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.

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:

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:
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.

we also had a madeleine each.
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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Flesh and Buns, London

i’d been wanting to try flesh & buns since i heard that it was owned by the same people behind one of my favourite bowls of ramen in london at bone daddies. the thought of roasting your own green tea s’mores was also too good to resist, so it was flesh & buns that we headed to to celebrate one of my housemate’s birthdays!

occupying a pretty large space in the basement of a building at seven dials, it is an izakaya restaurant (drinks accompanied by food) that made its debut quite recently in the london dining scene. decor is simple and modern, with large tables that make it a good venue to meet up with larger groups of friends. it was rather quiet when we visited on a sunday night:
its a really dimly lit place so unfortunately the photos aren’t going to be great because all i was armed with was my s3 camera 😦

as their name suggests, they pride themselves on their handmade buns, which are to be eaten with their mains. their buns are basically kong bak pau buns (for those who have absolutely no idea what i am going on about, kong bak pau are chinese braised pork “burgers”) – delicious steamed buns that are eaten with different fillings:

the menu seemed to be going in the direction of fusion, with a mix of interesting asian and western dishes. they do things tapas-style, the idea being for you to order a number of dishes that the whole dining party can sample.
here’s the menu:20131208_203234

the first dish to arrive at our table was the beef tataki:
beef tataki with onion ponzu & enoki mushrooms – £10.50
this was probably my favourite starter of the night. the sauce was delicious and the beef was fresh and sliced to just the right thickness – not as thin as beef carpaccio but not thick to the point of chewiness. neither was it stringy, which is another huge plus point! eaten with the condiments that topped it, it was a really yummy burst of flavours in the mouth.

the second appetiser we had was the fried squid aka calamari:
fried squid with japanese pepper and lime – £8
there was nothing very outstanding about this starter, in my opinion. we really wanted to try the grilled beef skewers (with kimchi & yoghurt) but they had run out by the time we placed our orders 😦 it was good calamari and the batter was light and tasty, but nothing exceptional at all.

we also ordered the eel cucumber roll and the softshell crab roll:
eel cucumber roll (grilled eel, sweet soy) – £10/ softshell crab roll (jalapeno mayo, chives) – £9
we all thought the rolls were rather pricey for the serving size (5 pieces each?!). they weren’t anything to shout about; i think you can easily get better rolls elsewhere. the jalapeno mayo was an interesting addition i suppose, but again it can be recreated pretty easily at other joints, i feel.

the last starter we ordered was the grilled corn:
grilled corn with lime spice butter – £4
i loved this starter, especially because i adore corn!!! the corn was grilled to perfection and slathered in butter, naturally sweet but yet made even yummier by the extremely tasty butter. i. love. corn.

now on to the mains, which definitely impressed me more than the appetisers (thankfully!). we ordered 4 to share among the 6 of us.
first up, the crispy piglet belly:20131208_210208
crispy piglet belly with mustard miso & pickled apple – £14.50
the crispy piglet belly was basically like chinese roast pork. but it was a pretty good rendition of it! the meat was tender and juicy, and the skin was thin and crispy. the layer of fat wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too oily too! it went well with the mustard miso, and we all really enjoyed the amazingly thin slices of pickled apple that were a very refreshing twist to the meat!

we also had the crispy duck leg:
crispy duck leg with sour plum soy and beetroot pickles – £13.50
the duck was also really enjoyed by all of us – it was like duck confit with a slight asian twist. the skin had that yummy melt-in-your-mouth texture, while the meat within was moist and tasty! if i return, i would probably order this if i’m looking for a meat to go with the steamed buns.

our third choice of main was fish; we got the grilled sea bass:
grilled sea bass with coriander miso and kimchi pickle – £16.50
i remember this to be very yummy, probably something i’d order if i return! the fish was extremely fresh and grilled to perfection. the skin was crispy and coated in just the right amount of coriander miso, while the meat was firm, moist and naturally sweet. our only gripe was the small serving, given the price we were paying.

