How to Buy Good Pastries in London

Whether it’s in the crisp flaking of an early morning croissant, the aromatic puff of steam wafting from a lunchtime sausage roll, or the delicate curl on the crust of a sneaky dessert apple pie, there’s surely something wonderful about pastries at any time of day. We hit up London to sample the very best pastries we could find, and the fair city did not fail to deliver. But watch out: all pastries are not made equal, and the unaware pastry shopper might find themselves with a stale or sour mouthful of disappointment. Here’s our go-to guide to buying good London pastries.

Freshness is Quality (and can be found more cheaply than you think)

When you buy pastries in London, it’s easy to assume that luxury patisseries piled with treats and bon bons will be the source of the best morsels. This can be true, but is not always the case. Before re-mortgaging your house for a few luxury bites, try your most popular local supermarket first thing in the morning. Supermarkets will often bake on-site, and their high turnover serving eat-and-run commuters means that a pain au chocolat or croissant may have been baked only an hour previously. If you do try that boutique bakery, aim for places with queues that sell out around lunchtime. Fresh and sold out today means it is far less likely to be stale and on sale tomorrow. Look out for grease spots below the pastry; this usually means the item has been sitting out for some time.

The French are still King

Many good pastries in London hale from French origins. Pastries are a way of life in France, and some of the best have found their way over the Channel. Look out for regional specialities, such as canelés from Bordeaux (small fluted rum and vanilla confectioneries served as breakfast or dessert). Or try a pain aux raisins, sometimes known as an escargot for its spiralised, snail-like appearance. Like the croissant or pain au chocolat, this is made from leavened butter pastry, swirled with crème pâtissière, and studded with raisins (we like to tell ourselves this almost makes it the ‘health food’ of French pastries! Raisins are fruit, after all). Perfect pastries are crisp on the outside and warm, airy and light within, like a day in early Autumn. France also has the benefit of having absorbed other cultural influences, such as the delicious flavours of Moroccan and Armenian cuisine, featuring rosewater, almonds, and other delicate and fragrant scents and tastes, so look out for these cultural mash-ups when you want to buy pastries in London.

Better Butter

The quality of butter used can make or break a pastry, and in London where butter can be sourced from all manner of dairies and farms, this is the number-one defining factor in pastry quality. The water and fat content of the butter will affect the colour and consistency of a pastry, so look for good butter and good colour (not too brown, not too pale — we’re aiming for beautifully golden here). And don’t even go near flaky pastries listing palm oil or canola oil as a primary ingredient — it’s not worth it. Organic, grass-fed butter, properly stored, will be more likely to create a delicious pastry.

Pastry Patriotism

British pastries such as pies, Cornish pasties, and sausage rolls don’t have to be stodgy nightmares: a good British pastry can be a delicate, deeply satisfying affair, and have its own life form. Look for establishments that have been around for a while and that have a good reputation for classic British pastries, or for owners/bakers who hail from a region famous for pasties, such as Cornwall.

Think Outside the Geographical Pastry Box

When you go to buy pastries in London, don’t limit yourself to English and French pastries. Look at Middle Eastern and Turkish places, where there are a wide range of beautiful, exotic, and delicious delicacies available. Common middle eastern ingredients include dates, almonds, rosewater, figs, pomegranate, and pistachios. Börek (savoury Turkish pastries) and baklava are beautiful when fresh.

Warning Signs

If the pastry you’re looking at is glazed with icing, covered in cheese, sprinkled with multi-coloured confetti, or wrapped in bacon, it is usually to keep the pastry longer and disguise a lack of freshness. Any place selling good London pastries should know better. Be wary also of refrigerated pastries, as this can make the oil or butter content of an otherwise delicious mouthful harden and congeal. Flaky pastry is not designed to be chilled in this way, and the mouth-congealing effect of cold pastries is not a pleasant sensation. Be careful also of cafés in museums or galleries: often these places have extremely inflated prices. You don’t want to be paying 12 pounds for a chewy, day-old croissant… right?

Are you Filo-ing it?

