Since our adolescent years, London has been one of our favourite cities in the world, and we have lost count of the number of times that we have visited. On our first trip back since the advent of the pandemic, we scouted out the newest dessert bars recently opened by two very renowned pastry chefs in our favourite shopping districts of Knightsbridge and Regent Street. They cemented why, for us, London will always be the city for sophisticated desserts, whereas NYC will always be the melting pot of dessert invention.
- Dessert destination: Cedric Grolet at The Berkeley, Knightsbridge, London.
- Budget: $$$-$$$$ (GBP 22 per cake; GBP 95 afternoon tea; GBP 140 dessert bar).
- Must-eat: The “Sakura Flower” and the “Lime Tart“.
- Short and sweet story: The Berkeley Hotel is home to our absolute favourite high tea experience in London, and when we heard that a French pastry chef famous for his trompe l’oeil cakes had set up shop in the same hotel, we knew we had to visit! I don’t know if I will ever spend GBP 8 on tea or GBP 25 on a cookie again, but I would not hesitate to return for CG’s cakes (and the exemplary service). A tribute to almond, chocolate and praline, the dimpled “Caramelized Almond” (GBP 22) was the most classical French in flavour. We loved more, the “Sakura Flower” (GBP 22), with its whisper-soft sweetness edged with a twang of grapefruit jam, and the “Lime Tart” (GBP 22) of extraordinary palate-cleansing sharpness and life-like appearance. The level of intricate dessert craftmanship that went into these creations is worth the asking price far more than the homely cake slices and cupcakes that has been all the rage the last few months in NYC (#cringe).
- Dessert adventure tip: Reserve at least a few weeks ahead of time — book a table at the Berkeley Cafe, and order a la carte. It makes for a more serene experience than sitting at the dessert bar which is located near the crowds of people lining up for take-away orders.
Cakes and Bubbles by Albert Adrià
- Dessert destination: Cakes & Bubbles by Albert Adrià, Regent Street/Picadilly Circus, London.
- Budget: $$$ (GBP 8-15 per creation, or GBP 45 afternoon tea)
- Must-eat: The “Passion Golden Egg Flan.”
- Short and sweet story: Towards the Picadilly Circus end of Regent Street, Cakes & Bubbles is unabashedly painted in striking gold. This colour scheme is reflected over in its dessert offerings which are predominantly inked in shades of gold and brown. Be forewarned that C&B’s desserts are petite-sized. With a curious salted caramel-like aftertaste, the “Passion Golden Egg Flan” (GBP 9) was the most memorable of the desserts we tried, followed by the head-turning “Rose Lychee” (GBP 10). The rose itself is not edible; it’s the bouncy gel droplet on the rose that you slurp up — it’s a burst of lychee, rosewater and raspberry. If you lean towards more classical European desserts, you will likely prefer Cakes & Bubbles over Cedric Grolet; for us, we preferred the latter instead.
- Dessert adventure tip: Reservations are fairly easy to come by. Request a window-side table.