. If you ask me, substituting the customary chocolate chip cookie with the macaron results in what is nothing short of ingenious. When frozen, the macaron manages to retain the airiness that makes this French wonder so damn delightful in the first place, minimising the searing tooth ache that sometimes accompanies the denser frozen cookie. With flavours changing on the daily, and only available until sold out, you’re never guaranteed what’ll you get upon arrival. Expect some quirky, oriental inspired twists on Western dessert classics, all equally as delicious, making it impossible to settle upon just one combination.

*Yolkin is yet to settle in to its own permanent spot. Instead, you can find the ice cream sandwiches for sale on rotation between multiple locations in the Soho/Covent Garden area. See website for exact details.

A BONUS TREAT: MACARONS @ LADURÉE, COVENT GARDEN

Ok, so Ladurée is nothing new, but if you’re in the area you may as well stop in for a macaron or three. The brand that introduced the mini wonders to the masses has a cute storefront with a quaint cafe upstairs, the perfect spot for tucking in to some of the other patisseries on offer. Right in Covent Garden Market, it’s hard to miss,  the ideal place to shelter yourself from London’s signature showers.