April 2019: London’s bread makers and cake specialists are on a roll, and we’ve added (almost) a baker’s dozen to our list of must-visit addresses, like the Dusty Knuckle (bread with a mission and a social conscience in Dalston) and Aux Pains du Papy near King’s Cross (whose croissants are the best in town). Elsewhere, Jolene (from the folks behind Primeur and Westerns Laundry) is part brunch spot, part bakery, part small-plates eatery, while cult fave Ararat Bread deals in unbeatable Middle Eastern flatbreads (Baban’s Naan does similar stuff from a hole-in-the wall spot in Highbury).
Whittling down the best dough in the city is no mean feat. From Asian patisseries to cronut auteurs and sourdough specialists – when it comes to bakeries, London is a goldmine. We’ve risen to the challenge and eaten our way through the lot to round up yeasty royalty. Quite literally, actually – because the boujie Hackney bakery that did Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake has made the cut.
If you want a showstopper for any special occasion (including weddings), the clear choice is arty patissier Anges de Sucre, who now have their own boutique in North Acton – in addition to supplying Selfridges and other retail outlets. Their cakes are insanely detailed and decorated with everything from lacy Swiss meringue buttercream and white chocolate pearls to ombré-glazed buttermilk doughnuts. Bizarre creations such as the vegan ’pig in a unicorn wig’, the two-tiered ‘mermaid skirt’ or ‘gaga rainbow’ cake are guaranteed to bring the house down. Also come to Anges for their macarons and marshmallows in all colours, designs and flavours – or drop by for a hot chocolate or a cup of coffee before you shop (the beans are specially roasted in Paris).
Specialities: Celebratory cakes for all occasions ... and macarons
A venue of two halves, AOK is divided into a ground-floor Kitchen and a downstairs bakery. The former is a health-conscious Mediterranean-style restaurant serving an on-trend seasonal menu against a chic backdrop of marble floors and hand-painted silk wallpaper with a ‘magical tree’ as the centrepiece. The latter is an artisan bakery (complete with tables for a sit-down) specialising in dairy- and gluten-free breads, baguettes, cakes, pastries and viennoiseries – all overseen by Sebastien Chiono, the head baker at The Arts Club in Mayfair. The baking team will also produce bespoke cakes, savoury pizzette and desserts such as exotic fruit pavlova – in addition to customised items for special occasions.
Specialities: Gluten-free breads and pastries
It may be little more than a hole-in-the-wall behind Ridley Road market in Dalston, but Ararat’s Middle Eastern-style flatbreads (they call them ‘naans’) are the stuff of legend and find their way into countless restaurants and shops across town – as well serving the needs of hungry local boozehounds. The action centres around a huge rotating oven and a trestle table where the naans are bagged up (hot ones are wrapped in paper, cold ones come in environmentally friendly plastic bags). You can buy them plain, although most people go for the versions topped with meat, cheese or egg; either way, they’re cheap as chips – but more interesting.
Specialities: Middle Eastern flatbreads, aka ‘naans’
A mere boule’s throw from King’s Cross, this London offshoot of a family-run bakery chain gives punters all the endearing charms of a properly authentic, rustic French boulangerie/patisserie without having to shell out for a trip on the Eurostar. Local workers come here for their daily bread and satisfying lunchtime sarnies, but it’s worth plundering the display of classics – crusty baguettes, rustic saucer-shaped pan bagnats, almond croissants fresh from the oven, pain au chocolat, eclairs and a tip-top version of Paris-Brest (crisp, golden-hued pastry rings filled with a ruff of nutty praline cream). Also look out for their light, sugary and sweetly perfumed bugnes – mini-doughnuts flavoured with orange blossom water. More sites are in the pipeline.
Specialties: French boulangerie and patisserie
For years, Blackstock Road was merely a funnel for fans heading to Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium, but now it’s a proper thriving street with shops, cafés, delis and this oddball outlet – a local institution so tiny it’s almost a hole in the wall. As the name suggests, Baban’s specialises in naan breads at knockdown prices – although the results are more like flatbreads than the puffed-up tandoori versions you find in every curry house. That’s it, apart from a few variations on the theme when it comes to different flavours such as cheese, sesame, za’atar, garlic, falafel and, very occasionally, a twist on Turkish lahmacun with minced lamb and diced peppers.
