St John Bakery, London

there are some places i know i will love writing about once i step in, and that was exactly what happened when my friends and i ventured to st john bakery in the (okay fine, not so) wee hours of the Saturday morning that just went by. despite the excitement over this gem of a find, there is an inescapable reluctance to write about it as i begin this post. some things are better kept as secrets, away from crowds and droves of tourists because that is precisely where their charm lies. but sharing is caring, yes? just promise me you won’t tell too many people. here goes..

st john bakery is located just behind the main maltby market stretch of stalls (more on this in another post to come!). walk through a dank and dodgy-looking tunnel and you’ll find yourself along a street with blue-shuttered warehouses. at this point you’ll probably be thinking you’re at the wrong place because it really doesn’t look like there’s going to be any food there, but fear not and go forth beyond the graffitied walls! tucked under a railway arch at number 72 druid street, you will find quite possibly the best doughnuts in all of london.

we had heard of the legendary doughnuts they sold on weekends there, and were told that they would sell out if we didn’t get there early enough. after a quick cost-benefit analysis, it was decided that the cost of getting up early after a late night the night before was less than the benefit of sinking my teeth into one of those decadent delights (their decadence was confirmed by pictures i had googled). so, it was at 830am in the morning on the second day of chinese new year that we ventured towards the river and past the more “mainstream” borough market for maltby, located in bermondsey and not as accessible by the underground as we would have liked. nothing stands in the way of us and good food though, so we found our way there in good time and arrived to watch the shutters of st john going up for the day.
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st john bakery is part of the st john restaurant group, and on regular days when they don’t open their doors to sell their goods, their bakery just serves as a place for them to bake the bread supplies for their restaurant and shops. pretty randomly located amidst a stretch of warehouses, you’d probably happily go right past it if not for the steady stream of customers that leave with brown paper bags filled with doughnuts and cakes and breads. there is no seating within the shop; it is literally just a few makeshift tables set up at the front of functional bakery space for their saturday morning sales:
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20140201_091021the queue just slightly past 9am

nothing fancy about the set-up at all, but it certainly does the job of facilitating brisk business! we were (very proudly) their first customers of the day, and were greeted with this spread:
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freshly-baked custard doughnuts – £2 each20140201_091856 freshly-baked breads20140201_091919

but really, its ALL about the doughnuts. and this is why:
20140201_09090320140201_091355vanilla custard doughnut in all its glory

they had vanilla, chocolate and apple jam (not on display, had to ask for them!) doughnuts available on the day we visited. i started with the vanilla custard doughnut, which is always available (the rest change) and what they are most well-known for. it really set the standard rather high for the rest – it was one pretty damn good doughnut.

the doughnut itself is incredibly light and fluffy – it has a brioche-inspired consistency, and is dusted with just the right amount of sugar that makes it sweet as a doughnut should be, but not overly so. as for the custard cream, can i just say, best doughnut filling ever?! the pregnant doughnut literally explodes in your mouth when you bite into it; the vanilla custard oozes out and the vanilla-bean cream is so fresh and light you feel like you could have an entire tubful of it without feeling ill. it is creamy, smooth, and of an amazing consistency that results in it being dense but not heavy. the whole dough ball of goodness is so pillowy, light, and relatively grease-free that you almost forget its deep-fried! this is definitely dangerous – it makes you have one after another without sparing a thought for the calorie party going on in the depths of your very satisfied tummies.

we were too busy stuffing our faces (promptly rejoined the queue for a second round after a short break) to get a picture of the chocolate cream one, but it was very very good as well. i am not a fan of chocolate, but enjoyed this nevertheless because like the vanilla custard cream, the chocolate cream was dense and satisfying yet light. also, the chocolate used was definitely of a good quality.

