London’s streets are encrusted with heavenly beverage-dessert combinations if you know where to look
The new year fireworks are out. Their ashes long dissolved into the abnormally-large puddles created by a very welcoming first day of 2014, reflecting in their waters our confused rain-splattered faces.
Resolutions may or may not have been written. They may or may not include joining a gym. And while I really am very warm to the idea of fitting back into my clothes again (Asos, stop subliminally-messaging me!) there are more important matters to think about. This, of course, includes where to find the very best beverage and dessert combinations in this frightfully large and beautiful city, where the paths of good and evil are abundant.
While I haven’t mastered the streets just yet, there are a few delights I would like to share – ones which induce a mushrooming amount of guilt in my soul – for how can the people of the capital exist not knowing the prizes contained therein? What’s more, they all have late opening hours (apart from numbers 1 and 2 below) so can present a more fragrant and soothing socialising option than pubs and restaurants.
I encourage you to defy the trends, oh good people, and try out some of these badboys. With a particular focus on caffeine and chocolate, and roughly in cost order, here are my top ten:
1. Black Bottom Cupcake & English Breakfast Tea at Hummingbird Bakery (@hummingbbakery)
If your friends tell you that the best Hummingbird cupcake is red velvet, it’s because they haven’t tried a black bottom cheesecake cupcake! With a texture similar to that of a brownie, this is simply exquisite.
Favourite branch: Spitalfields – Nido Building, 11 Frying Pan Alley, Spitalfields, London E1 7HS
Who wouldn’t want to hang out in an alley which sounds like it came straight out of the Harry Potter books? This is the only breathable space in the limited list of Hummingbird cafes and lies in a fairly quiet spot of east London.
2. Victoria Sponge Cake & Earl Grey at The Doll’s House on the Hill (@DollsHouseCafe)
There are so many deliciously moist and indulgent homemade cakes to choose from in this cafe. Wash down with a traditional cuppa.
Favourite branch: The one and only branch in Harrow – 44 High Street, Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex HA1 3LL
This cute name has a quaint location and interior to match. It stands on a hill reminiscent of the English countryside and doubles up as a homeware gift shop.
3. Peanut Butter Cream Tart & Cappuccino at inSpiral (@inspiralled)
With a focus on raw, organic, vegan products, this cafe makes the best peanut butter dessert ever, consisting of a gluten-free base and a light, creamy centre. Perfect with a caffeine shot.
Favourite branch: The one and only branch in Camden – 250 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 8QS
Don’t be surprised when a staff member pulls out a bucket of carrots from the backgarden when you ask for a smoothie. This place has a super laid back vibe with music and conscious events on designated days. It also overlooks the canal – bonus!
4. Apricot Almond Tart & Iced Mochaccino at Le Pain Quotidien (@LPQUK)
In this rustic Belgian eatery, the tarts are presented to perfection. Check out the seasonal options. A fruity choice would contrast well with the iced mocha, which is made up of a crazy frothiness mingling with a heavy chocolate sauce. It’s the best mocha I’ve ever tasted – and that’s saying a lot.
Favourite branch: London Bridge – 15 Winchester Walk, London, SE1 9AG
Le Pain have plenty of branches, but this one is nicely unnoticed in a backstreet near Borough Market and the river. It’s candlelit and spacious with high ceilings, so makes for an atmospheric getaway.
5. Tortino di dama and Caffè al Tiramisù at Ca’puccino
The nutty tortino tart goes well with one of my biggest coffee fascinations: the tiramisu coffee. This coffee stays true to the Italian recipe (without the liqueur) and consists of a substantial layer of tiramisu-flavoured cream, topped with a crisp biscuit.
Favourite branch: Westfield London, Ariel Way, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7GE
Although this is the only branch I’ve been to so far, it has swept me off my feet with its snug seating upstairs. The windows are lined with tall piles of Italian books to give an authentic touch.
6. Apple, Cinnamon and Salted Caramel Crepe & Flat White at Shutterbug London (@ShutterbugLDN)
A heartwarming winter combination, you can get away with having this pair in the evening too.
Favourite branch: The one and only branch in Shoreditch – 1 Rivington Place, London EC2A 3BA
This bar and creperie has a student / young professional atmosphere to it, with an open space for music nights, as well as an outdoor courtyard. It’s a good place to feel too cool for school.
7. Cioccolata 1678 & Banana Waffle at Caffè Vergnano 1882 (@CaffeVergnano)
The Cioccolata is an actual cup of melted hot chocolate. The menu describes it as the oldest drinking chocolate in the world made to the original torino recipe of 1678. If you don’t want a heart attack, choose the one with foamed milk which doesn’t cease to be incredibly chocolatey.
Favourite branch: Southbank – Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
The name sounds a bit like a bar, and the layout reflects the same – but it’s oh so very classy.
8. Pistachio Macarons & the Marie-Antoinette Tea at Ladurée (@laduree)
Is it a biscuit? Is it a cake? I JUST DON’T KNOW ANYMORE. You really won’t understand the true identity of macarons until you try one, and this particular brand produces macarons that will magically melt in your mouth. Along with the citrus-sweet fusion of the tea, it makes for a lovely light treat.
Favourite branch: Covent Garden – 1 The Market, London WC2E 8RA
The upstairs seating area is hidden away from the busy market and presents an array of cosy velvets and dashing silverware. You might find it’s a little too close for comfort if you’re in a larger group.
Cost: £8 for tea and two individual macarons
9. Creamy Caramel Cake & Cortada Condensada at Las Iguanas (@lasiguanas)
I only tried this intense combo recently, but ended up getting two rounds. The espresso is small (as you can imagine) but comes in a visually-pleasing three layers – including a layer of condensed milk – which taste better when mixed together. The caramel cake is predominantly whipped cream, but why not ‘ey?
Favourite branch: Wembley – Unit 97 London Designer Outlet, Wembley, London, HA9
This is a brand new branch that sits in a shopping centre behind the Wembley Stadium and hasn’t been swarmed with its visitors just yet. The interior is not as cramped or noisy as other branches I’ve been to.
10. Pumpkin and White Chocolate Scones & Green Leaf Tea at The Tea Box (@TheTeaBox)
Here you’ll find scones that are so very homemade, it’s unbelievable. Portions are small but satisfying. It doesn’t work too well with coffee (I tried) so go for a presentable little teapot instead, which comes with a timer to choose your desired strength.
Favourite branch: The one and only branch in Richmond – 7 Paradise Road, Richmond, TW9 1RX
This boutique cafe in the corner is romantic and may induce a reflective mood within you. They sell their tea and teaware, and provide jazz on a Sunday. It’s great for families too.
Happy dessert-beverage combining, and happy new year.
*Prices are approximate based on online menus (if there is one) and recent visits. They are correct as of 1st January 2014. They do not include service charge and other potential surprise fees.
*I’d like to admit here that I have always had trouble spelling cappuccino without spell check, which is substantially misrepresentative of the amount of it that I drink.
Image from: http://s3-media1.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/AuDYlx86WKayIoUI3cDvjw/l.jpg
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