A perfect almond croissant is a wonderful thing, but don’t write off other less common forms of pastries, such as delicious creations made of filo, or the retro appeal of puff pastry morsels. Pre-rolled, frozen pastry (again, don’t forget to go for quality butter content), is a great way to experiment with pastry creations at home. Again, Turkish and Middle-Eastern places have a way with filo pastry, often pairing it with sticky honey syrups and delicate flavours. At the end of the day, there’s only one reliable way to research the best pastries in London: using your tastebuds. Immerse yourself in the incredible range of flavours and options available, slow down, and taste every bite. Savour the moment, and really explore the full character of the pastry. Is it fresh? Meltingly delicate? Subtly rich? Indulgently sweet? If the answer is yes, you might just have found your new favourite pastry shop!

Classic British Foods You Must Try When Travelling to UK

A visit to the UK will not be complete without savouring the staples of British cuisine. Some British foods, like Fish and Chips or a Full English Breakfast hardly need any introduction. British gastronomy is as abundant as the country’s cultural heritage. You can find great seafood on the coast, seriously good quality meat and definitely a lot of good British ale to accompany your meal with.
  1. Full English breakfast

    No better way to start the day than a sturdy breakfast. Eggs – check, beans – check, hash brown – check and of course some crunchy bacon too. A good fry-up is all you need to layer your toasted bread with and a grand appetite should not be missing. Try to find a full English breakfast at a local, neighbourhood cafe.
  1. Fish and chips

    Fish and chips is famous across the globe for the light and crunchy coat of butter. A delicious piece of fried cod comes with a handful of freshly cooked chips and optionally with mushy peas. Try it, the British way, with a generous helping of salt and vinegar on your chips.
  2. British beef – Steak and kidney pie

    British beef has a very proud tradition. There are six classic British beef breeds that have been exported across the hemisphere and nowhere can the heifers be better fed than the rolling fields of Britain. If corned beef sandwich is the first thing the springs to mind, wait until you try it in a roast or better still in a pie. Slowly cooked diced beef and diced kidney, a generous helping of brown gravy with fried onions all cased in flaky pastry, this is what steak and kidney pie is about. This pie makes the ultimate comfort food on a cold day.
  3. Scotch eggs

    The Scotch egg was invented by Fortnum and Mason back in the days of horse-drawn carriages. It is one of the quintessential British foods that hardly need an introduction: a hardboiled egg wrapped in minced meat and a crunchy crust. This might be just the thing you are looking for to continue with a busy day out. This is the traditional version; look out for the modern ones with great new twists.
  4. Sunday roast with mint jelly and Yorkshire pudding

    There is nothing that signals better British than the Sunday roast. Pubs nowadays have exquisite menus for Sunday lunches. Look out for roast beef or roast lamb with mint jelly. These both come with Yorkshire pudding. Don’t be fooled, this pudding is no dessert but pastry puffs like no other.
  5. Bangers and mash

    There are many types of sausages to seek out for apart from classic flavours. Pork sausages with bramley apples or with leeks and chives and the long round Cumberland sausages are three special sausages worth trying out. You can have them with mash potatoes – as in bangers and mash or you can enjoy a good British sausage in toad in a hole, with flaky pastry.
  6. Cottage pie or Shepherds pie

    Cottage pie or Shepherd’s pie is one of the most homely of British foods. This pie, it is not encased in pastry like the steak and kidney pie. It simply has a scrumptious mince meat sauce, with peas and carrots and it is layered with lavish mash potatoes on top. There is a difference between cottage and Shepherd’s pie. In the first you will find beef mince whilst in the latter lamb’s mince. They are equally delicious and certainly a good call after a long day.
  7. Ploughman’s lunch

    Beer, bread, and cheese have been combined in the English diet as far as anyone can remember. For a ploughman’s lunch you only need a few ingredients at hand: a nice slice of bread some good cheddar and a fine, sharp onion pickle. This simple dish has been served to travellers at the inns for centuries. Its name however is relatively more recent. This sandwich was baptised as Ploughman’s lunch in the 1950s in an attempt to promote British cheese. It stayed on for good reason; it’s a very satisfying and filling snack to have when on the go.
  8. Afternoon tea