finally, we tried the apple jam doughnut:
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apple jam doughnut

for those who fancy something fruity, this will undeniably be your cup of tea – a dreamily pillowy doughnut pumped full of tantalisingly fresh apple jam. the jam packed a real punch; it was super apple-y and sweet (hopefully more naturally than artificially) and was thick and very delicious. i really enjoyed this, more than the chocolate cream doughnut! but i do still think the star was still the vanilla cream custard…

warning: it is almost impossible to eat these glamorously. be prepared for a sticky face, but they are definitely worth the momentary lack of elegance.
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we also had a madeleine each.
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madeleine – 60p each

like the doughnuts, they were very impressive. my friend promptly declared them to be “kueh baulus on steroids” (for those who don’t know what kueh baulus are, they are malay traditional sponge cakes) and for those who don’t know what to make of that statement, don’t worry, it’s a very good thing! they were freshly-baked and warm, crusty on the outside but so soft and fluffy inside. at 60p each, i would have definitely gotten more if i wasn’t already stuffed from our other maltby eats (stay tuned for another post!).

st john bakery is worth getting up early on a saturday morning for – leave your lie-in for sunday morning, and start your weekend right by getting your hands on some of these decadent to-die-for doughnuts!

PS. i hear they have salted caramel custard doughnuts sometimes. need. to. get. some. need.

St John Bakery

72 Druid St
London SE1 2HQ

Open Saturdays, 9am – 2pm
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L’eto Caffe, London

i have never once walked past this cafe along wardour street without stopping to admire the cakes on display in the shop window. i never ventured in however, until the queue at breakfast club (see review here) proved to be way too long on a sunday morning, and this seemed to be a decent substitute that was round the corner. it was busy when we visited but not overly so, enough to have a nice lively atmosphere but yet not too crowded and noisy. we were pleasantly surprised by the pretty good range of breakfast/brunch items that were all reasonably-priced.

there was a steady stream of customers the entire time we were there, and when we left slightly before noon, there was a crowd at the door waiting to be seated so its definitely quite a popular choice in soho for good food! here’s the menu:20131020_104228

having seen the amazing cakes in the window, we seriously contemplated just having a massive breakfast of sweet cake treats, but since we had woken up that morning with our minds set on breakfast club pancakes, we decided that we would not be happy if we didn’t get our pancake fix, and ended up ordering the pumpkin and honey pancakes, 3 poached eggs served with tomatoes and avocado, as well as l’etos famous honey cake:20131020_110208

the servings were actually pretty small (or maybe they just seemed small in comparison to what we would have gotten if we had braved the breakfast club queue) but given the price we were paying, we were satisfied. service was brisk and extremely attentive, so we were happy customers!

20131020_105801pumpkin and honey pancakes with fresh berries and honey buttery sauce – £7.90

the pancakes were good! we both loved how they were really rather pumpkin-y, both in terms of texture and taste. they were light but i thought they could have been a little fluffier (they seemed to be more of the dense type of pancakes, possibly because of the pumpkin?) and maybe prettier too if they were more regularly-shaped (but this of course, is rather irrelevant because taste is what is most important, right?) 😛 i would also have preferred a more generous serving of berries, but was satisfied otherwise with the yummy honey drizzled all over as well as the nutty bits sprinkled on top that really added bite to the otherwise rather “soft” dish. i would say our pancake craving was successfully satisfied after this, so thats’s a good sign!

20131020_1102483 poached eggs served on warm artisan bread toast with tomato and avocado – £7.90

on hindsight, this is actually a really simple dish that can be put together at home for a fraction of the price, but i can never resist perfectly poached eggs and some avocados of perfect ripeness! the star of this dish was definitely the toast – the artisan sourdough bread they used was really yummy that it made me consider buying home an entire loaf. the eggs were poached to perfection (just look at that golden yolk just dying to burst and ooze out onto the bread!!! sorry i know my yolk fanatic tendencies are emerging once again…) and though simple, it was a satisfying dish of a trusty combination of ingredients that can never really go far wrong.