Specialities: Naans, naans and more naans …
‘Knowledge is to be shared.’ That’s the simple, beautiful premise behind the world-class and nigh-faultless Bread Ahead bakeries, where recipes are written on chalkboards for all to see and secrets are openly shared at their extensive workshops, school groups and bakery classes. Founded by baker Matthew Jones in 2013, BA started out selling its wares on Borough Market, and you can still visit their original stall for fresh sourdough breads, cheese and olive breadsticks (excellent stuff!), focaccia, croissants, amazing amaretti biscuits and award-winning doughnuts overflowing with silky chocolate and salted caramel. They also have shops in Chelsea and Soho, as well as a mega site close to Wembley Stadium.
Specialities: Sourdough breads and doughnuts
The award-winning bread enthusiasts at Brick House produce and serve up San Francisco-style sourdough and season-specific menus in this trendy, airy East Dulwich café. If you’re after bread rather than brunch, their naturally leavened sourdough is a must – you can even learn to make it at home at one of their ‘Sourdough in a Day’ bakery classes. All their bread is produced with organic flour and slow-fermented to give a soft crumb and crunchy crust, with additions ranging from raisins to walnuts and various seeds. On another tack, their crumbly mince pies have a winning reputation come Christmas. Brick House also has pitches in Peckham Rye, Herne Hill Market and Neal’s Yard (Borough and Covent Garden).
Specialities: San-Francisco-style sourdough bread
Open 24 hours a day, this East End institution has been dispensing freshly baked, filled beigels to a mixed crowd of clubbers, drinkers and taxi drivers since it opened its doors on Brick Lane in 1977. We love the classic smoked salmon/cream cheese combo and the brilliant moist salt beef, carved as you wait from a slab kept warm in the front window – as well as the beigels (you say bagel, they say beigel) themselves (boiled before being baked) and pulled fresh from the oven day and night. You can also indulge in a piece of New York-style cheesecake or a super-sweet almond slice if you wish, but ignore the pastry-heavy sausage rolls. A narrow counter caters for those who want to park up and eat in.
Specialities: Bagels, obvs!
Surrounded by upmarket riverfront flats near to Wandsworth Town, this swish boutique bakery puts on a bright and shiny face with its hot pink and orange chairs. Master patissier Eric Lanlard honed his craft as head pastry chef for Michel and Albert Roux, and his range of goodies is enough to make your mouth water. The pain au chocolat with almonds is a winner, but it’s overshadowed by the dreamy selection of gorgeous macarons: tangy, fragrant raspberry and hibiscus; creamy and sour cherry with white chocolate; beautifully balanced liquorice and fig. However, nothing can trump their heart-stoppingly rich Black Forest gateau, the cherries on top adorably decorated with gold paint. Afternoon tea and baking classes too.
Specialities: Gateaux, pastries and macaron
Since launching in 2010, this family-run, old-world French patisserie has been producing fresh pastries, charming viennoiseries and savouries from its kitchen under the arches on Maltby Street, and they now have a bricks-and-mortar café in Bermondsey where you buy their goodies, drop by for a light lunch or stop off in the evening for some wine and charcuterie. All their specialities are made by hand in the traditional French fashion, from macarons, eclairs, ‘brionuts’ (brioche doughnut), mille-feuilles and croissants to gorgeous pain au chocolat twists. Comptoir Gourmand have been regulars on Borough Market for many years and also have an open-air café by their stall on Maltby Street Market. More cafes are in the pipeline, so watch this space.
Specialities: Viennoiseries and old-school French patisserie
Famous as the inventor of the Cronut (dessert decadence in the shape of a cannily trademarked croissant-doughnut hybrid that takes three days to make), Dominique Ansel is a French Willy Wonka with a talent for producing innovative, playful and deliciously offbeat patisserie. The Belgravia offshoot of his New York bakery garners plenty of hype, but it offers a cornucopia of delights and everyone has their favourite – perhaps the crispy caramelised DKA (short for ‘Dominique’s kouign amann’) or a slice of the creamy banoffee paella (a banoffee pie turned upside down and built in a paella pan). There are also some wondrous sit-down-and-eat-with-a-fork puds including a rich liquid caramel and peanut butter mousse cake. Afternoon tea is a tempting proposition too (Thursday to Sunday).
