When does a bakery become a patisserie? It's a tricky one to nail down. But we'd suggest that when windows full of the rough crusts of sourdough bread loaves turn into windows full of beautifully decorated, meticulously created and very fancy-looking buns, eclairs, tarts and more, it's about there.
Sparing, unfussy sourdough baking might be all the rage, but secretly we Londoners love a sweet treat, and the queue outside Dominique Ansel's iconic self-titled bakery when it opened is a testament to that. So, with that in mind, we've put together a rock-solid list of the best places to find your sticky, pastry-laden confection fix. How sweet is that?
Little Bread Pedlar
Arch Spa Business Park 4, 6 Dockley Road, SE16 3FJ
We could get lost in the swirls and whirls of pastry at Little Bread Pedlar. In fact, we already have. One minute we were looking at a rhubarb and custard danish, the next all that was left on the plate was one tiny flake of pastry. Oops. But that's testament to Little Bread Pedlar's team of pastry chefs, who create works of art with dough, pre-fermenting a 'poolish' starter before mixing it with flour and water, leaving it to ferment, then adding Lescure butter from France.
9 Goldhurst Terrace, NW6 3HX
Here, modern takes on British pastries are made by Japanese chef Masayuki Hara, who trained in French cuisine at Le Gavroche. Confusing, but it all falls into place as soon as you get your chops around a green-tea éclair. This Finchley favourite specialises in modern British bakes and Ceylon teas, churning out dainty morsels of light-as-air, sugary deliciousness like pear tart tatin and a bite-sized rum baba. Diet? What diet?
Unit 2, Kingfisher House, Battersea Reach, SW18 1TX
The bakes at Cake Boy are nothing short of art. Layer upon layer of sponge, mousseline, marzipan and Normandy cream praline, covered in a mirror glaze and piled high with chocolate ganache, macarons and fruit coulis, created by Eric Lanlard, aka Cake Boy. Not only can you pop in for a pastry, you can also pre-order bespoke cakes, or book into the patisserie school to learn how to recreate these tasty treats at home. Dangerous.
19 Prebend Street, N1 8PF
We don't know what heaven is, but in our heads it's filled with cloud-like pastries and everything is dusted with icing sugar or topped with pillowy swirls of cream… Much like Islington bakery Pophams, where you'll find perfect creations begging to be eaten. Layers of buttery pastry oozing ginger custard and nectarine; plaits of croissant dough with rosemary and sea salt; croissants with pear and pecan. Yep, this might just be heaven, alright.
15 Harrington Road, South Kensington, SW7 3ES
Is there anything more extra than a leopard-print eclair that's been piped with arabica coffee cream and topped with gold leaf? Probably not, but when it tastes this good we don't really care. Maitre Choux's team really are pastry, er, maîtres, concocting delectable creations out of choux pastry and cream, from éclairs crammed with Persian pistachio mousseline cream to bite-sized choux cases filled with raspberry-vanilla cream.