Cakes, biscuits, muffins, flapjacks, brownies, toffee-apples, macaroons, sweeties and ice cream. Sometimes even the most savoury-minded among us fancy a sugar-boost and Clarendon Park has more than its fair share of independent establishments with all sorts of naughty and nice goodies to offer the discerning gateauphile. So, grab a mug of hot chocolate and a bar of Dairy Milk (or Green and Blacks if you’re feeling posh), settle back and enjoy a whistle-stop tour of the best grab-and-go sweet treat options in Clarendon Park. Just don’t tell your dentist.
Small and perfectly formed…
The Tiny Bakery on Clarendon Park Road has been open for less than four months but it already has a band of loyal regulars, a full order book and an impressive social media following. There are a couple of tables inside, and a couple more just outside, providing a popular little retreat for weary shoppers away from the hustle of Queens Road. Founders Lindsay Abraham and Alwyn Morris attribute the early success of their enterprise to research, planning and hard work.
“I ran an online baking company called Bake That, supplying cakes to local cafés, and I worked in another bakery last year so I had a good idea of how the business would work,” Lindsay says, “Since we opened, although there are quiet periods, overall it’s been far busier than we expected.”
Lindsay has been baking cakes for local cafés for years, and in her collaboration with bread maestro David Belcham, and a dedicated local pastry chef, she has brought together a formidable team of expert bakers. No surprise then that in its first few months The Tiny Bakery has become an established port of call for many Clarendon Park residents in search of artisan breads, home-made pastries, bespoke celebration cakes and freshly-made hot drinks. The coffee here is courtesy of St Martin’s Tea and Coffee Merchants, an independent supplier and café based in Leicester’s St Martins Square. Much of what The Tiny Bakery has to offer is handmade on the premises, and when there isn’t the capacity to make a product on-site it’s sourced from a carefully selected local supplier.
I ask Lindsay to recommend something sweet for me from the little selection on the counter. There are cupcakes, rocky road cake, cookies and scones – all available either to take away or eat in. Lindsay points out a stack of generously sized biscuits with ‘The Tiny Bakery’ stamped into them.
“They’re just ginger biscuits,” says Lindsay, “But people really seem to like them.”
I quickly understand why they’re so popular – rather than the traditional hard biscuit I was expecting the texture is more like a soft gingerbread, and has a gently spicy ginger tang. The perfect accompaniment to a pot of tea if you’re looking for just a little bit of something sweet to nibble on with your brew.
Sweet and squidgy naughtiness…
Christopher James Deli on Queens Road is next up and comes out tops in terms of both the variety of scrumptious-looking options on offer and the inviting nature of the display. A whole gamut of tempting treats are cunningly displayed in the window, ready to catch the eye of sweet-toothed passers-by. Once again, everything is either made by those who work in the shop, or sourced from small local suppliers.
I plumped (no pun intended) for a peanut-butter and chocolate brownie. The weight of it alone is a good indication of just how dense a bit of cake you’re dealing with here. If you like plenty of sweet stodgy bang for your buck then this is definitely the brownie for you. Rich, chocolatey, nutty and stick-in-your-teeth squidgy, this is a serious wedge of tray-baked gloriousness. Out of all the products I picked up today, Christopher James’ brownie was the most popular with my focus group of dedicated cake testers (thanks guys – I know it was tough).
Just across the road, Fingerprints café’s recent redesign has given it a spacious, modern feel, complemented by the work of local artists on the walls. There has always been a great atmosphere in here and whatever the time of day it seems to be well attended with a mix of families, students and people who work nearby who’ve popped in for a quick brew. There isn’t a huge selection of cakes on offer but the carrot cake looks hugely inviting and this isn’t the first time I’ve succumbed to it, although I’ve never made enquiries into it’s provenance before. I’m a little disappointed to find out that Fingerprints’ cakes are provided by national bakery supply giants Delice de France. This is particularly surprising as many of their other products are locally-sourced.
