If you want to know what is happening in the world of food, look no further than London. The bustling city is where you’ll find the latest and greatest food trends, and the rest of the world watches eagerly to see where London will lead.
We’re happy to say that one delicious trend is the comeback of pastries—whether it’s global uncertainty, being sick of too many kale smoothies, or just because they taste so good, Londoners are reaching for a chocolate croissant or a new spin on a Danish.
You only live once, so drop the diet, and sink your teeth into something blissfully delicious. Pastry is back, and it’s more creative and pleasurable than ever.
Here are some of the best morsels in London to watch out.
London is a melting pot of cultures, so it’s the perfect place to find a delicious pastry with a twist from another culture. Look out for the influence of Indian sweets like kulfi and magus, South-East Asian fruits like durian and jackfruit, and the inescapable influence of Japanese macha. It’s common in Japan to see green tea-flavoured filling inside everything from cream buns to cat-shaped waffles, so look out for green tea fillings in your favourite pastries as London gets in on the buzz.
As well as looking around the world for inspiration, pastry chefs are also making increasing use of the bounty of produce available in their own backyard. Rather than just boring old apple, lemon curd, or maybe the occasional tinned apricot, keep your eyes and nose alert at markets and pastry shops for creative morsels using fragrant local quinces, heritage peach and apricot varieties, fresh local raspberries, that English garden staple, rhubarb, and more.
Chefs like Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver have led the way championing local produce, and the benefits can be seen in increased awareness of the bounty of England’s garden, and increased availability of previously hard-to-find fruits and vegetables. Elderberry turnover, anyone?
A Return to the Classics
They say that burgers, ice-cream sundaes, and cereal bowls had a boom in popularity around the time of the 2008 financial crisis, and in our current uncertain times, people are once again turning to the simple classics. When the going gets tough, people want something comforting, familiar, and delicious. This means the classics, such as pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, almond croissants, donuts, cream buns, custard squares, and éclairs.
Look for the best: find yourself a bakery with high turnover (and apple turnovers!), that doesn’t use any artificial colours or flavours. Find yourself a regular haunt that you think makes the best London pastries: where the buttery flakes are juuuuust right, and every mouthful is melt-in-the-mouth tender.
Another trend that is spilling across from the world of desserts is complete over-the-top indulgence. “Freakshakes”, giant milkshakes featuring so many toppings you can barely see the glass, are a big Instagram-worthy trend, and we can expect to see some of this unrestrained exuberance spilling over into pastries in London. Think chocolate sprinkles, multiple toppings, whipped cream, chocolate AND caramel sauce, and anything else you can imagine. Now is not the time to think healthy!
The Flipside: Health Craze
At the other end of the spectrum, some of the most creative, best morsels in London involve new-era ingredients that ARE a little healthier. Coconut flour brownie, anyone? How about cashew cream custard, thickened with ground chia seeds? Maca and cacao cookies? Or maybe a slice of dairy-free chocolate cheesecake, made with coconut oil, freeze-dried açai, and activated almond flour?
The most exciting things to look out for in this buzzing area are interesting flours, such as buckwheat, coconut, besan (chickpea), and nut flours; superfoods from around the world, such as maca, chia, hemp seeds, goji berries, açai, cacao, macha, and bee pollen; and creative sweeteners, such as agave nectar (made from the agave cactus plant, which is also where tequila comes from!), coconut sugar (made from the nectar of the flowers, and then dried), dates, raw natural honey, and stevia (a naturally sweet leaf that can replace sugar).
Our knowledge of superfoods and creative food chemistry just keeps increasing, so if you have allergies or intolerances, or enjoy eating outside the box, look out for creative reinterpretations of old favourites, using some of these new-era ingredients.
Be warned, however: there are a few things to watch out for. Some of these treats can be very pricey, so if it’s not completely delicious, don’t bother. Watch out for food-world followers, such as big supermarket chains, trying to get in on the trend by adding negligible amounts of certain superfoods: read the labels to check you’re actually getting what you’re paying for. And finally, don’t get too caught up in the (expensive, often-pretentious) health-food buzz: If it tastes disgusting (or anything less than swoon-worthy), it’s probably not worth it. “Pastry” and “healthy” were never meant to go together in the same sentence. What’s the point in living longer if you you’re not going to eat chocolate croissants?!
Beyond Trends: Deliciousness is Never Out of Fashion
London is full of crazy food trends, but some things will never go out of fashion: simple, sweet, melt-in-the-mouth, fresh London pastries—preferably warm out of the oven. In our complex world, it’s the quiet moments that count: sitting down on a park bench with a lemon custard tart. Sharing a custard scroll with someone you love. Pulling a sticky raspberry bun from the brown paper bag at the end of a summer’s picnic, and licking the icing from the paper. Pastries mean pleasure, so start searching for your go-to source now!