The London List: Bakeries
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Where to begin with a list of restaurants and bakeries to visit in London? With the bakeries of course. (Afternoon Tea deserves a full page of its own.)
For me the place to start is Elizabeth Street in Belgravia with it's amazing bakeries.
It is true you could spend a lifetime here and never get to all the cafes and bakeries. But I am up for the challenge:
There are many group owned and chain companies in London. A quick rental rate search showed the vast range of prices and confirmed my suspicions. 700 sq ft on Elizabeth Street comes at a price tag around $60k + TMI. (Prime location on the street boasts half the square footage for the same ticket price.) For the consumer...big price tag means only the big players can afford to set up shop. I dug my heels in, and went to visit.
Olie and Stein I went there with a purpose and left with caramel puff. Marzipan base with a very soft meringue filling enrobed in peanuts. I do love peanuts. The caramel center made it ideal for someone with a real sweet tooth. The service was mechanical. Nothing wrong with a machine that works. Alas, this machine does not have the heart of a ferrari.
Dominique Ansel In the end the easiest thing to do was buy the cookbook. I wanted everything! What compelled me was the service. The shop is simply laid out; glass cases with carefully positioned to showcase the canneles and religieuses and pavlovas. How to pick just one thing to try. Everyone wants to try the CRONUT (watch how to make it here) but I was here for something different. And I found it. The staff serving me was as excited as he was patient in spite of the fact that the shop was full of people taking selfies and asking "what is this" oblivious to the tidy tent cards described each decadent treat. He told me he "loved working there; how could [he] not?" Being a savoury pastry lover; I paused at the Welsh Rarebit Croissant (Guinness Worcestershire cheddar Béchamel with whole grain mustard and Gruyère) but my new 'best friend' insisted that I try the DKA ( “Dominique’s Kouign Amann”: Caramelized on the outside, flaky and tender layers within.) I think I proposed to the young man on the spot after a single bite. It is one of those 'you just have to try it' pastries.
I am detail oriented. It transformed me.
Next stop was Poilane. It was founded in 1932 in Paris opened its first London shop in 2000 as a replica of its French counterpart. The lovely lady serving me was all too happy to show me the stone milled flour they use in their bread. A great find in my books. I can take home a beautiful loaf; or purchase their single source stone milled flour and perfect my own loaf...now I just have to find some butter....
And then there is Peggy Porschen. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Peggy is the Encyclopedia Britannica of the internet. Infact, the only icon with more "selfie" participants is Ellen Degeneres. I wasn't sure if the line was for pastry or in the line to take a "whimsical photo of yourself just before your wide brimmed straw hat falls off as you tilt your head back as though you were actually going to take a bite of one of these oh so instagramable delights." I uncomfortably approached the counter and asked to purchase a few small cakes, all to aware that my gesturing hand was blocking someone's curtated moment. Or was it mine...I think the sugar was getting to me. I admire anyone who can take something that came out of a 1970's memory of rocky road no bake treats; add pink marshmallows, and set it on a pink pedestal in a pink room with pink chairs and voila it fulfills the mission of "every stage of the customer experience...packed with pretty details." I was pleased to read that she was a flight attendant before opening her bakery. Now we have two things in common.
I didn't bring my 'kids can cook too cookbook' that I cherished as a (very) young baker, to London; but I did find a link for a similar recipe for Church Window Cookies courtesy of Gonna Want Seconds. Thanks for sharing it, Kathleen. Memories will always be the most powerful trend in baking.
Well, that covers a 4 block radius. There are so many more on my list:
and that is just the tip of the isomalt iceberg...
Please share your comments, experiences, best finds and places I must go in the comments below.