Specialities: Playful patisserie including the signature Cronuts
A family-run business and a Crouch End institution, Dunn’s has been serving up its hand-crafted breads and sweet treats since 1820 (current owner Chris Freeman is a fifth-generation baker). Their Broadway loaf flecked with toasted pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds in a light rye sourdough is a winning line, but it’s worth looking out for their brioche rolls, vegan cinnamon buns, ginger parkin loaf and other non-dairy items. Dunn’s is also famed for producing doughnuts, fruit flans and luscious, elaborately decorated cream cakes as big as your face, with all manner of designs and themes for celebrations, birthdays and the like. Need a breakfast filler? Try one of their bacon rolls.
Specialities: Hand-crafted breads and cream cakes
Fans of Dusty Knuckle rejoice! The bakery now has an airy brick-and-steel café/shop across the yard from its original shipping container home in a Dalston car park. Racks of organic rye and sourdough loaves (including an excellent potato version) line the walls, while the counter is piled up with glistening sticky buns, croissants, chocolate and fruit brioches, apple turnovers, savoury bakes and doorstep sandwiches with imaginative fillings – although these are quickly snapped up in the morning. Dusty Knuckle’s owners also have a social conscience, employing and training up young people who have struggled to find work or have been in trouble with the law. They run regular bread-making classes and workshops too.
Specialities: Organic breads, pastries and sandwiches
Some of London’s hottest kitchens get their breads from Ben MacKinnon's tiny bakehouse in the arches beneath London Fields station, and E5’s hand-baked wares are top stuff if you’re stocking up on the staff of life. This independent outfit has its own stone mill and uses only organic grains and the finest ingredients to craft fresh, nutrient-rich loaves – most of which depend on 100 percent sourdough ‘starters’. Top buys include the Hackney wild (a classic rustic loaf), the free-form Stockholm, and a spelt and walnut rugbrod (a rye loaf with organic black treacle). You can also use the Bakehouse as a café drop-in for breakfast, a weekday lunch or Saturday brunch, while Sundays means pizzas straight from the bread oven. Also check out their weekly bread-making classes.
Specialities: Organic sourdough breads
Squeezed in a white-tiled vault under the arches right by Hoxton Overground station, this Stockholm-based bakery has a teeny-tiny Scandi-style seating area if you fancy a ‘fika’ (ie a Swedish coffee break, preferably accompanied by a sweet bun on the side). Fabrique uses traditional stone ovens to hand-bake excellent batons of rye bread, walnut boules and sourdough, as well as a raft of highly addictive knotted buns including a blueberry riff and a classic buttery cinnamon version studded with sugar crystals. Also, don’t miss out on the handmade, flour-dusted levain baguette, which is good enough to eat on its own. There are branches in Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Notting Hill and High Holborn.
Specialities: Swedish breads and sweet buns
Nicknamed ‘fairy pan’ by her friends (imagine a fairy holding a pan instead of a wand), Italian pastry chef Silvia Stocchino founded her east London business in 2014, with the aim of creating itty-bitty cupcakes for the locals and various shops. Their Italian sponge base measures just three centimetres, but these little beauties pack a punch – and the flavours shine brightly. Try the peanut butter version, ‘glorious red velvet’ or the tangy and tart lemon meringue with lemon curd, and a topping of lemon buttercream and meringue crumbles. Fairy Pan can be found at Brick Lane’s Backyard Market on Saturdays and Sundays, but you can also buy her cupcakes and other treats from Harvey Nicks in Knightsbridge, EAT 17 and branches of Sourced Market.
Specialities: Itty-bitty cupcakes
From the smiley, cartoonish bubble-letter logo to the displays of vividly coloured layer cakes, Flavourtown Bakery’s narrow Fulham shop is a sheer delight. There are no weird combos here, and there’s no need for them when you can stuff yourself with nostalgic flavours like vanilla, salted caramel, Nutella and Oreo – all served fresh and bouncy throughout the day from the in-store bakery. Try a ‘posh’ peanut butter cupcake topped with a blob of gold-sprayed mousse, a fat wedge of icing-lashed cinnamon bun cake or even a ‘red velvet sandwich’ with cream-cheese icing oozing out of its white-chocolate-studded cookies. Flavourtown’s pink interiors, relentlessly upbeat vibe and snappy service also contribute to the feel-good sugar rush.
