On the face of it you may be wondering what has this got to do with baking but trust me, there is a little bit of baking here. Okay, not mine, but surely it is healthy to seek inspiration from others from time to time in order to improve?…
On a glorious, Spring Sunday morning, with a few hours to myself, one of my favourite things to do would be to venture into London’s East End and head for the fabulous Columbia Road Flower Market and shops.
Every Sunday between 8am and 2pm, this Victorian Street comes alive with a Flower Market and the unusual, eclectic shops that line the street open their doors giving you a special, unique shopping and ‘foodie’ experience.
Now when I mean ‘shopping experience’ I don’t mean some monotonous mall experience.
I mean artisanal home accessories from Asia, a real perfumery, vintage items of clothing, jewellery and gifts, Fine Street Art, fabulous kitchenware stores, children’s clothing and nostalgic gifts. One of my favourite stores is ‘Vintage Heaven’ selling vintage china, glass, fabrics and kitchen accessories – a food stylist’s dream – and housing a lovely tea room, named ‘Cake Hole’. What is not to love? Another cute store is ‘Suck and Chew’, a delightful retro fitted sweet shop with every concieveable sweet you can remember from your childhood. So cool.The flower market itself is a visual feast of horticulture. Beautiful fresh cut flowers, bedding plants, blossom buds, fresh potted herbs, olive and lemon trees. You name it, there is something for everyone here. The only thing holding you back is how much you can carry home!
Amongst the hustle and bustle of the flower selling and shop browsing, there are entrepreneurs filing every spare doorway and space. One lady was selling fabulous freshly made filled doughnuts. I can vouch that the vanilla cream and rich jam ones were indeed delicious. In another ‘gap’ someone had set up a small coffee shop! Indeed, it is a ‘foodie’ heaven and amongst other things you can buy hot filled baps, bagels, sangria and even fresh oysters, all al fresco of course.
Which leads me nicely onto my other motive for visiting Columbia Road. Lily Vanilli of ‘Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth’ – recipes from a modern artisan baker, has a bakery here. I wanted to come and sample her wares and of course, seek some baking inspiration.
An exceptionally talented cake designer with an impressive client list, many of her cakes include vegetables. On offer that day in the bakery, amongst others, was Rhubarb, Parsnip and Ginger Cake, Beetroot Carrot and Sweet Potato Cake, Vanilla Sponge, Triple Chocolate Brownies, Classic Vanilla Sponge and Blood Orange and Lavender Friands (very delicious, may I add). Indeed the fabulous, straight out of the oven Sausage Rolls were selling like the proverbial ‘hot cakes’. Again, only open on a Sunday, this bakery was buzzing. The long line out of the door speaks volumes for it’s wares…So if you ever happen to be in the vicinity, this street is well worth a visit on a Sunday. With the sun shining, skiffle bands playing, fabulous people watching, colourful plants and flowers, this is a wonderful morning treat. Please go hungry, you will be spoilt for choice…
Columbia Road Flower Market is open 8am to 2pm every Sunday. The Lily Vanilli Bakery is located at 6, The Courtyard, Erza St, London E2 7RG (just off Columbia Road).