Springing up all across London is a phenomenon the sweet-toothed are more than happy to get behind, for dessert bars are making an appearance. Whether those eating out are looking to skip ahead to the finale or just complement their savoury courses, there can be no denying the new-found popularity of these specialist London dessert bars.
The new craze is hardly surprising, for Britain has enjoyed a long love affair with the dessert. Coming from the French word, desservir, meaning to clear the table,desserts can be traced back hundreds of years. In fact, people in England were eating puddings as long ago as the 16th century.
These puddings, however, were perhaps not all that similar to what one perceives as the typical dish for ‘afters’ today. Indeed, if you were looking to create a delicious dessert, your first stop would have been the butcher’s.
Some of the pudding delights on offer at the renowned William Curley dessert bar
The first puddings were made using an encasing from animal’s intestines that was stuffed with all sorts of ingredients; savoury and sweet. For example, one popular pudding from the early seventeenth century was called ‘Rice in Skins’. This was comprised of rice cooked in milk; a spice mix of clove, mace and salt; dates; suet; sugar; egg yolk and currants. All of those ingredients would be mixed together and encased to appear something like a sausage.
Nowadays, traditional British puddings are generally made using the basic ingredients of milk, egg, sugar, flour and butter, often with fresh fruit, to create varied classics from trifle and apple crumble to bread and butter pudding and spotted dick.
But the new dessert bars across London are interested in innovating. I took a look around some of the best locations for a delectable dessert to see how they are approaching the finishing course.
William Curley, Belgravia
Named Britain’s Best Chocolatier four times, William Curley certainly does know how to make tasty chocolate. And, unsurprisingly, that’s the theme at the dessert bar that forms part of their Belgravia boutique. Five courses of chocolate-fuelled deliciousness are accompanied by a glass of champagne and a box of nine of the finest William Curley chocolates to take home.
A selection of William Curley’s desserts
The Pudding Bar, Soho
Bakers extraordinaire, the team at the Pudding Bar specialise in baked delights. From Honey Panna Cotta, to Apple and Maple Syrup Baked Alaska, plus all manner of mouth-watering cakes, they can even match your pudding with dessert wines.
A chocolate orange fondant from Pudding Bar
Pollen Street Social, Mayfair
One of the hottest restaurants in London at the moment, Pollen Street Social have also embraced the dessert course with some gusto. Their specialised dessert bar includes British classics. For example, their take on the rice pudding is the dish made from goat’s milk with goat’s cheese ice cream, oat and milk crumb and honeycomb.
Ruby Violet, Tufnell Park
Ice cream specialists Ruby Violet have brought the gelato to London. Not your typical ice cream, however. Flavours here ostensibly vary from the sublime to the ridiculous, with options such as gin & tonic sorbet, Flintham damson (a type of plum) with sour cream and masala chai.
Ruby Violet’s pistachio layer cake
Ladurée, Covent Garden
Probably the world’s finest macaron makers, this is where to go for a classy French dessert. The dizzying array of little coloured gems on offer from Ladurée melt in the mouth.
Ladurée’s world renowned macarons
Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury
Bea the baker provides all manner of patisserie treats at her original cafe in Bloomsbury. Delightful bijou cupcakes are joined by cookies, tarts and cakes of the larger variety.