Specialities: Cream cakes, cupcakes and sponges
Tucked away in a labyrinthine cobbled courtyard between Clerkenwell Road and Great Sutton Street, this jolly outfit not only celebrates Irish family hospitality, but also picks up on the current trend for home-baking. Part café, part bar, J+A looks the part with its comfy unpretentious surrounds, big windows and exposed brickwork (the site was once a diamond-cutting factory), although it’s all about wholesome flag-waving food these days: not surprisingly, their soda bread is excellent stuff, but look out for the Guinness and chocolate cake, Irish apple cake, scones, lemon curd biscuits and more dainty items such as rose and pistachio fancies. Also check out their gluten-free ‘miracle loaf’ made with dates, vanilla and rice flour.
Specialities: Wholesome breads and cakes with an Irish flavour
From the folks behind Primeur and Westerns Laundry, Jolene is a supremely beautiful warehouse-style space in a quiet spot opposite the park in Newington Green. During the day it runs as a low-key brunch spot and bakery: they stone-mill their own flour in-house using 100 percent unaltered grains grown sustainably on farms in Sussex and Norfolk. We’re fans of their sweet raisin bread, but their bakery counter is regularly loaded with everything from loaves and pastries to sausage rolls, palmiers, madeleines, croissants, financiers, chocolate and Guinness cake, cinnamon buns, and much more besides. Come evening, the blackboards are wiped clean and replaced by a small-plates menu designed to show off the chef’s baking skills.
Specialities: Home-baked breads and pastries
A staple of Borough Market and other sites across town, this cult Eastern European bakery has now staked its claim with a tiny café space outside Waitrose in Westfield’s Great Eastern Market. That should be reason enough to brave the crowds, but Karaway also gives out heaps of samples and knowledgeable staff are on hand to guide you through the overwhelming choice of flavours. Multi-award-winning rye bread is the speciality (don’t miss the traditional dark, dense Lithuanian ‘scalded’ version with its delicious caraway aftertaste), but make sure to bag a fat wedge of honey cake or a slice of cinnamon, walnut and apricot loaf too. Karaway also fleshes out its offer with various pastries, toasties and pretty packets of biscuits.
Specialities: East European rye breads and patisserie
Lily Jones (aka Lily Vanilli) carved out a solid, celebrity-packed fan base well before opening her own hip bakery in Bethnal Green, and her forays into sculptural, macabre cake creations (gingerbread gravestones, anyone?) set her far apart from the mainstream cupcake clan. These days, she still puts on an innovative show, although space is tight in her gorgeous little courtyard café if you fancy sampling wacky delights such as yuzu lemon tart or pomegranate and black-tea vegan cakes. Lily is only open on Sundays, but it’s worth braving the long queues for her salted caramel and banana bundt cakes alone. This place is also a cosy teatime treat, especially after a trip to Columbia Road flower market (just a skip away).
Specialities: Weird and wacky cupcakes and other bizarre creations
Okay, let’s get the groaning puns out of the way first: LBP’s founders started by pedalling around London on bikes, peddling their breads at various markets. Now they use electric vans and have a permanent home at Spa Terminus in Bermondsey, where loyal customers queue up in all weathers to buy their wares every Saturday. Their naturally leavened sourdough bread is ‘wow’, but that’s just the start: also try out their soda bread, seeded loaves, ficelle and ring-shaped tortano. Elsewhere, pains au raisins, brownies and croissants live up to their reputation (LBP insists on using only French Lescure butter), while their Danishes range from fruity seasonal ideas to savoury creations (perhaps topped with candied beetroot and ricotta).
Specialities: Artisan breads and pastries
A visit to Broadway Market on Saturday isn’t complete without a detour to the Pavilion Bakery at the south end of the street – you can’t miss the beautiful wooden store front. There are no seats inside, but the shop functions as a grab-and-go for those wanting to pick up a loaf of bread, a sweet pastry and a cup of coffee from the machine tucked away at the side of the store. They do wheat-free rye loaves, baguettes and croissants, but sourdough is the bakery’s forte – crusty on the outside, with a properly chewy texture and that unmistakable sour tang. There’s another outlet on Columbia Road, and you can also do the sit-down version at the Pavilion Café in Victoria Park.
