In this guest article, former pastry chef Andrea Duty takes us on a mouthwatering tour of the best deserts and sweet stuff in London – heaven for sugar addicts!
The torrid reputation of English food is infamous. Time and time again, foodie travelers pass on the UK’s bland traditions in favor of Vietnamese spice or French indulgence. And while it’s true that the culinary scene in London had an exceedingly long awkward phase, it’s since grown into a modern, dynamic contender as one of the best food cities in the world. I could talk for pages about the various curry houses, chippers, chaat shops and pubs throughout the city, but as a former pastry chef, I feel it my duty to bring you all things sugar, from the traditional to the internationally influenced. Thus, my list of absolute favorite desserts in London. Nothing bland about it.
Renowned Parisian chef Philippe Conticini brings the signature bell jars display cases and geometric packaging of La Pâtisserie des Rêves to Marylebone, filling them with manicured renditions of French classics and updated British favorites. His kouign amann – a baton of caramelized croissant dough – negates the need for a trip to Paris on the Eurostar while his carrot cake has forever ruined me to my homemade version.
Hot on Conticini’s heels is Frédéric Vaucamps, the master of meringues whose Aux Merveilleux de Fred just debuted South Kensington. His dainty “cakes” of crisped egg white, whipped cream and assorted toppings look like the dense cake balls du jour but wow with a cloud-like consistency. Flavors such as speculoos, praline and coffee compete as top sellers…and for space in my stomach.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
All those who visit me in London are treated to a Sunday roast at The Spaniards Inn, a 16th century pub reportedly frequented by the likes of Dickens and Keats. My guests may think the aim here is to show them a bit of British history or give them a little culture, but my real motive is a slice of sticky toffee pudding. The version at The Spaniards is wickedly rich and is pushed over the edge with a dollop of clotted cream. Nab a seat by the fireplace and it’s pure heaven.
Take a buttery tart shell, schmear it with jam, top with dense almond cake and you’ve got a classic Bakewell Tart. There are as many variations of this dessert as there are bakers in England, but my favorite slice so far is at Le Comptoir Gourmand. It may be commercially made, but it’s so rich and homey that I swear someone’s grandma must be running that kitchen.
Pistachio/Ricotta & Sour Cherry Gelato
I recently spent two weeks in Italy where I consumed as much gelato as is humanly possible, but BUT (and I feel sacrilege even saying this) none of it was as good as the scoops at Gelupo. Here the flavors are spot on: fresh, not too rich, and not too sweet. They are just…perfect. Plus, there’s a dessert case full of frozen cupcakes, chocolate-dipped cones and a rotation of seasonal treats. Even when we are in the depths of winter, you can bet on finding me here.
Andrea Duty is a former pastry chef from Austin, Texas living in London, England. She eats her way through other countries in attempt to discover cultural insight from cake and historical relevance through cookies…or something like that. You can follow her travels at This New View.
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Covent Garden always appears on the “must visit” list of tourists to London and is also popular with the locals who are drawn there by its great variety of leisure activities. There are so many things to do in the area that we have compiled a list of the top things to do within the vicinity of Covent Garden.
The Covent Garden Markets
Covent Garden is possibly most famous for its market which has reputedly been in existence since around since 1654. The original fruit and vegetable market (New Covent Garden Market) has now moved out of the area and relocated to an area called Nine Elms but it has been replaced with the Covent Garden market we have today. Apple Market is housed in a stunning nineteenth century, colonnaded piazza and stocks a wide variety of items from jewellery and toys to stationary and ties. Many of the items will provide something a little different to what you can get on the high street so you are bound to find a quirky gift to take home.
Jubilee Market in the South Piazza sells items that fall more into the antique category. If antiques are your thing then head there on a Monday for the antiques market. Saturdays and Sundays sees around 200 stalls open which are generally aimed at arts and crafts. The Real Food Market occurs every Thursday where you can get your hands on treats such as homemade cakes and macaroons, fresh olives and specialty breads.
Shopping in Covent Garden
Covent Garden is also famous for its shops. Although there are high street brands there they are generally higher end suppliers and fit with the hip image that surrounds the area. For fans of designer ware you will be spoilt for choice. Brands such as Chanel, Paul Smith, Mulberry and Burberry sit alongside more regular high street favourites such as Reiss and Jigsaw. For the more adventurous out there you can peruse outdoor shops such as Cotswold Outdoor and Field & Trek. If you fancy a mid-afternoon snack then you could treat yourself to some macaroons from Laudrée. You could get a box to take away but why not sit in and take advantage of their champagne or savoury snacks.
Museums near Covent Garden
The British Museum is one of the top museum attractions and it is only a short walk from Covent Garden. In a world dominated by money you might be pleased to hear that it is free to get in and there are free tours and talks during the day. This makes it an ideal choice if you are travelling with a large family as individual entrance prices quickly add up. The museum houses a variety of artefacts from a range of locations and eras and often has exhibitions on which you may be required to pay extra for. Recent exhibitions include the Vikings and some beautiful Egyptian mummies. Due to the popularity of some exhibitions it might be worth pre-booking tickets rather than being disappointed on the day. If you are visiting with children they will often put free events on such as object handling, art tasks and museum trails. This is bound to spark the interest of any little explorer!!! If transport is more your thing then head to the London Transport Museum which has buses, trams and railway carriages on display.
