Tuesday, 25 October 2011

L'Eto Caffe

Dear Readers,
I have a confession to make. I cannot claim that I made the discovery of this cafe that has ricocheted into the Number Two spot in Silver Whimsy's Top Ten list of cafes across London. No, that accolade goes to my SIBF, as does the joy of Hipstamatic as demonstrated by these divine photos that actually do do justice to the indie lo-fi delights of the most extraordinary Soho cafe that is L'Eto Caffe ....
I love the fact that there is Astro-Turf on the window! I love the glass shop front for maximum cake gawping! And I also love the cakes themselves!
Whilst I am currently obsessed with 'English Muffins' owing to Madeleine's love of the aforementioned buttery delights in Eugenides latest 'The Marriage Plot', when faced with the option of muffins or Epicurean patisseries, the patisseries win out. I am yet to try many of the extraordinary array of cakes on offer at L'Eto, but those I have tried (raspberry mille feuille, cherry mille feuille and raspberry tarts) are up there with those of Maison Bertaux. (To new readers out there, this is the HIGHEST ACCOLADE WHIMSY HAS TO OFFER!)
There is something intensely life-fulfilling about sitting at a quasi-formica surfaced table, staring into the million layers of a cherry mille-feuille whilst gazing into the eyes of a SIBF replete with new hair cut and winter coat. When you add an extremely well chosen eclectic indie soundtrack, ridiculously attractive serving staff and ultra-cool clientele, you have basically the best cafe in London town.
Quasi formaica tables + super-shiny floors = epitome of lo fi cool.
I have not yet tried a Hazelnut and Honey Latte, but I intend to do so before the winter's out. I am yet to find out the secret recipe of 'London Hot Chocolate', but I have Spooks working on it as I type...
As you can see, detail is all at L'Eto. Where else can you drink a divinely silky, dreamily delicious cappuccino from such a beautiful cup? Sometimes their coffee comes in the most amazing glasses and, seeing as one of my most favourite things in the world is drinking coffee from a glass, this makes me very happy.
This is the cherry mille feuille. It is basically like eating a whole pot of cream. The cream is pillowy, cloud-like, and not at all over-whipped (which is one of my pet hates).
Next time you're in Soho and feel in need of an oasis of non-try hard indie cool amidst the fast paced life of Wardour Street head straight for L'Eto Caffe. You will not be disappointed!

Silver Whimsy x

PS Hipstamatic - quelle revelation!!!!

Sunday, 17 July 2011


I first heard about Hurwundeki from a wonderful brown paper bag (that I still have) given to me by my friend Lara which contained the most amazing birthday presents ever! (A baking tray and a number of excellent head-bands for the curious amongst you.) Months later, my friend Rebecca suggested meeting there and I was amazed by it's fantasy cornucopia charm.Visiting Hurwundeki is a little like stepping out of the dull grey pages of Hackney Road and into the magic realism of a Carter-esque side-show funfair.A sandy beach gives a home to faded carousel horses and rusted pumpkin coaches;old wooden chairs threaten to tumble over, precariously balancing on the uneven ground; a ramshackle railway arch is transformed into the heart of trendy Shoreditch without being remotely annoying or pretentious. (A miracle in itself.)
You can sit in Hurwundeki for hours at a time and they don't mind. You can order one coffee and use the wi-fi to your heart's content and they won't be rattled.
You can hang out by yourself or with friends and their small children and they will be absolutely cool with it. It is possibly simultaneously the greatest meeting point and private out-of-the-house working place in the whole of London. That is a mighty accolade to bestow on a place but I believe Hurwundeki may well be worthy of it.
They serve delicious Square Mile coffee which is roasted in nearby Bethnal Green and a host of delicious home-made salads and sandwiches and - joy of joys - occasionally cherry pie.
It is most certainly off the beaten track, however, it is also well worth a journey right the way up the Hackney Road purely for the sake of visiting this most delightful cafe haven. You can walk through the beach and enter a world in which your writing/reading/designing dreams can all come true.
Back with baking soon, honest!
Silver Whimsy x