Specialities: Sourdough breads
Looking pretty in pink, this cute candy-floss emporium from patisserie queen and cake designer extraordinaire Peggy Porschen is an absolute wow – whether you’re purchasing some of her outrageously elaborate confections from the posh boutique or sitting down for cake and a cuppa in her self-styled parlour. There aren’t many tables, so be prepared to wait for your chosen treat – perhaps ‘glorious Victoria’ sponge, dark chocolate truffle cake or something seasonal such as the Easter-themed ‘speckled nest vanilla cloud’ topped with mini chocolate eggs. Best off all, try one of Peggy’s sexy cupcakes (red velvet, cookies and cream, salted caramel, sweet carrot and lemon etc) with a glass of champers or one of PP’s own-brand teas. There’s a branch on King’s Road, Chelsea too.
Specialities: Posh haute-couture cakes and sweets
Having done the pop-up rounds in various London markets, St John Bakery now has its first permanent shop/café in Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials – and it’s a perfect fit if you fancy a spot of food shopping. Pick out some of their famed Eccles cakes, then nip round to Neal’s Yard Dairy for some crumbly Lancashire cheese. Do buy one of their excellent sourdough, rye or raisin loaves to take home with a bottle of wine from the shop, or simply pig out on their granny-style bakes, which have evolved by fine-tuning 100-year-old recipes to best suit the times (note their vegan muffins, breakfast buns and almond croissants). Doughnut connoisseurs will also delight in the sugary, vanilla custard marvels on offer here.
Specialities: Sourdough breads, cakes and pastries
Run by Californian-born cook/designer/stylist Claire Ptak, who made Harry and Meghan’s lemon and elderflower wedding cake, this bakery/café on a Dalston backstreet has a laidback vibe that’s topped off by their twee, pretty treats decorated with real flowers. As a sampler, try something from their seasonally changing line-up of US-style mini buttercream cupcakes (the chocolate violet is floral and fun, but we like the nicely sharp lemon version). They also sell gorgeous cinnamon buns, moist, swirly halva tahini brownies, ‘whoopie pies’ and a choice of creamy cakes such as salted caramel and chocolate – although these are only available in the afternoons. You can buy to take home or eat upstairs in a pretty space done out like a 1960s living room.
Specialities: Pretty, floral, Californian-style patisserie
The Japanese have embraced the art of French patisserie and become seriously good at it – and now you can get your fix at this gleaming space on Ealing Broadway. Wa Cafe’s light, minimalist interior is dominated by two gleaming counters packed with pristine rows of all things baked: spirals of dark-green matcha tea sponge filled with whipped cream; perfectly presented mini pastry tarts; sweet buns filled with red bean paste or custard and so on. There are savoury offerings too, from breads topped with ham and cheese to deep-fried savoury doughnuts filled with delicately spiced curry – they sound so wrong, but they’re so right. Also don’t miss the light, crisp French-inspired choux à la crème flavoured with vanilla, black sesame or green tea.
Specialities: Japanese patisserie
Harringay is London’s ‘Little Turkey’ and Green Lanes is its main artery – a bustling thoroughfare stuffed with shops, cafés and restaurants, all peddling the native culture and cuisine. One of the unsung stars is Yasar Halim, a supermarket with a terrific bakery-cum-patisserie on site. Step inside and you’ll find counters piled high with Middle Eastern breads, as well as Turkish lahmacun pizza, savoury ‘koupes’, coiled tahini buns and cream cakes. Oh, and there’s also a long glass cabinet filled with row after row of sticky golden baklava, sold by the kilo. There are branches in East Finchley, Palmers Green and Fairbridge.
Specialities: Turkish/Middle Eastern breads and pastries
Located beneath the City branch of popular dim sum specialist Yauatcha, this standalone patisserie specialises in fiddly French sweets with an oriental twist. The line-up includes macarons, chocolates, petits gateaux and other confections that marry Gallic technique with native Chinese ingredients – from a take on Paris-Brest involving zingy yuzu gel and toasted hazelnut mousseline to matcha macarons or mango and lime marshmallow with vanilla caramel compote, coconut sponge and candied ginger. Also don’t miss the chocolate pebble – a wonderfully dense, textured globe of mousse, brownie, chocolate liquid and crunchy cocoa nibs. For the full experience, dip into the delectable selection of fragrant and rare teas. Similar sweet delights are also available at Yauatcha’s original branch in Soho.
Specialities: East-meets-west patisserie and gateaux