London’s independent bakeries are having a moment: sourdough, patisserie, viennoiserie, innovative flavours, they’ve got it all. So, in a competitive field, which are the best of the best?
The Dusty Knuckle
Abbot Street Car Park, London, E8 3DP
The Dusty Knuckle bakery began life in 2014 in a shipping container in Hackney, and in 2018, it moved to its permanent home in a car park off the main road in Dalston. It produces the full gamut of sweet pastries, loaves and baked goods, but it has gained a cult following for its sandwiches. Its sandwich menu is constantly changing, but current offerings include roasted spiced cauliflower, tahini and soft boiled egg, or porchetta, salsa verde and braised spring onions.
In addition to their superlative sandwich offerings, Dusty Knuckle have a sustainable business scheme where they seek to train young people who might, due to their circumstances, otherwise struggle to find meaningful employment.
Don’t miss… As good as the lunchtime sourdough sandwiches are, it’s the breakfast focaccia sandwich which is the surprise winner. The focaccia is the best we’ve ever tasted, and the combo of fried egg, Lincolnshire poacher and pickled chilli is a dangerously strong start to the day.
3 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, WC2H 9DP
St John, the Fergus Henderson restaurant, is known for its nose-to-tail eating and offal evangelism – but its always taken its baking seriously. In one of the chimneys of the original site, an old Smithfield smokehouse, sits a bakery, but there are now two designated bakeries elsewhere: one in Bermondsey (open weekends only) and one in Neals Yard, near Covent Garden, which is open 7 days a week.
Here you can purchase the famous St John doughnuts (all are great, but the classic vanilla custard is hard to beat) alongside brownies, cinnamon buns, classic viennoiserie and a whole range of breads.
Don’t miss… St John may be known for their (admittedly excellent doughnuts), but it’s the eccles cake which is our winner. Flaky, rich pastry, and generously filled with spiced currants.
Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace, London E8 3PH
E5 Bakehouse sits in a railway arch near London Fields: although it offers a whole range of pastries, its justifiable pride and joy is its sourdough. This is a bakery that knows its bread: as well as making its own produce it runs a popular sourdough school, as well a refugee programme which trains migrant women in all things sourdough as well as general skills for working in the food industry in the UK.
If you ask nicely and bring your own container with you, they might even give you some of their Hackney Wild sourdough starter for free to take away and make your own sourdough creations.
Don’t miss… A loaf of the Hackney Wild sourdough.
Honey & Spice
52 Warren St, London W1T 5NJ
Honey & Spice is the deli-style food store of its more well-known restaurant cousin, Honey & Co. Run by husband and wife team Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, Honey & Spice brings the Middle East to Fitzrovia: alongside their favourite store-cupboard groceries like pomegranate molasses and Lebanon tahini are fantastic, vibrant salads and a whole host of baked goods. Here, flavour rules supreme with a cardamom-scented Turkish spin on coffee and walnut cake, chewy crisp sesame breadsticks, tahini and preserved lemon cookies, and Fitzrovia buns, a sour cherry, pistachio and mahleb version of the famous Chelsea bun.
Don’t miss… the cheesecake! Not the obvious choice perhaps when visiting a bakery, but the blueberry cheesecake with kadaif (finely shredded filo) pastry nests completely blew us away – we were talking about them for days.
22 Newington Green, London, N16 9PU
Jolene, a restaurant, bar and bakery in Hackney is a relative newcomer to the London baking scene, but it’s not messing about: it mills its flour for all of its baking and pasta needs on site in a tiny room that sits alongside the kitchen. Sourcing and sustainability is plainly at the heart of this bakery – the flour is sourced from a specific farm in Gascony – but the execution is just as important: the sourdough bread is made so freshly that we’re advised to leave it for an hour before cutting into to it to preserve its texture and shelf life, and piles of perfect croissants and brioches line the walls.
Don’t miss… the seasonal danishes are irresistable, featuring anything from greengages to apple crumble.
Various locations: Soho, Chinatown, South Kensington
Kova is a Japanese patisserie that specialises in Japanese-flavoured cakes and bakes (alongside its equally popular Japanese teas). Its signature products are countless-layered, mille crèpe cakes, plump sponge rolls, beautiful tarts that look more like objets d’art, and soufflé cheesecakes, flavoured with matcha, coconut hojicha (a Japanese roasted tea), and even sea salt lava cheese.
Don’t miss… the chestnut mille crèpe cake
Various locations: Islington, Hackney, New Oxford Street
What Pophams doesn’t know about pastry probably isn’t worth knowing: their technical viennoiserie is stunningly good, but their flavours are just as good: perfect chunks of pineapple perch on a pineapple custard topped brioche, nectarine and ginger custard sit in a textbook Danish, and a maple syrup and bacon are brilliantly balanced in a laminated escargot. They have weekend-only specials which are worth the trip and queues: tonka bean crème brûlée and apricot, and peanut butter, jam and banana.
Don’t miss… It’s hard to pick a favourite, to be honest: we raved about pretty much every single offering, but the Marmite, spring onion and schlossberger swirl is something really special.