    No visit to the UK would be complete without afternoon tea. What is afternoon tea? Well, it is a mini-meal enjoyed in early afternoon, started back at the mid 19th century with many tea rooms operated across the country. It is however much more than a quick meal, afternoon tea is a ritual of the teapot and strainer, a separate jug of milk and tinkling spoons. Afternoon tea is quality time, a way to stop and relax. Along with your tea you will have soft sandwiches, cut in fingers, scones and clotted cream and dainty pastries. Nowadays it is often accompanied by champagne if you want to make it a little more special and is certainly a winner if you need a snack before heading to the theatre.
  9. The Food markets

    Once you have covered the basics as mentioned above, chances are you might be into something new. Head to the markets to walk among sellers of fresh produce and grab a bite on the go. In neighbourhoods the farmers markets are organised weekly and most likely you will find the array of stalls waiting for you during the weekend. If in London, there is the emblematic Borough Market at London Bridge. Chances are you will be mesmerised by the great quality British foods and you will definitely find something you have not tasted before.

5 Authentic British Foods to Serve For Your Next Party

Do you have a party on your mind? Do you have friends and family coming over? So, you bought the Guinnesses and the Gin-and-Tonics for the party but what is the ideal party food? Tapas, tacos or teriyaki? But, why look beyond our own shores for exciting party food options. Our very own cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes from spicy to sweet and in between. These five British foods will jazz up your guests’ moods.

Fish And Chips

The undisputed king of British foods – Fish and Chips. It is the perfect party food to go with ice-cold beers. Deep fry cod or haddock. Cut the potatoes slightly thicker than you do for French Fries and deep fry them twice. Sprinkle salt, pepper and some vinegar. Place a pickle on the side along with some dip. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of preparing then buy it from any local fish-and-chip shop.

Shepherd’s Pie

If Fish and Chips is the king of British fast food then Shepherd’s Pie takes the crown of comfort food. One of the quintessential British foods, Shepherd’s Pie is essentially lamb and potatoes along with veggies like onions and carrots. The prime flavouring agents are the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and beef stock. It pairs nicely with an English ale, stout, porter and a Bordeaux.

Scottish Potato And Cabbage Pie

People think that British foods are all about meat and potatoes. To prove them wrong and for your vegetarian cousins and friends, I present Scottish Potato and Cabbage Pie. So, how do you go about preparing this homely dish from Scotland? Boil potatoes and cabbage separately. Mash potatoes with butter and add milk. Bake it at 180 Celsius for 20-30 minutes with the cabbage, salt, pepper and plenty of cheddar cheese.

Scotch Egg

Do you remember Scotch Eggs from your school picnic days? Boil the eggs in salt water. Mix sausage, pepper and herbs like sage, thyme and parsley. Roll this mixture around the eggs and flour the entire entourage. Coat it with beaten eggs and breadcrumbs before deep-frying them until golden brown. Scotch Eggs are excellent finger food items for any party. They go well with beers and summer cocktails.

Sherry Trifle

You surely want your guests to leave on a sweet note which is why I present a quick and easy dessert – Sherry Trifle. It can be prepared within 30 minutes. Add sponge cake to the bottom of the glass followed by fresh strawberries. Spread the custard in an even layer followed by a thick layer of whipped cream. Now is the time to pour some sherry on the top and serve it after garnishing it with flaked almonds. These traditional British dishes will surely spice up your parties.

5 British Foods Some May Think Weird

Indulging in local food is one of the best ways to experience local culture. But, when it comes to sampling local food, most stick to the popular food dishes. Only the most adventurous ones search for authentic and at times quirky food dishes for a true cultural experience. For those adventurous ones, here are five British Foods that are weird for most.

Star Gazey Pie

Just a photo of this dish sends jitters down most people spines. It is difficult to eat a pie with fish staring out of it. Star Gazey Pie has an interesting legend attached to it. Tom Bawcock of Mousehole, Cornwall went fishing in stormy weather and ferocious seas to save his starving village. He returned with enough fish to save his village. Locals cooked a pie with fish coming out of it just to prove the existence of fish in the pie. Around Christmas, the village of Mousehole honours Tom Bawcock by preparing pies with fish poking out it staring at the stars. It is difficult to find it in the UK but you can head to Cornwall around Christmas to sample this strange pie.