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Maison Bertaux

Oh, Readers of Whimsy!
Allow me to take you on the ultimate tea and cake pilgrimage in London... This cafe is the undisputed Number One cafe around London as voted by Silver Whimsy herself since she first arrived in London in 1997! Maison Bertaux.
Not only is this cafe located in the heart of Soho, it is also the BEST place in London for tea.
The shop window is a candy-coloured cornucopia of delights. The baking here is the essence of baking - baking at it's most artful, generous and magical.
Frequently, on a first visit to Maison Bertaux, people can be put off by the seemingly unfriendly service, however it is really just a case of familiarity and being prepared with your order before you enter the cafe!! (They like you to have already perused the cakes and made your mind up before you clutter up their hallway.) When I first started going to Maison Bertaux, I was obsessed with wearing butterflies in my hair, and as a result the extraordinarily beautiful waiters that grace the cafe would occasionally give me an extra cake for my butterfly to feed on! This is the sort of wonderfully romantic and generous gesture that a place like Maison Bertaux can make...
I prefer taking my tea upstairs because it has this amazing secret romantic tryst/writers paradise feeling to it, but there is a delightful space downstairs as well, currently featuring lots of bunting and some pretty tablecloths.
The thing about sitting upstairs though, is that Noel Fielding has had several art exhibitions in the cafe over the years and lots of his writing remains on the walls, so if you haven't got either a notebook or a SIBF with you for company, there is always something with which to occupy yourself! If you tie it right and you're in the cafe when one of his art exhibitions are actually happening, then there is no way you would want a notebook for company because there is way too much to look at!
Your tea (normally brought to you by a ridiculously good looking waiter) arrives in a wonderfully genuine no-nonsense well-pouring tea pot with a generous jug of hot water, milk and a much-used and loved tea strainer. (Modelled below by my SIBF. Look to the left of the tea pot and you will see examples of Noel Fielding's wall-writing.)
The house-blend tea is dark, golden, strong and seemingly never-ending. (If you order camomile tea, they bring you the actual beautiful little flower heads in a pot - how extremely divine.)
One of the truly joyous things about being in Maison Bertaux is that you feel as if you are genuinely attending Alice's tea party, except it is a million times better than expected.... And then there are the cakes...
Words cannot do justice to these epicurean creations. On this visit to Maison Bertaux with my SIBF, I went for my usual favourite cream fruit choux bun. I have no idea how every piece of fruit they carefully choose for their delicacies can be so sumptuous, nor how the cream can be so excrutiatingly delicious.
My SIBF spotted a new cake in the window - one we had never seen before - and so chose it. I was very glad that he did - I would LOVE to know how they make this chocolate icing. It is sticky and chocolatey, smooth and shiny and all encompassing in a way that chocolate icing rarely is - it tastes better than it looks. Other favourites are the Maison Bertaux chocolate eclairs and these almond ring cream buns. Seriously the best patisserie in London.
Whilst Maison Bertaux is on the expensive side, it feels like an occasion being there; you can sit for hours and hours, all the best dressed people frequent the glories of it's slightly ripped black plastic-leather old school 60s almost-beatnik-seats, and you actually feel like your life and creativity have seriously improved by virtue of being there. I cannot recommend it enough.

Baking will resume in a week or two, so keep your eyes peeled for the next Summer of Whimsy!

Patisserie and Papillons,
Silver Whimsy x

PS Whilst this is not the usual Whimsy thing to do, I must leave you with a photograph of the toilets at Maison Bertaux - where else is this the standard of grafitti?!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Camden Arts Centre

Dearest Readers,

I may well regret this post. For I am about to reveal to you The Secret of Whimsy. Well, maybe that’s a bit of a grand statement, but this truly is my ultimate writing place, my top two café of all time, my place-to-come-to-in-time-of-need, my failsafe, trusted artspace / café / garden / purveyor of a damn fine cup of coffee…

Readers of Whimsy, I present to you...

The Camden Arts Centre!

Hidden away on Arkwright Road, just off Finchley Road is the beautiful late Victorian ex-library that is home to the Camden Arts Centre. There is a changing exhibition every few months, and that is one of the best things about this café – you can always combine a visit with a quick skip and jump around the exquisitely configured galleries with sky-high ceilings, wooden floors, masses of natural light and perennially interesting exhibitions.

