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mad desserts in london, horn of the unicorn, agnes sucre
© Andy Parsons

London's most showstopping desserts

Get an almighty cream, cake and sugar rush with the ten most eye-popping, showstopping desserts in town

By Tom Howells
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Sure, you've all heard of a cronut by now. But what about a gold-embellished eclair, a browned meringue or a croquembouche constructed out of all of the above? Feast your eyes on London's most showstopping, jaw-dropping finales, the most OTT desserts and puds in town with a full-on flavour to match that flamboyant appearance. Diabetics, look away now.

London's most decadent desserts

mad desserts in london, pierre marcolini, eclair
mad desserts in london, pierre marcolini, eclair
© Andy Parsons

Eclairs at Pierre Marcolini

Restaurants Pâtisseries Marylebone

£4.80

Choux pastry desserts – specifically pert little buns and cream-spurting éclairs – have enjoyed something of a renaissance in London over the past year or so, spearheaded in part by Pierre Marcolini. Taking a self-defined ‘haute couture’ approach, the Belgian master chocolatier-patissier creates cakes that are a sight to behold. Seasonal varieties come and go, but stalwarts such as vanille, café, caramel, chocolat au lait and chocolat noir – embellished with crushed nuts, chocolate shards and sprinklings of edible gold – are not just dinky works of art, they’re seriously nom nom. 

mad desserts in london, horn of the unicorn, agnes de sucre
mad desserts in london, horn of the unicorn, agnes de sucre
© Andy Parsons

Horn of the Unicorn Croquembouche at Anges de Sucre

Restaurants Coffeeshops Old Oak and Park Royal

£850

Traditionally a mountain of profiteroles, the classic French wedding cake is, for reasons of practicality and price, a rare treat. Which makes online and Selfridges-stocked cakemaker Anges de Sucre’s Horn of the Unicorn all the more startling. It’s utterly, unnervingly resplendent: a metre-tall vanilla and chocolate cake tower, glazed in meringue buttercream and studded with choux buns, éclairs, buttermilk donuts, macarons, soft-serve buttercream cones, cream flowers, chocolate pearls and popcorn. It’ll set you back £850 (yikes!) and technically it’s not a true croque because of all that internal cake, but… just look at it!

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mad desserts in London, flesh and buns, s'mores
mad desserts in London, flesh and buns, s'mores
© Andy Parsons

DIY s’mores at Flesh & Buns

Restaurants Japanese Seven Dials

£8

The Japanese booze-food experts use trad Japanese hardware with rose-tinted American nostalgia for their DIY s’mores. A take on the American campfire classic – inspired by chef-proprietor Ross Shonhan’s four-year tenure in Texas – they’re a neat, sticky melding of East and West: hunks of pillowy passionfruit marshmallow are toasted over a hida konro (tabletop grill) then squished between slices of almond chocolate and crisp graham crackers. Plus, you get an honest-to-God open flame to play with. Gimme s’more! 

mad desserts in london, freakshakes, molly bakes
mad desserts in london, freakshakes, molly bakes
© Andy Parsons

Freakshake at Molly Bakes

Restaurants Bakeries De Beauvoir

£8

Brash, overconfident, aesthetically flummoxing and alienating to the old – is there a more millennial dessert than the freakshake? Hackney’s Molly Bakes wasn’t the first place in London to do them, but the Kingsland Road café has become ground zero for this Antipodean shake-cum-sundae ‘movement’. Visually, think of the banquet scene in ‘Hook’: a jug full of milkshake, topped with tidal waves of cream, balancing chocolate/cake/sweets and doused in sticky sauces. It’s a diabetic’s nightmare game of Buckaroo and proof that, as ever, the yoof are quite out of control. 

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mad desserts in london, dessert platter, roka
mad desserts in london, dessert platter, roka
© Andy Parsons

Dessert platter at Roka Aldwych

Restaurants Japanese Holborn

£56

Proliferating the sharing ethos that marks the rest of its high-end Japanese menu, Roka’s near-legendary dessert ensemble is a beast. Get past the exotic fruits, ice creams and sorbets, and you’re on to some truly delectable pan-Asian treats: Hokkaido cheesecake with robata nashi pear; chocolate, peanut and vanilla sundae; and the signature chocolate and green tea pudding with pear ice cream among them. Factor in sashimi-style presentation and custom-made Arita-San ceramics, and you’ve got the prettiest platter in London.