Haggis

Let’s move further north for one of the weirdest British foods out there – Haggis. Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, usually raises quite a few eyebrows with its strange ingredients. Sheep’s pluck is the main ingredient of haggis. What is a sheep’s pluck? Pluck is a sheep’s throat, lungs, liver and heart mixed with onions, suet, oatmeal and spices. And, that’s not it! The mixture is then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and then boiled in water. If you can’t digest all this then try having it with some fine single malt Scotch. You will find Haggis being served at most Scottish breakfast joints.

Laver Bread

We go from Scotland to Wales in search of strange British foods. Prepared with laver seaweed, this dish is not a bread at all. Laver seaweed is sourced from the western coast and minced or pureed after boiling it. It looks a lot like other boiled and pureed greens such as spinach, kale or collard greens. However, it tastes completely different from any of them and has a very earthy and salty flavour. It has a very strong aroma which some people find hard to overcome. Patties of laver bread, oatmeal, eggs and bacon are served at most traditional Welsh breakfast joints.

Scotch Woodcock

  Have you guys heard of a dish called Spotted Cock? Scotch Woodcock gives Spotted Cock a run for its money when it comes to weird names. While the name is surely strange, the dish itself is quite a delicacy. It is actually scrambled eggs and anchovy paste on buttered toast along with a hint of cayenne pepper. Scotch used to be served after a grand meal during the Victorian era. Times have changed and these days it is eaten for breakfast or even as a snack. It is quite easy to find in most restaurants serving British foods.

Faggots

  From Spotted Dicks to Faggots, British dishes surely have very innovative names. So, what are faggots? Faggots are meatballs made of pig’s heart, liver and stomach. It is an acquired taste and you either love it or hate it. They were eaten a lot during the Second World War as food rations. They lost their popularity over the years and are harder to find these days. Some older restaurants, butcher shops and farmer’s markets are your best bets. You can also find them in the frozen section of some well-stocked supermarkets.   Have you sampled any of the above-mentioned weird British foods? Or, do you know of any other strange British dishes that should be included in this list? Kindly, leave a comment below and let us know.

Top 7 Typical English Sandwiches

It’s a warm summer’s afternoon, the rowers are splashing on the Avon, the picnic rug is set under the parasols, and the butler has just announced afternoon tea… does it get more English? We can’t all teleport back to Oxford in the 1920s, but we can experience traditional English afternoon tea through the sophisticated and delicate food tradition of high tea. No-one does a good high tea better than the English, and no high tea would be complete without those delicate, mouth-watering morsels known as tea sandwiches (along with some scones with cream and jam!). Here are our picks for the top seven English sandwich recipes to look out for.
  1. Cucumber

    When it comes to traditional English recipes, nothing gets more quaintly reminiscent of lawn bowls and afternoon tea than a perfect cucumber tea sandwich. This delicate mouthful needs to be made with care and finesse: the bread should be crustless, the cucumbers peeled and seedless, and the butter fresh and thick. Don’t even bother if they’re not freshly made, and we’re going to suggest you become a proper English tea sandwich snob and turn your nose up if they’re not cut into delicate triangles. Pass the Earl Grey, darling!
  2. Smoked Salmon

    A classic for the classy, no high tea array of English tea sandwiches would be complete without the intoxicating aromas of smoked salmon, on a bed of crème fraiche or cream cheese, and with the merest hint of dill. Rye or Pumpernickel bread are acceptable here, and we’ll even grant you a few translucent slices of English cucumber. If it smells fishy, forget it — the salmon may be old.
  3. Egg Salad