The re-design of the building is an architectural tour de force – there is a pretty little garden hidden behind a glass wall

that does a remarkable job of blocking the traffic noise and makes you feel as if you are hidden in a caffeine-fuelled utopian vision of arts for the people!

A major pull of the Camden Arts Centre is its huge tables, daily newspapers laid out, free wi-fi and lap-top friendly atmosphere. I have written dissertations, novels, poetry and endless rants from these tables, and today, for the first time, I am actually BLOGGING LIVE from here!

Is this the birth of site-reflexive blogging? The coffee here was voted as Time Out’s best cup of coffee, and I have to say it is always delicious, never burnt or bitter and one of the few cups of coffee on offer in London that actually gives you a caffeine hit.

I wouldn’t recommend the cakes here, but fresh, home-made, healthy and unusual salads (‘Salad?’ I hear you say, ‘Salad in the World of Whimsy?’ – well, there’s a first time for everything…) are made on the premises right before your eyes every morning, and provide good value for money as well as plenty of your five a day. (It is useful to recompense for the endless slices of cake by coming here for lunch once in a while.)

This café is a complete contrast to Burgh House – whilst you may well fall in love over a cream tea at Burgh House, it would be far more appropriate to come in city-chic post-modern polos and talk Ginsberg over an Americano at the Camden Arts Centre – but equally one of the best in our city of love and poison.

Until next time,

Silver Whimsy x

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Orange and Lavender Cake at Burgh House

Dear Readers,

I hope you feel special, for I am about to share with you one of North London's Best Kept Secrets.... Burgh House.
Burgh House is rather like a secret garden but with excellent coffee, tucked away ancient benches and delicious cakes thrown in for good measure. It is rather like time travelling into the golden heyday of afternoon teas; be sure to wear a floral dress that you could imagine gracing the body of Julia Flyte to compliment the wisteria and wild spring flowers surrounding you as you take your tea.

There is a somewhat shambolic air about the Buttery -

- but I mean that in the most complimentary of fashions. For this is a genuinely independent business with a small downstairs kitchen and beautiful waitresses with boho-chic accessories who may or may not appear to take your order. But it doesn't really matter because you can recline in the wooden furniture, watch the blue-tits dancing in the blossom trees and inhale the sweet scents of the orange blossoms surrounding you on all sides. You quite forget that you are in London; it is as if you are transported to the Hampstead of yore - the beautiful, small village on the edge of the heath...

...and then there's the cake.
The cakes are all made on the premises (a la Whimsy) and use locally sourced ingredients. the teas and coffees are all fairtrade and you are automatically brought hot milk for your coffee, cold milk for your tea and tea in a pot. (It shouldn't be necessary to point this out, but so many places have foresaken these basic rules of conduct in recent months.) The cakes are the kind of uncomplicated, delicious and traditional cakes that I like eating and making. I had the orange and lavender cake this time around and it was fragrant and delicate with the most perfect texture - simultaneously crumbly and moist. The prettiest lavender buds were scattered on the icing leading to a thoroughly Whimsical joy!

...and then there's the coffee! It is the most perfect coffee; a deep ebony coffee with a thick crema and a generous serving of the aforementioned hot frothy milk on the side leading to the perfect golden foaming frothy coffee (but nicer than that sounds - like a delicacy rather than an unpleasant canine disease).
This is a cafe for romantic trysts and leisurely lonely Sunday afternoons. Burgh House is a good reason to go for a long walk on the heath - with the knowledge that there is a delicious afternoon tea awaiting you and a historical museum filled with (occasionally bizarre) curiosities for you to while away a half hour over. Do try to go now before the spring flowers are over and see if you can work out where my favourite seat is!

Sweet lavender kisses,

Silver Whimsy x

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Nordic Bakery

Hello Readers!

Being British, I must commence with a comment on the weather; isn't it wonderful! All my tea dresses are out of the wardrobe and I am basking in the sunshine.