the above 3 mains are meant to be eaten with the steamed buns or vegetables (which come together with the buns):
i thought it was good that they had lettuce and other vegetables to eat with the mains – too many buns would fill you up really quickly, and veggies are always a healthier and lighter accompaniment.

finally, we went for the spicy beef hot stone rice aka flesh & bun’s take on bibimbap:
spicy beef hot stone rice with mushrooms and sesame butter – £8.50
i think this was probably the most reasonably priced out of all the mains we ordered – the serving was definitely the biggest of everything we had ordered! i really enjoyed this dish and how the many ingredients and sauces added culminated in a big bowl of goodness. i felt that there was something different about it when compared to what you get in regular korean restaurants, but couldn’t quite place it. it was really tasty and the veggies added were fresh and retained their crunch. this dish had me scraping at the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot when we were done (not the healthiest thing to do, i know).

and finally, definitely last but not least, we had our dessert – one of our main motives for going to flesh & buns. out of the 4 we ordered though, i felt that only 2 were worth the hype and out of those 2, only one was something i’d return for.
the dessert menu:

first, we had the bone daddies sundae:
bone daddies sundae: matcha ice cream, blueberries, jelly, honeycomb, cream – £7
i felt there was too much going on with this sundae – it was nice and exciting to have a huge range of toppings added to the sundae, but the (major) downside is that i thought the matcha taste of the ice cream was almost completely masked. there was also something in it that we could not identify, but that made the whole thing kinda sour..? i’d probably give this a miss if i visit again.

we also had the yuzu meringue pie:
yuzu meringue pie with raspberry yuzu sorbet – £7
this was very refreshing! the combination of yuzu and raspberry made for a very tart but yet not too sour dessert, and was a good break from the sweetness of all our other dessert choices. i thought the yuzu pie was delicious, as was the raspberry sorbet. i’m not really a fan of meringue so can’t say much about it! if you’re into sour things, this is definitely for you!

we also had what flesh & buns has become pretty famous for (how could we not) – the green tea s’mores!
s’mores: marshmallows, biscuits, green tea chocolate – £8
we were beyond excited when the charcoal stove was brought to our table for us to roast the s’mores. there was definitely a major novelty factor there – the idea of DIY roasting not just regular s’mores, but green tea s’mores at your table. it was a really fun experience (though the marshmallows ended up being kinda burnt), but i wouldn’t rave abut the taste. we all agreed that the green tea chocolate was pretty lightly flavoured, but teamed with the biscuits and melty marshmallows, still made for something rather satisfying. given that we were only given 2 s’mores though, i would again say this isn’t really value-for-money though it might be worth paying for the fun experience.
birthday girl with the completed s’more

and finally, on to my favourite dessert and quite possibly my favourite dish of the night:
kinako donuts with black sugar custard – £8
these. were. amazing. DELICIOUS. amazing. they were like giant sugar-coated exploding donuts. pictures to illustrate my point:
20131208_215958 20131208_220005 20131208_220244
just look at that!!! the outside of the donuts were as good as the inside – they were light and fluffy, of just the right thickness to hold the amazing oozy custard, and coated in sugar. so sinful but so good, especially because they were served warm. the black sugar custard actually tasted quite like normal custard, but it was extremely smooth and creamy and not too sweet at all! if there’s only one dessert you have space for after dinner, its these amazing balls of goodness that you must go for!!!

all in all, we had a pretty good experience at flesh & buns but i’m not sure how soon i’ll be returning just because i thought it was rather pricey (though looking at the pictures of the donuts again, i now realise that they are indeed quite hard to resist :P)! some of their dishes are rather novel though, so i suppose its worth trying at  least once. they also have a lunch set-type thing, which seems quite reasonable!

Flesh and Buns

41 Earlham St
London WC2H 9LXProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_20131209_101906
night out with my chicas bonitas aka best housemates ever 😉 ❤