    Quintessentially English, the egg salad sandwich is a stalwart of afternoon teas across Britain. A good egg salad sandwich consists of lightly hardboiled eggs, mashed with mayonnaise or yoghurt, and well seasoned with salt, pepper, and perhaps something daring like a sprinkle of chives or paprika. And, of course, a thick layer of the best English butter (preferably organic and from grass-fed cows for the best flavour). A good egg salad sandwich should be moist but not soggy; rich but not sickening; and eggy but not sulphurous. If you can smell it from more than a metre away, the eggs may be overcooked or old — stay away! White bread is compulsory here, crusts are best trimmed, and multiple layers of filling and bread, neatly cut, would be most welcome. For a taste of Harrod’s-style tea sandwiches, simply add some watercress for a classic ‘egg-and-cress’ experience. Subtle but exquisite.
  4. Roast Beef

    Every good English patriot makes more roast beef than they need, so they can enjoy that special treat of a roast beef sandwich the next day. It’s the horseradish that makes it extra special, lifting the flavours of the roast beef and transforming them into a delicacy. Watch out for dry or curled looking slices of roast beef: this shows it might be old and tough. When it comes to traditional English recipes, roast beef sandwiches are really the cream of the crop.
  5. Tomato

    Don’t even bother going here unless it’s the height of summer and you can find beautifully ripe, tasty, English-grown tomatoes. The tasteless watery pulp grown in hothouses or imported don’t deserve the name. A great English tomato tea sandwich should have slices of juicy, flavoursome tomato, a thick spread of good butter to prevent the bread from going soggy, a hearty bread, and a good sprinkle of salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Look for heirloom tomato varieties, which come in all sorts of beautiful colours ranging from blacks, purples, and greens, to the traditional reds, and even orangey-pink. If the bread looks soggy, forget it!
  6. Cheese and Pickle

    England produces some fine craft cheeses, and there’s no better way to try them than in that classic ploughman’s fare, the cheese and pickle sandwich. The piquancy of the pickle should be not too sour, not too sweet, and offset the richness of the cheese. Look for English classic cheeses such as Wensleydale, and places that make their own pickle.
  7. Ham and Mustard

    A classic ‘next day’ sandwich, nothing beats a sandwich filled with thickly sliced ham off the bone, fine English mustard, and perhaps a little cheese. Free-range ham will taste the best — pale shaved supermarket ham, cured in chemicals, has nothing on the thick rustic slices of traditional English recipes. Wholegrain mustard works here, as do some fresh salad greens — something robust like radicchio, even — and a few slices of ripe tomato, when in season. A nice rye or wholegrain bread goes well with the richness of the fatty meat. If you happen to come across a delicious ham and mustard sandwich featuring a good melting cheese like Raclette, try toasting it or having it toasted for a radical combination of English and French cuisines — ploughman’s fare meets the croque monsieur!
There are other delicious combinations out there, but these are the classics when it comes to English tea sandwiches. Stick to simple, tried-and-true combinations, fresh ingredients, and avoid soggy or old-looking offerings, and you can’t go wrong. Now, pour yourself a fragrant cup of tea with milk and a sugar cube, stir it with a dainty teaspoon, and lift one of those delicate little triangles to your mouth… we hope you’re on a lawn somewhere in the sun, watching the cricket, because it doesn’t get more English than this!

Spring Treats to Look Out for in London Cafes

The sun’s out, the blossoms are blooming, and it seems we finally may have seen the last of winter. But just because the new season is here doesn’t mean you need to miss out on comfort food in London. With change in the air, now is the time to head out to a cosy café — it’s still a bit risky to venture into picnic territory. Luckily, cafés are hard at work creating innovative, tasty, fresh delights in the capital of creative food. Spring into spring with these delightful London café treats. And the best news? None of these need break the budget — the Michelin-starred restaurants can wait!

Chill Out

Now the days are warming up it’s time for your coffee to cool down. Iced coffees have come a long way from the sugary, whipped cream versions of yesteryear — not that there’s anything wrong with those if it’s your bag! Ask for a cold brew coffee and you’ll likely find yourself pleasantly surprised with a full cup of complex flavour notes designed for low-temperature drinking. Or, if you like it sweet, a granita might be more your thing. A happy medley between a sorbet and an espresso, you’ll be cooled off and pepped up all at once. Connoisseurs tell us that the flavour notes of coffee come through best in a cold brew — the best way to find out is to try for yourself!

