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Lilly’s Cafe

  • Restaurants
  • Covent Garden
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  1. Lilly's Cafe (Photograph: Lilly's Cafe)
    Photograph: Lilly's Cafe
  2. Lilly's Cafe (Photograph: Lilly's Cafe)
    Photograph: Lilly's Cafe
  3. Lilly's Cafe (Photograph: Lilly's Cafe)
    Photograph: Lilly's Cafe

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

One of the many sad things humans have been assailed with on their gradual evolution from naked apes to clothes-wearing drones are the strict rules governing what we consume, when. ‘Why can’t I have tea and cake at dinner-time, or chips with breakfast?’, asks my querulous little chimp brain. At newish Covent Garden all-day dining spot Lilly's Café, those tiresome rules go out the window. You can have brunch, afternoon tea or dinner at the time of your choosing. But unfortunately, this misconceived venture also carefully strips all the joy from this prelapsarian state of affairs: freedom comes at a cost.

Brunch-at-dinnertime appealed to me because gentle stodge is sometimes just what you need to pummel your thoughts into submission after a long day. But the offerings here took that principle way, way too far. Avocado toast came devoid of seasoning except an acrid witch's breath of raw garlic, while the grated raw carrot on top added nothing but colour. If it was underwhelming, the alternative was actually unpleasant: ‘chiliquiles’ was a pile of soggy corn tortillas, disintegrating on contact with more bland mushy avocado, topped with poached eggs and only the most homeopathic dosage of the advertised chipotle agave sauce. It takes a lot for me to reject a pile of chips (I love chips) but the chili masala fries seemed to be actively trying to repel my advances: limp and slimy, they languished in a jam-like sauce. 

Maybe afternoon tea would be better? It was, kind of. The strange thing about Lilly’s Cafe is that it's the handiwork of Kimberly Lin, former head pastry chef at Claridge’s, and inventor of the stuffed vegan ‘Floozie cookie’. So you'd expect some wild-eyed sugar wizardry here. Instead, the cake selection is as unimaginative as 11-year-old me saying I had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio because it seemed to be what people wanted to hear. Chocolate, red velvet, lemon drizzle, presented with no frills. The carrot cake was perfectly nice, but for £7.50 a slice, I want to be actively delighted both with a richly, interestingly flavoured sponge and with some kind of charming garnish on the side (an edible flower? A tiny strawberry? Surprise me!).

Lilly’s Cafe’s standout deal is a bottomless cake afternoon tea (£20 per person, or £30 per person with champagne), which I guess makes sense of the basic-ness of their sweet offerings. Perhaps there are greater cake fans than me  drooling Mary Berry fanboys who will flock to this vivid peach-painted room and polish off every possible crumb. But this feels like an environment that doesn't want you to stick around, with its unforgiving lighting, Ibiza-lite soundtrack, and harried, undertrained staff who definitely aren't channeling the ‘wellness and fun’ the website promises. 

Covent Garden is tourist central, so Lilly’s Café does offer a rare corner where you could plausibly sit on a laptop, or share a night-time slice of cake without someone haranguing you into a main course. There’s value in that. But joy? This primitive, reward-seeking brain was left firmly unstimulated.

The vibe All-day dining in a hidden corner of Covent Garden.

The food Brunch dishes and classic cakes.

The drink You can get pretty much any potable liquid here, from cocktails to cognac to tumeric lattes.

Time Out tip Bring your hungriest friend for bottomless cake.

Written by
Alice Saville


3 Henrietta Street
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