The 100 best dishes in London: Desserts and sweet treats

Discover London's best desserts with our pick of the capital's most heavenly dishes

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Matcha green bubble tea at Boba Jam

It may be a drink, but we just had to have bubble tea on our list. It’s all about texture with this Taiwanese concoction: a fruit- or milk-based tea is specked with chewy boba – Malteser-sized tapioca pearls – which are sucked up through a wide straw. This hybrid drinking/chewing experience is quite unusual for Westerners, which might explain why these drinks haven’t yet broken through to the mainstream in London. Our favourite bubble tea is Boba Jam’s milky matcha green tea: stuffed with lots of boba, it brings a whole new, fun dimension to slurping.

  1. 102 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EJ
  2. Price: From £3.60
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Apple tarte tatin at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

The Galvin brothers have made a name for themselves by giving bistro cooking a relaxed sense of luxury. Their signature tarte tatin is a case in point. This is no flouncy ‘haute’-style individual (read: tiny) tart. Instead you’re served a huge rustic slice, piled with caramelised chunks of apple. These sit on a base of buttery puff pastry: rich, decadent, and sweet with syrup. A dollop of chilled crème fraîche cuts through it all beautifully.

  1. 66 Baker Street, W1U 7DJ
  2. Price: £8.50
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Blood orange granita at Gelupo

In spite of its proximity to Piccadilly Circus, Gelupo is anything but a tourist trap. No, this gelateria – the younger sibling of hip Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo, just opposite – prides itself on doing things differently. Sure, there are one or two predictable offerings (hazelnut, say), but most of the creations – from pine nut and fennel gelato to clementine sorbet – will blow your mind. And none more so than the blood orange granita, a dark, deeply intense ice experience made using only fresh fruit and cane sugar. Outstanding.

  1. 7 Archer Street, W1D 7AU
  2. Price: From £3
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Friands at Lantana

Head to Aussie-run café Lantana for some first-class melt-in-the-mouth friands. These moist little almond cakes, dotted with raspberries or blueberries, have become the archetypal Antipodean baked good - lamingtons, your days are numbered. But is the friand Aussie? Mais non, the French invented it. Known as the financier in France, the rectangular teacake was so-named because it resembled a bar of gold.

  1. 13 Charlotte Place, W1T 1SN
  2. Price: From £1.80
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Pastel de nata at Lisboa Pâtisserie

Born, legend has it, in Belem just outside Lisbon, these delectable Portuguese egg custards feature rich, chewy pastry and a still-richer sweet filling. Lisboa’s exemplary versions have been baked on the premises since 1982, and you’ll find no finer north of the Iberian Peninsula. If you’re lucky, your visit to this simple little café will coincide with the tarts emerging hot from the oven, but throughout the day you can guarantee they’ll be freshly baked; sprinkle them with cinnamon and order a bica (espresso) to counteract the sugar. A famous pit-stop away from the Portobello market kerfuffle.

  1. 57 Golborne Road, W10 5NR
  2. Price: £1.15
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Raspberry and white chocolate éclairs at Lobby Lounge at the Corinthia

If we had to pick just one of the dishes from Claire Clark’s pâtisserie, it would be the éclairs. They are only sold as part of the afternoon tea at this five-star hotel, but the tea is a must-try experience that can overwhelm the senses. The pastries are so tiny and pretty you’d think they’d been made by elves. Should you prefer something a tad more butch, head for the salted caramel brownie.

  1. Corinthia Hotel, (Whitehall Place), SW1A 2BD
  2. Price: Afternoon tea from £45 (excluding service)
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Cinnamon buns at Nordic Bakery

Take a bite out of the Nordic Bakery’s signature cinnamon buns and you will understand why the Scandinavians are so obsessed with this baked treat. While there are many different versions across Scandinavia, the Nordic Bakery’s cinnamon bun follows a Finnish recipe: a nicely sticky, crusty outside hiding a light, buttery dough inside – all laced with swirls of pungent cinnamon and cardamom sugar. This decadent sweet treat is perfect with a cup of strong Finnish filter coffee.

