Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sweet London

This article was published in the Hindu's Sunday Magazine : :)
London is a city for walkers. As someone who, in a moment of folly, ended up taking an incredibly expensive cab ride I was doubly appreciative of this fact. The tube is efficient and fast too but quite a few of the tourist haunts are close to each other and walking gives you a greater opportunity to experience this incredible city. If you are like me, and I am hoping you are, then all that walking will invariably lead to a sudden, intense sugar craving. Fear not, London caters to the needs of the gluttonous and has various sweet shops and cute little bakeries everywhere. Here's a sneak peek into some of my favourites.
The Humming Bird Bakery (Portobello Road, Notting Hill):
This area sky rocketed to fame with the eponymous Hugh Grant-Julia Roberts movie and you can see why the director chose this quaint little local market with its coloured walls and antique shops as the backdrop. Intense hunger pangs and a recommendation from a charming old lady drove us here. Upon entering we were assailed by the smell of freshly baked goodies. The heady aroma, the lovely looking cupcakes and the massive queue added to our frenzied state of anticipation. The cupcakes were divine. They had a nice, rich texture and melted in the mouth. The icing on the cake, quite literally, was the frosting: Delicious and bound to give you a sugar rush. A cupcake here will set you back by £3.
Shruti's Pick: Red Velvet Cupcake.

The Wafflemeister (Portobello Road, Notting Hill):
Right next to the Humming Bird Bakery is the Wafflemeister. The sight of these warm, delectably topped waffles drew us like bees to a honey pot. The Wafflemeister serves soft, freshly baked waffles but the best part is their topping. You can choose from chocolate, marshmallows, strawberries, oreos and many other sinful sounding add-ons. These waffles are the perfect snack for the cold, crisp weather in which England specialises. Expect to shell out another £3 here.
Shruti's Pick: Waffles with whipped cream, milk and dark chocolate.
Ben's Cookies (Oxford Street):

This was my personal favourite. The fact that it was able to draw the manic crowds out of the innumerable shops on Oxford Street (on sale day, no less!) raised our suspicions and we paid it a brief visit. We decided to brave the biting cold and wait for a fresh batch of cookies and what a great decision that was. The triple chocolate chunk is true to its name and the three types of chocolates are enough to send the biggest chocolate aficionado into a rhapsody. My favourites, however, were the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunk. The secret behind these divine cookies lies in the fact that they have huge chunks of melted chocolate embedded in them. Soft, chewy and massive (and massive on the Shruti scale is quite an achievement) – Do NOT miss out on these. They have branches all over England. If you do make it there, please bring me back a box. Each cookie should cost 80 pence or thereabouts.
Shruti's pick: Double chocolate chunk cookie.

The Belgian Food Company (Oxford Street): This outlet is another haven for tired shoppers on a cold English evening. While the variety of toppings here doesn't compare with that at Wafflemeister, what they make, they make very well. I devoured the waffle topped with scoops of chocolate ice cream and a sprinkling of chocolate sauce on top. Yummm! The warm waffle and the cold ice cream make a great combination (An Indian version of the gulab jamun-ice cream combo?). A waffle with toppings should be around £3.
Caveat: You will have to elbow your way through the massive crowds and quality is not always consistent.
Shruti's Pick: Waffle with chocolate ice cream
Covent Garden Eateries (Covent Garden): While I am generally a firm believer in the ‘food-over-ambience' school of thought, this is one place where I think the ambience is worth the average fare. There are a number of snack outlets located in the middle of the Covent Garden square and I suggest that you get a cup of coffee or a light snack here. The biggest USP is the eclectic atmosphere of Covent Garden. Cute little stores, performing musicians, stand-up acts... this place is bustling with talent. We were witness to an immensely good hopping violin quartet. (We even managed to catch a Bollywood tune or two). The Christmas decorations and the general festive air made it all the more special. We tried the waffle and cherry cheesecake. In all honesty, I have had better grub. However, I still recommend that you grab a bite here and enjoy the uniquely London air that Covent Garden exemplifies.
Shruti's pick: Steaming hot coffee

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