mad desserts in london, eton mess, dominique ansell bakery
mad desserts in london, eton mess, dominique ansell bakery
© Andy Parsons

Eton Mess Lunchbox at Dominique Ansel Bakery

Restaurants Bakeries Victoria

£7.50

Cronut king Dominique Ansel lands in the UK this month, with a smorgasbord of London-exclusive sugar-bombs in tow. Best of the lot is the Eton Mess Lunchbox, a mish-mash of jam and mousse ‘strawberries’, mini meringues, black pepper, fresh basil and fromage blanc in a clear box. Key to the enjoyment of this is the DIY aspect: the constituent elements of ‘mess’ are mixed in Korean doshirak (lunchbox) style with a frenzied shaking of the container. As you’d expect from Monsieur Ansel, even after this wilful bit of auto-destruction it’s as pretty as a picture. 

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mad desserts in london, the manor, yoghurt snow
mad desserts in london, the manor, yoghurt snow
© Andy Parsons

Blackberries, soya milk sorbet and yoghurt snow at The Manor

Restaurants British Clapham

£7

Cast your mind back to the ’90s and that episode in ‘The X-Files’ where a pitiful scientist’s head is frozen in liquid nitrogen and smashed off. Thrilling, right? Well, applying that to puddings is no less of a lark. At Clapham’s The Manor, cultured yoghurt and seasonal botanicals – shiso, blackberry leaf, sorrel, fennel, anise hyssop and whatnot – are given the nitro treatment, freeze-dried into sharp little nobbles and fragrant shards. The painterly plate is completed with blackberry mousse, soya milk sorbet and plumes of chilly smoke. Just take care with your tongue: the threat of ice burn is real.

mad desserts in london, bob bob ricard, chocolate glory
mad desserts in london, bob bob ricard, chocolate glory
© Andy Parsons

Chocolate Glory at Bob Bob Ricard

Restaurants British Soho

£12.50

The Ivy and Nobu have rolled out melting chocolate balls, and they’re a Jackson & Rye signature pud, but Bob Bob Ricard’s Chocolate Glory is the capital’s superlative example. Therein a gilded chocolate orb yields to a criss-cross of hot chocolate sauce, coquettishly bearing innards of brownie, Valrhona Jivara chocolate mousse, berries, and a passionfruit and orange jelly. Even for Bob Bob Ricard – a veritable temple of chintzy consumption – it’s a filthily ostentatious high point.

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mad desserts in london, chiltern firehouse, frozen apple panna cotta
mad desserts in london, chiltern firehouse, frozen apple panna cotta
© Andy Parsons

Frozen apple panna cotta at Chiltern Firehouse

Restaurants Contemporary European Marylebone

£9

The cooking of London’s favourite Portuguese son Nuno Mendes is as contentious as it’s attractive. This is exemplified in the Chiltern Firehouse’s frozen apple panna cotta. It’s a foresty, dramatic little dish: browned meringue sitting snail-like on a herb granita, cubes of vanilla and apple jelly, apple and maple panna cotta, made super-rich by freezing. Tastewise, it has divided critical opinion since day one. ‘Genius!’ some proclaimed. ‘Fairy Liquid!’ others sputtered. Either way it’s a very Mendes take on the ubiquitous classic. 

mad desserts in london, thames foyer at the savoy, citrus on the rock
mad desserts in london, thames foyer at the savoy, citrus on the rock
© Andy Parsons

Citrus on the Rock at The Savoy Thames Foyer

Restaurants British Strand

£16

As if picking your dinner with a roulette wheel wasn’t histrionic enough – that’s the concept of the Savoy Thames Foyer’s Temptation Wheel menu – how about serving dessert on a honking great lump of ice? Enter Citrus on the Rock, which merges pastel-hued art deco pizzazz with delicate flavour combinations. Balanced on said iceberg, half a grapefruit is topped with a honey tuile and a micro-cloud of diaphanous citrus fluff, concealing earl grey meringue rocks and tart grapefruit sorbet within. This is old-school gastro peacocking for the swanky hotel crowd.

Find more freaky desserts in London

Maxwell's Bar and Grill
Jason Bailey

London's best freakshakes

Restaurants

Could there be a more epic drink (if you can call it a drink) than the freakshake? Originating in Australia, these monstrous concoctions promise to fix all your sugar cravings at once with their combo of milky goodness, rich, gooey cake, cookie chunks, lashings of cream and a carnival of colourful toppings. Here's where to find your next fix.

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