Granovelty

This Spring granola has come to the fore in London café breakfasts, with many establishments making their own signature granola on-site. Forget dusty old oats gone soggy in milk; granola is now sophisticated and worldly, and a bowl can feature pecans, pistachios, crystallised ginger, dried fruit such as pear and mango, and sprouted oats crisped in pure maple syrup. With the addition of a high-end yoghurt (coconut kefir with Tahitian vanilla! Buffalo milk yoghurt with freeze-dried blackcurrant! Fermented nut yoghurt!), drizzles of honey, and an exotic goat or coconut milk, granola is the fast-rising star of café breakfasts for 2017. If you’re really on a health buzz, look out for unusual grains such as buckwheat that have been sprouted and then dehydrated for maximum nutritional benefit. But remember: taste comes first!

Best Served Cold

Speaking of being cool, chilled café lunches really come into their own in the changing weather of springtime. You can always go for a salad, of course, but other cold dishes offer the calming nature of comfort food without being heated. For guaranteed deliciousness try ceviche — fresh raw fish cured in lime or lemon juice and served with chilli and coriander. Cold-smoked fish, such as salmon, can also be soothing and refreshing on the palate. Even soup can be dished up cold in the form of gazpacho, a chilled tomato soup from Southern Spain, or vichyssoise, a French leek soup traditionally served froid. There are also exciting things happening in the space of raw food, so look out for experimental treats such as chilled cashew nut alfredo sauce, or avocado-based soups.

New Lamb

A true classic, new lamb never tastes better than in spring. Think gentle flavours such as fragrant mint, washed down with a glass of light red wine (Lambrusco anyone?). Many cultural cuisines honour the new spring season with a lamb dish, including the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean and France. In the United Kingdom the best lamb is always free range and as locally sourced as possible, but can also hail from Scotland, or perhaps even New Zealand. For a high-end London café Saturday lunch, look out for lamb cutlets. Served on the rare side, rosy and pink, this spring treat dish is best eaten around April or May.

Eye Candy

Feasts for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, visually appealing dishes are popping up everywhere in London. Rainbow-coloured food is a worldwide trend, encompassing bagels, marbled cakes, cocktails, and even vegetables, such as coloured cauliflowers and carrots (did you know, for example, that carrots were originally purple, and that black, white, purple, yellow, and red cultivars are available?). Or brighten your plate with edible flower garnishes such as pansies, nasturtiums and marigolds — especially right in springtime. Fancy something a little more opulent and less botanical? Eye-catching edible gold is now being scattered across brownies and popcorn and gilting biscuits, creating treats that are fanciful, luxurious, and utterly Instagrammable.

Lighten Up

One of best thing about lighter spring lunches is that they leave plenty of room for afters! In springtime, even desserts need not be heavy. Our current fave is a Genoise sponge, which is an airy, low-butter sponge cake made with cream and seasonal fruits such as apricot, rhubarb, and lychee. Treat yourself to a trifle or two.

Sunny Courtyards

Okay, so one this isn’t quite culinary, but after a long winter everyone has an appetite for sunshine. One of the best ways to enjoy London cafés in spring is to ditch the office (or bring the laptop if you must!) and find a cafe with a sunny courtyard or corner to get a dose of vitamin D. Sip on your drink (a matcha green tea, if you’ve got your finger on the beverage pulse) and soak up some rays. Many London cafés have quiet outdoor spaces full of green plants and trailing vines, just waiting to be explored. By the way, rooftops and conservatory-style areas work too.

Splash Out

Just when you think you’ve tried it all in terms of teas, juices, coffees, smoothies, and shakes, the spring season of 2017 brings more cold drinks than ever before. London cafés are now offering drinks as varied as turmeric lattes, kombucha (fermented iced tea), and quinoa milkshakes. But the trendiest (and healthiest) unusual drink prize has to go to: you guessed it, matcha. This special variety of green tea is appearing in every possible form, from matcha ice cream, to green noodles, confectionery, lattes, and mo