Putting its mass-produced origins to one side, the carrot cake looks and tastes absolutely gorgeous. Light as a feather, with a generous helping of that lovely lemony icing. However, knowing that there is a bevy of hand-made local options available just a stone’s throw away takes away the enjoyment just a tad, and is good reason to continue to hunt out some of Clarendon Park’s more unique dessert options.
Sweets for my sweet…
Andersons’ Sweets and Ice Cream opened on Queens Road on 31 May and has already become a regular drop-in spot for kids on their way home from school, as well as grown-ups looking for a taste of their childhood. As well as a vast wall of sweets in old-fashioned glass jars, Andersons’ sells homemade ice creams in such tempting flavours as lemon meringue and chocolate marshmallow. The bustling little shop, which also has a seating area towards the back, is run by sweetie-aficionado Katie and her husband Pete, who makes the ice cream.
This new business is a radical change for the couple, as Katie explains, “I was a teacher and Pete was an accountant, but we were but fed up of our day jobs.” Once they had decided to make a change, the decision to open a shop specialising in sweets and ice cream wasn’t a difficult one. “Pete has been making ice cream for a while,” says Katie, “and I love sweets – in fact my grandma owned a sweet shop.”
As far as sweets go, the selection is huge and growing weekly. The most popular sweets are reassuringly traditional – blue raspberry bon bons and foam bananas. The best-selling ice creams are the slightly more exotic lemon meringue and mint choc chip. Having sampled the vanilla option I can vouch for the fact that it’s everything you’d want a traditional, home-made ice cream to be – rich, creamy and deliciously decadent.
Andersons’ is one of a number of local businesses with promotions on for the World Cup (the most memorable of which is Snug Beauty Salon’s offer of 15% off a Brazilian wax).
“We’ve got a 10% discount on all sweets which have Brazil nuts in them,” says Katie, “We’re also offering a discount to anyone who comes in wearing the team shirt of any of the countries still in the World Cup.”
A healthy nibble and a bran-based winner…
A quick mention is due for whole food utopia Green and Pleasant. They sell an excellent variety of ethically-produced, organic sweet snacks, in particular, their range of Raw Chocolate Pies. Despite being free from sugar, dairy and gluten, these nutritious little snacks are absolutely delicious. More like mini brownies than pies, they come in a range of exotic flavours including cardamom and apricot, and goji and pumpkin seed. It’s well worth popping in and grabbing one if you’re looking for something both tasty and healthy.
My last stop was Salvador Deli, the brightly coloured deli and café at the Victoria Park end of Queens Road, next to Bar Dos Hermanos. Salvador Deli has a huge amount going for it – plenty of outdoor seating, a wonderful selection of cheeses and hams, locally sourced nibbles and a fairly epic salad bar. Add to this a substantial breakfast menu, a wide variety of teas and coffees, an alcohol licence and friendly, knowledgeable staff and it’s no surprise that this is one of the best-loved gastronomic spots on Queens Road.
Although I’ve noticed Salvador Deli’s cake cabinet before (just to the right of the counter inside the café), I’ve never got around to buying anything from it. This is probably because I’m generally too full-up after polishing off a full English breakfast and my own weight in freshly squeezed orange juice. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of different cakes and muffins that were available, all of them sourced from local suppliers. I chose a spiced carrot bran muffin (one of two flavours of bran muffin available) and it turned out to be my favourite treat of the day. Devoid of artificial sweeteners, the sweetness in this healthy, generously-sized muffin comes from the bark of the silver birch tree and is therefore completely natural. If you’re after something seriously sweet, sticky and naughty it might not quite hit the spot, but for a healthy snack on-the-go that’s not only wholesome but flavoursome and filling too it comes highly recommended.
Inevitably I haven’t been able to cover the full range of Clarendon Park’s sweet offerings, although I’m working on it. What else is out there which deserves a mention? Comment below and share your CP sweet treat knowledge with fellow cake-lovers.
17 July 2014 update: Sweet Treats II has just been published – find out everything you need to know about The Secret Tea Room and Jones’ impressive selection of counter cakes.