What perfect timing, then, to bring you the first Silver Whimsy Review from the Top Ten List of Cafes across London!
I arranged to meet my Floral-Shirted-Actor-Friend (FSAF) at The Nordic Bakery on the hottest day of the year so far. This was simultaneously a good and bad idea; whilst we had delightfully silky smooth coffees and carbohydrate-drenched cinnamon buns, The Nordic Bakery is more suited to a frost-bitten winter day rather than a sun-drenched April eve.

The Nordic Bakery might not immediately seem to fall into the Aesthetic of Whimsy. But, you see dear Reader, I LOVE the clean lines, the quasi-clinical atmosphere of the wood pannelled walls and as my FSAF commented, the sweating sauna like effect of the glass fronted window onto Golden Square. Oh dear, I'm not painting a good picture am I..?

Let us now move on to an explanation of why the cappuccino's from The Nordic Bakery are the best in central London (excluding Soho). It isnlt just the contents of the coffee cup that make this frothy-drink so pleasing, it is the cup itself and the sanitorium-esque tray on which it is presented.
It all ties in with the 'safe-space' aesthetic of The Nordic Bakery. There is something intensely soothing about the muted colours and the super-shiny and smooth Moomin sized coffee-cups. The contents therein do not disappoint; the ratio of coffee to froth is perfect (although this is a more Australasian and less Italian version of the cappuccino so do not expect an adrenalin-filled caffeine hit); this, then is a coffee to linger over rather than a pick-me-up-let-me-out-of-this-crazy-city-help-I'm-wearing-stilettoes-it's-rush-hour-and-I'm-going-to-be-late kind of coffee.

And then we move onto the piece de resistance du Nordic Bakery. Oh yes, their famed and much-devoured by Whimsy cinnamon buns. The bakery is housed in the basement of the cafe, so freshly baked cakes, buns and breads are constantly brought up into the cafe. The cinnamon bun is a multi-layered delicacy of thick buttery pastry drenched in cinnamon-loaded goodness. My FSAF could detect a hint of something else behind the cinnamon - an almost liqueur like flavour that he couldn't pin down - if you go please send in your thoughts about what this could have been. The best cinnamon buns are soft and squishy inside and sticky and chewy on the outer corners.
I have never ventured into tasting any of their other cakes, but the Tosca Cake sounds most tempting.

So, if you're stuck on Oxford Street and need some respite from the crazed shoppers and endless roadworks, head down Carnaby Street and wend your way t Golden Square; there a sanitorium clam awaits you.

Cinnamon and Springtime,
Silver Whimsy x

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Your New Favourite Shop; Comma

Dearest Readers,

I have managed to stop it from being a year since I last posted. This acts as a mini-triumph in my life at the moment.

However, today's long-awaited content will not feature any baking! Yes, dear reader, you heard right! Confessions of a Hampstead baker is reaching out from tales of baking and will begin to feature write-ups of Silver Whimsy's Top Ten List of Cafes across London and SilverTop Ten List of Shops across Britain!

And so to launch this new feature (if this was an app there would be bluebirds and butterflies streaming banners across the screen - please imagine them now-) I give you my Number One shop in Britain; Comma.
Comma is situated on Iffley Road in Oxford. You can reach it by taking the 4, 4a, 4b or 4c bus from just outside Oxford station and then the bus stops directly outside the shop so there's no excuse for either i) getting lost or ii) not visiting.

Inside and outside, comma is a veritable treasure trove.
It is a compendium of all the most delightful treats; the most secret of notebooks; the most delectable of curios and the most magical miscellanies. (Can miscellany be in the plural? Well, if it can't it can for Comma!)
Comma is my dream shop. I could happily live there. Being there makes me happy. It's one of those places where you just want to pick up and scrutinise everything because by virtue of touching the objets around you, you can feel some kind of profound assimilation of self going on.
What makes it EVEN BETTER is that it's run by Sally and Dave,
everyone's favourite purveyors of tea towels - todryfor.

The SIBF and I spent a wonderful day in Comma picking everything up, buying post cards, cards, tea towels and ephemera and generally absorbing the atmosphere and the company.
Make haste fine readers! Get thee on a train/bus to Oxford and you too can have your photo taken in front of the moose antlers as I did here;

Love and Rockets,

Silver Whimsy x

PS are you pleased to have me back?