See a show in the Theatres near Covent Garden
Covent Garden is bursting at the seams with theatres so it is hard to choose which one to go to. The Theatre Royal is one of the largest theatres in Covent Garden and has hosted some of the most famous shows. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda might appeal to children (and adults!) or perhaps a tear jerker such as The Bodyguard or War Horse would be preferable. No matter what you choose to see you will be amazed and with two Royal boxes you never know who you might see there! The Aldwych Theatre is worth visiting just to see its stunning façade and was home to The Royal Shakespeare Company for a number of years. If there is a certain show that you would like to see then it is probably best to research the show and find out which theatre it will be on at as there are so many theatres in the area that it would be a shame to miss out on your favourite show.
Your theatre visit might keep you up late so what could be better than staying in your own luxury apartment in the vicinity of Covent Garden so you don’t need to worry about getting a bus or the underground. Rather than stressing about heading “home” you could enjoy a few post theatre drinks or even head to a club completing your weekend.
If you fancy a trip to London be sure not to miss out on the delights of Covent Garden just be prepared for a positive assault on all your senses!
This article was brought to you by London Serviced Apartments who provide luxury serviced apartments in a variety of prestigious locations across London, including Covent Garden.
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Remember the day your best friend asked you to be her chief bridesmaid? She had tears of joy in her eyes, while you felt a mixture of pride and delight at the honour bestowed upon you. But now the stress of all that wedding planning has turned your lovely friend into Bridezilla from hell and you have the unenviable task of organising the hen weekend. Which has to be in London – but not too expensive or tacky or loud. But can it be really fun and quirky? Oh, and suitable for all 20 of her guests, including her 15-year-old cousin and 80-year-old great aunt? Now the only person crying is you.
But before you change your phone number and start thinking up ways to leave the country, don’t worry. London has boundless possibilities for discerning hens, whether you’re after something classy and cultured or cool and quirky. So with that in mind, have a look at some of our ideas for hen nights in London .
If you’re planning a vintage-themed hen do, London is the place to go retro. You don’t even have to worry about getting your fancy dress outfits in advance – you and your friends can shop for outfits together. London has lots of vintage stores where you can all indulge your wartime pin-up girl fantasies – like Beyond Retro’s cavernous warehouse in Brick Lane, for instance (or there’s a branch in Soho if you wanted somewhere more central). Once suitably attired, it’s time to give your hair and make-up some serious war-time glamour. There are plenty of vintage hair and make-up specialists who will come to your hotel or apartment to give you all pin curls and victory rolls. But if you prefer, you could go to the Painted Lady in Shoreditch, which has hen packages that include authentic hair and make-up plus a few glasses of bubbly thrown in for good measure.
If there’s time after all that pampering, head to the kitsch and colourful Betty Blythe tea rooms for a war-time take on afternoon tea and cocktails (if you bring your own booze). While there, the hens can do a spot of make do and mend in a vintage jewellery workshop. Then it’s time for the main event – an evening spent dancing like they did in the good old days. Take the whole party to the London Swing Dance Society’s Saturday night Swing Dance Club in Central London for a Lindy Hop class, followed by a whole evening spent practicing your moves to music from the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Brides on a budget
If you’re canny, a hen do in London needn’t break the bank. Head for Hyde Park to try out your best heckles at Speaker’s Corner (free), then you and the rest of the hens can learn how to roller blade £28 per person including skates and protective gear). Next, hire rowing or pedal boats. (£12 each per hour) or just grab your towels and get ready for some serious goosebumps by doing a spot of swimming in the Serpentine (£4 each). Then it’s time for a picnic followed by an old fashioned sports day as you relive your school days with a sack race or a tug of war.
Even if you’ve lived in London so long you’re practically a Pearly Queen, it’s still fun to be a tourist every once in a while. Show your friends the best side of the metropolis by giving them a day that takes in some fantastic London landmarks. Go for an elegant afternoon tea at the Ritz, or take a trip on the London Eye for a bird’s eye view of the capital. To make it extra special, you could book a ‘Champagne flight’ a private capsule for up to 25 guests and a Champagne expert with plenty of fizzy for you to try. There’s also a chocolate tasting flight for a less alcoholic alternative or go for a magical dinner at one of the restaurants in the Shard, eastern Europe’s tallest building.
Eating delicious food is as much a part of the hen experience as Mr and Mrs, and London has some great places that can really inject some extra wow-factor. Indulge all your senses apart from your sight by eating and drinking in total darkness at Dans Le Noir. If sushi’s your thing, head to Inamo in Soho, where you order your meal using a mouse pad and can play computer games against the other hens. Get your own back on Bridezilla by giving her a large portion of garlic crickets, scorpion and wildebeest at Archipelago where fine dining meets a bushtucker trial. Yum!
This sponsored article is brought to you by Hen Heaven, specialists in making the perfect party dream a reality.
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Photo credits: Retro hair stying and Makeup by The Painted Lady, Pedalo in Hyde Park by Duncan Palmer, Champagne Tasting from The London Eye, Afternoon tea from The Ritz, Taste of the exotic from Archipeligo, London Eye at night by William Warby