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Lily Vanilli’s Bakery

Coffee, cake and flowers. It’s a good combination. It’s a better combination when it’s  Columbia Road Flower Market and Lily Vanilli’s Bakery. Every Sunday Columbia Road in East London teems with market traders selling huge bunches of beautiful flowers and luscious plants. As you can probably imagine, every week it is transformed into the most colourful street in London, and it makes for the perfect lazy Sunday wander, be it summer or winter.

Keeping the crowds fuelled is Lily Vanilli’s Bakery, tucked away off of Columbia Road on Ezra Street, serving up not only delicious freshly baked cakes and brownies, but beautiful ones too. The flower theme runs true into Vanilli’s, with petals decorating sponges daintily alongside tarts piled with the plumpest of fresh berries. It’s the prettiest of spreads.

A long time fan of Lily Vanilli’s cook book Sweet Tooth (the summer berry pillow soft vanilla sponge has earned me quite the baker reputation among friends), it’s a joy to nip in on a Sunday for cake that takes none of the effort bar actually choosing one. With too many enticing looking treats on offer I grabbed a coffee first whilst I mused over my options. At gone 2pm, the spread has whittled down considerably and having missed a lot of what was originally on offer I would recommend getting there during the morning instead. That said, it was still hard to choose from the limited options left. The chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce topped with popcorn (eat in £3.60, take away £3.20) called out to me, as did the berry friands topped with large strawberries. The gluten free lemon and poppy seed cake (eat in £3.60, take away £3.20) got a few look ins too, but I kept coming back to the chocolate brownies with sea salt and pecans (eat in £4.20, take away £3.50), so I dived in and have zero regrets. Enter one of the best brownies I’ve ever had: dense and smooth, melt in your mouth richness, cut through with flakes of sea salt balancing the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and pecans to round the whole thing off. I can highly recommend if you find yourself stuck between choices.

For those who prefer savoury there are insanely good looking sausage rolls (with a vegetarian version to keep non-meat eaters happy), alongside sourdough slices loaded with melted cheese and vegetables. Excellent, strong coffee compliments the baked goods and the atmosphere is buzzy, more often than not with a large queue snaking around the bakery. This place is no secret, and unsurprising, because Lily Vanilli’s is the perfect pitstop: inviting and friendly, tables filled with friends chatting happily among large bunches of blooms in wrapped in brown paper whilst they eat delicious cakes off of mismatched crockery. Yes – coffee, cake and flowers on Columbia Road. It might just be the perfect Sunday.

6 The Courtyard, Ezra Street, London, E2 7RH
Only open Sundays between 08.30am and 4.30pm

Also at Fortnum and Mason every day.

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Afternoon Tea London

Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson

Birthdays, Mother’s Days, hen dos – afternoon tea is now a typical go-to for celebrations, but the occasion is at the risk of getting a little samey. For something that’s a little more unique, head to The Sanderson for their Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. I’m big on attention to detail, and every tiny little thing has been thought of at The Sanderson to recreate the kind of tea Alice had with the Mad Hatter himself. Beautiful crystal bottles on an elegant mirror tray are tied with ribbon that describe the flavour of tea within, the menu sits within an old vintage book and napkins are tied with riddles. And that’s all before you’ve even picked your tea of choice.

Homemade marshmallow mushrooms and carrot meringues sit at the top of a three tiered stand of desserts. Matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse comes in a dark chocolate tea cup and the layered mini Victoria Sponge is decorated as a clock, delicate icing taunting you for being late. The puddings are rounded off by a super sweet passion fruit ‘potion’, which has been tied with a handwritten “drink me” note. No stone has been left unturned and it makes this tea some kind of wonderful.

Sandwiches are fittingly quirky; classics reworked on unusual breads: smoked ham and mustard on a sundried tomato loaf; cucumber and cream cheese on spinach bread, which is dense and surprisingly good; smoked salmon and lemon butter on a dark rye and egg mayonnaise on lemon bread. As with all the best afternoon teas, multiple refills of sandwiches (and of course tea) are whisked over to you on request. Mini quiche and of course, scones, round out the feast and there’s even a Jelly Wonderland to help yourself to if you’re not quite full after all of that.

This Alice in Wonderland themed treat is a great idea for kids, who will revel in the old music box that stores sugar cubes even more than the nostalgic adults, but be prepared to pay for the privilege – at £30 for children aged between 4-11 years, you are paying more for the novelty at The Sanderson when it comes to the kids. Prices for adults are more standard at £38 per person or £48 with a glass of champagne included. Uniquely, Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea takes place every day, which is perfect for those looking for something special to do on a specific date, and we were seated under cover in the courtyard garden, still able to enjoy the sun poking through those English Summer clouds when the day allowed it.

The Sanderson is one of the better Afternoon Tea experiences I’ve had, and certainly the most memorable. Next time you’re celebrating – or indeed, just want to do something a little different with your afternoon, head to the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. After all, it’s always tea time.

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