  1. 14A Golden Square, W1F 9JG
  2. Price: £2.60
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Salted caramel ice-cream at Oddono's

Don’t go to a branch of Oddono’s expecting whizz-bang trickery or luxurious seating: these traditional gelaterias put the product centre stage. There’ll always be an excellent chocolate or pistachio on offer, but it’s really worth checking out their Facebook page or following their Twitter account (@oddonos) to find out when the salted caramel is in town. Creamy and decadent, with sweet and salt coming through each lick, it’s shut-your-eyes-drown-out-the-crowds kind of good.

  1. 69 Northcote Road, SW11 1NP
  2. Price: Scoop £2.30, tubs from £8.50 (half litre)
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Chocolate-cloaked praline éclair at La Pâtisserie des Rêves

Picture an éclair, the soft, choux pastry filled, not with plain cream, as it would be at your local branch of Greggs, but with a sweet, nutty, praline cream. Then, instead of a simple slather of chocolate on the top, imagine the whole thing wrapped up in a thin cloak of top-quality, pliable chocolate (kind of like pigs in blankets, only sweeter and much more impressive). Well, this futuristic London outpost of a Parisian bakers ain’t called the ‘patisserie of dreams’ for nothing.

  1. 43 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5HE
  2. Price: £5.90
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Poached pear with rose petals and lemon verbena sorbet at Petersham Nurseries Café

Could there be anything more romantic than a dish strewn with just-picked flowers? We think not. And that’s exactly what puddings at this garden centre ‘café’ are like. They may change daily, but anything featuring fruit or own-made ice cream, such as this glorious dish of fragrant pear (poached in its own juices with vanilla and thyme) accompanied by a smooth touch-of-Provence lemon verbena sorbet, all scattered with perfect petals from the rose garden, will have you swooning. Petersham is pricey, but you’ll never forget it.

  1. Church Lane, off Petersham Road, TW10 7AG
  2. Price: £7
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Salted chocolate caramel tart at Pizza East Kentish Town

The chaps at Pizza East, perhaps sensing an approaching zeitgeist, wisely got on board the salt caramel bandwagon back in 2009. Their launch menu included this pud, and it’s as popular as ever – both at the original restaurant and at its younger sibling, Pizza East Portobello. The pastry base is plain, and a good thing too: the filling is so rich that it’ll make your eyes roll into the back of your head, especially when you finish each mouthful with a little of the accompanying crème fraîche. Share it with a loved one. Or not.

  1. 53-79 Highgate Road, NW5 1TL
  2. Price: £6
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‘Jelly and ice cream’ at Social Eating House

Since opening, the ‘British one’ in Jason Atherton’s ‘Social’ empire has gone from strength to strength, with dishes getting more intricate and interesting all the time (thanks in no small part to head chef Paul Hood’s talents). This exceptional take on classic children’s treat jelly and ice cream is a must-try. With three kinds of jelly (mulled wine; rum and coke; vanilla) cut into cubes, three kinds of ice cream (tarragon; orange; blackberry) and other lovely surprises (frozen raspberry pearls; blackberry meringue sticks; quince and orange purée), you’ll feel like the luckiest little kid alive.

  1. 58-59 Poland Street, W1F 7NR
  2. Price: £7.50
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Custard doughnut at St John Bakery

When word got out that the St John Bakery had started selling its decadent custard cream-filled doughnuts (previously only available at the Clerkenwell bakery) at its Maltby Street arch on Saturday and Sunday mornings, queues formed. Available from 9am, you’d best get there early to be rewarded with these pillowy, deep-fried treats, pumped up with glossy, fluffy, vanilla-speckled whipped custard. Simply glorious – and ideal with a strong coffee.

  1. 72 Druid Street, SE1 2HQ
  2. Price: £2
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