London is fit to burst with cafes, coffee shops and bakeries. Yet it can still be a challenge to find a spot where you’re guaranteed great service, a perfect cuppa and a satisfying slice of cake.
Thankfully, I seem to have unintentionally tried and tested hundreds of the capital’s teatime establishments…
If you’re after laid back vintage charm The Haberdashery in Crouch End is a must visit.
In the villagey area of North London, which has avoided the spread of coffee chains and sprouted uncountable numbers of independent cafes, The Haberdashery has plenty of competition. But, with its bunting draped exterior and towering plates of cake in the window, it still manages to draw in the crowds. In fact, some days you’re lucky to find a table. Not that its popularity should put you off.
This nostalgic café exudes eclectic style, with pretty painted chairs, mismatched vintage crockery, kitted tea cosies and cute knick knacks. Once you’ve found a seat, you’re in for a treat, whether that’s a pot of W. Martyn of Muswell Hill tea, a jam jar of raspberry and rose soda or a steaming bowl of unbelievably rich hot chocolate “festooned with marshmallows”.
Muffins come baked in little terracotta pots, while a heaving cake display offers an array of surprising flavours, like Orange Blossom and Cardamom, Rose and Elderflower and Nectarine and Rosemary. Though they do also do an impressive and simple Victoria Sponge for cake purists.
If you’re after more than a slice of sponge, The Haberdashery does a mean brunch – think Eggs Benedict or Banana and Cinnamon French Toast – plus generous salads, chunky sandwiches and hearty soups.
While it’s a favourite of the Crouch End mums by day, The Haberdashery also plays host to local musicians, vintage markets and a supper club once the sun goes down.
Down in South London, and on the other end of the scale from The Haberdashery’s homely and cluttered interior, sits Peggy Porschen’s Parlour, a palace of pristine presentation and precise cake making.
The Belgravia tea shop is a love letter to the art of cake, and a mecca for those with a seriously sweet tooth.
Once upon a time, Peggy’s bakes were bespoke and order-only – reserved for celebrations, wedding days and the rich and famous (Kate Moss and Elton John are among past customers) – but since the opening of the Parlour in 2010 the cake creations are now available for anyone to taste.
Inside the Parlour, pretty pastel shades are the order of the day, with a select number of tables, dainty designs and refined prints. But style aside, the glass cabinet - full of cookies, confections and perfect rows of identical cupcakes topped with thick swirls of sweet icing - is really the café’s focal point.
Choose from classic yet indulgent flavours like Salted Caramel, Banoffee, Black Forest and Dark Chocolate Truffle. I can personally vouch for the Strawberry and Champagne Cake being beyond heavenly.
It’s not just about cake, Peggy Porschen also serve up their own blends of tea, such as Caramel, Floral Rose and Orange Flower, designed to balance the sweetness in their range of bakes. Perfection.