ROLL BACK THE YEARS WITH LONDON’S MOST NOSTALGIC DESSERTS
When it comes to choosing dessert, nostalgia has a strong pull. London’s top dining establishments and neighbourhood bakeries are increasingly pivoting their menus around the trend (and flooding social media feeds) serving playful, decadent takes on British classics, such as the deep-fried bread and butter pudding and layered ice cream sundaes. At a more casual level, dessert stalls have been creating nostalgically sweet, modernised pairings for years, from sticky toffee pud topped with liquid nitrogen ice cream to spoonably soft cookie dough studded with giant chocolate buttons. Here Siobhan Gunner aka @hotspothunter has rounded up London’s best old-school yet bang-on-trend desserts to help you roll back the years.
Blondies Kitchen, the milk and cookie bar inside Selfridges Food Hall, was ahead of the curve when it opened over decade ago. The entire menu is built around the concept of recreating childhood memories as a sweet-toothed adult –think cookies topped with Kinder bars, tangy-sweet raspberry jam and crispy desiccated coconut (a nod to old-fashioned coconut and jam traybakes from school), and ice cream tubs piled high with scoops of soft, intensely rich cookie dough. Pair the latter with milk and pour it over the top, creating a pool of custardy, deliciously buttery goodness.
The floor is lined with black-and-white checkerboard tiles, the curtains are draped, and plates are laden with beige, brown comfort foods – everything evokes a quintessentially British greasy spoon, but the Norman’s kitchen is completely refined by Elliott Kaye (of Michelin-starred Lyle’s) and Richie Hayes (of Crispin). And with that comes puddings most diners actually want to eat, such as jumbo-sized apple crumble, sticky golden syrup sponge, and an oozing jam roly-poly, and a common theme of heaps of custard.
Sweet feel-good nostalgia is at the forefront of Dolly’s baking, and her colourful market stall joins the other wonderful, small-scale producers at Lower Stable Street Market in Coal Drops Yard. Pop by on a sunny day and order the Feelin’ Fab cake, made by dipping a dense, perfectly rich red velvet sponge into white vanilla candy, Belgian milk chocolate and rainbow sprinkles.
Soho newbie Nessa has Tom Cenci (previously of Stoney Street in Borough Market) in the kitchen and he’s created a menu of modernised British classics. For dessert, there’s gooseberry jam roly-poly served on bright-yellow bay leaf custard; an alluring mini baked Alaska with blushing pink rhubarb and a scoop of pistachio ice cream; and the Nessablockerglory, an ice cream sundae which sees sophisticated grown-up flourishes in the form of rum-soaked raisins, caramel sauce and salty, crunchy pretzels. Come in a group and spoon your way through them all.
Hackney’s hyped neighbourhood restaurant, Café Cecilia, flooded social media feeds with elevated nostalgia upon opening and it’s still going strong. Bread and butter pudding is deep fried but not one bit as heavy as it may seem, the dough soft, airy and yielding beneath its dark sugar-coated crust, with a lake of custard the perfect cooling accompaniment.
Chin Chin Ice Cream
If you were to think of places that have shaped London’s dessert scene, Chin Chin would come top on that list. Billed as the future of ice cream, this glossy, gold-brushed, black-and-white marbled Soho spot conjures a concise selection of silky-smooth liquid nitrogen ice cream, which can be scooped onto the most indulgent, hot desserts. Try sticky toffee drenched in a warm golden caramel, or the banana ice cream pie (Chin Chin’s answer to banoffee) with house banana jam, a crackly bruléed sugar top, and swirls of pillowy pandan whipped cream served alongside.
Dunn’s Bakery has been around for 200 years, and queues still snake around its navy-blue and white-striped awnings. Properly old school, in its very literal sense, the menu looks pretty much the same as it did on opening day. Expect huge, pillowy Belgian buns studded with juicy sultanas and glazed with sweet pink icing, and doughnuts piped generously with British Tiptree jam. Everything is ridiculously cheap (a bag of four doughnuts will cost you £3.50), and simple, which feels rather refreshing in this increasingly expensive, where’s-the-next-viral-pastry capital.
The news seasoned Londoners wait for all year, Towpath has quietly reopened for the sunnier months ahead. Fresh,
seasonal dishes and classic British desserts are chalked on the blackboard, which changes every day, for ultimate canalside dining. If it’s there, order the super fresh, super zingy mint soft serve with choccy sauce or the chocolate malt soft serve – cold, creamy and with that particularly nostalgic salty-sweetness only cornflakes can give.