20131020_105550honey cake (about £4 for the slice if i’m not wrong!)

this cake is something i will return to l’eto for. we were spoilt for choice when it came to picking something sweet to end off our meal and were very tempted by other fancier looking tarts and amazingly prettily decorated cakes (check out pics at the end of the post), but this was the one cake that was highly recommended by the staff as their specialty and one of their most popular. i can definitely see why! despite the alternating layers of cream and cake, it was amazingly light and had a lovely honey flavour without being overly sweet as one would imagine. in fact, it was rather subtle (there was actually a stronger taste of caramelised biscuits than honey, i thought? not sure why though!), the cream was wonderfully fresh and i thought the cake had an interesting texture which i cannot quite describe. its definitely something that is rather unique and won’t find often at other cafes, so i’d recommend ordering this if you pay l’eto a visit!

besides cakes and things on the menu, they also have a counter for you to pick from a good range of salads and quiches if that’s what you prefer:
20131020_104058i certainly wouldn’t mind returning to give these a try!

l’eto is a good place in soho to have a light and affordable meal, and it seems that those cakes do taste as good as they look. so the next time you stop in your tracks to admire the amazing display of cakes in the shop window, why not allow yourself to succumb to temptation and have a cup of tea and some cake? i highly doubt you’ll regret it 🙂

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L’eto Caffe

155 Wardour St
London W1F 8WG

Louis Patisserie, Hampstead

we heard that no trip to hampstead was complete without a visit to louis patisserie, a hungarian patisserie that has been around for close to 50 years.

we took a walk around hampstead to let our food from Jin Kichi settle:

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the air seemed fresher and people more carefree – the tranquility and feeling of being miles away from the hustle & bustle of central london was therapeutic, to say the least. however, what was more therapeutic was the sweet treat that greeted us at this cosy tea room.

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possibly the part that got us most excited about louis patisserie was the full range of cakes available being brought to us on a silver platter – literally. we were spoilt for choice and after 15 minutes of intense interrogation, we settled on 3 cakes of which unfortunately, we do not know the names of because there is NO MENU at this shop.

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we were highly recommended the chestnut cake by the waitress. we were served a sizable rectangular slice on a dainty plate and it was easily the best out of the 3 cakes we ordered. do not fear the seemingly (jo: SERIOUSLY, ITS OBSCENE.) overly thick layer of cream; it was  so light and fresh that nic felt like he could fly after just one bite! the chestnut cream on top merged with the sponge and cream seamlessly, and it was an explosion of light-tasting goodness with every mouthful. if its one cake we will be back at louis patisserie for, this would be it.

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next, we had a strawberry tart with a chocolate base. it was noticeably smaller than the other cakes, but priced similarly. we expected a firm and thicker crusty base, but lo and behold, it was filled with cream, cream and more cream, with a crumbly, biscuit-y layer. the thin chocolate crust was not such a bad thing after all – it did not overpower the sweetness of the strawberries, and allowed the distinct fruitiness to come through. however we would have preferred more texture as the thick cream filling made the tart too one-dimensional. the tart as a whole lacked depth of flavour and variety of tastes and textures. overall, it was very pretty to look at, but not as good as it looked/we had anticipated.

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our third cake was chocolate buttercream on sponge. again, the cream was the star of the show. the sponge was nice and tasty (reminded us of kueh bolu) but was dry at some points when eaten without the cream. the amount of chocolate coating the sponge was just nice: enough to be eaten with every mouthful, not stealing the cream’s limelight.

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coffee was nothing to shout about.

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overall, the cakes were nice and creamy. usually too much cream on cakes tends to put people off but here, due to the lightness of the cream, more was definitely not an issue. in fact, we’d say that the cream here is the cream de la cream.

our guess for the price: £25

total bill: £17.40 (£3.70 per cake for eat-in, £3 for takeaway)

ambience: artisan, boutique cafe, vintage, chic.

service: unimpressive. seemed to be rushing us and unwilling to entertain our queries (otherwise our interrogation might have gone on for another hour), not very customer-oriented. probably because it was a busy saturday afternoon.

who we would recommend this to: people looking for a unique, old-school tea experience at a comparatively reasonable price. friends looking for a catch up over cake & tea. small groups as the place is pretty cramp and tables are very close to each other.

will we return? 3 YES-ES!!! even though the cakes were nothing mind blowing, we will definitely return considering the ambience and the other cakes that we did not get to try today – on a weekday when it is probably less busy.

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Louis Patisserie

32 Heath St, London, Greater London NW3 6TE

020 7435 9908