You know me. I like to have my cake and eat it, most often in London. It's a city crammed with cafes, tea rooms, bakeries, hotels, food halls and stalls selling amazing cakes and baked treats. We have a brilliant baking tradition here and, as I have discovered recently, London has more than its fair share of passionate, independent bakers.
Never tiring of London or of cake, I decided a while ago that a guide to the capital's best cakes would be worth researching and writing, and the publishing side was sorted out. So I went looking in earnest for London's best cakes (I was always keen, but this was with even more determination) and found some fantastic places. The only trouble is that the planned guide has now stalled for various reasons, and I find myself with a stack of cake reviews and an album of cakey photos which will all go to waste if I don't use them somewhere. So this blog is now that somewhere, and I'll be posting the reviews here.
I had fun with the title. It could have been Have Your Cake and Eat It in London, or just Have Your Cake: London. But today I've decided on a new title: Capital Cake. Because that's what it is.
(All the photos are taken with an iPhone, for a specific reason.)
1. Fernandez & Wells
Although Fernandez & Wells has a wonderful deli/sandwich shop round the corner on Lexington Street, this is the F&W place for cake. In fact, it’s one of the places for cake in London. Behind an unassuming black wood and glass facade is a light and airy, plain and simple, long and narrow cafe with a long counter filled with generous arrangements of utterly delicious-looking cakes and baked goods on simple slate trays. There is good coffee and newspapers, and scrubbed wooden counters and tables to sit at with your chosen cake .
And herein lies the problem, as this the kind of place that outs you in a major dilemma. Do you come back many times to work your way through the cakes, go all out for a one-off grande bouffe, or turn up with a crowd of friends and family so that you can order one of everything and share?
Whatever your chosen solution to dealing with such temptation, you can’t go wrong. There are loaf cakes, sliced cakes, little cakes, biscuits and the best pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) this side of Lisbon. Cakes are classic (coffee and walnut, carrot, lemon polenta) or novel and intriguing (Amalfi orange, pear, buttermilk and lavender, chocolate and brandy), and there are big, fluffy croissants, pale buttery shortbread, generous portions of flapjack, and thick bars of millionaire’s shortbread that don’t cost a fortune. Prices are fair, the staff are friendly, and the location is close to all the attractions of Soho. And it sells Barry’s Irish tea in proper tea pots. A true gem.
Slice of cake: £3.20 - £3.50
73 Beak Street
London W1F 9SR
Tel: 020 7287 8124
Open: Mon – Fri 7.30 – 6, Sat 9 – 6, Sun 9 - 5
And a slice of culture: F&W is in walking distance of the Royal Academy, Shaftesbury Ave theatres, Curzon Cinema, Liberty of London, Berwick Street fabric shops, the Marshall Street Baths, and the delights of Soho.