Columbia Road & The Lily Vanilli Bakery, London

columbiard-1-3My first post away from the kitchen.

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.columbiard4The 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…lilivanilliSo 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).



  1. So beautiful and inspiring Joanne! What a lovely place! I´m only a little confused about the day, probably because I am 5 hours behind. Great post, I really loved it!

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Thanks Viviana. I hoped you would like it despite it not being a recipe. I guess we are all like-minded and like the same things in life?! PS. I went last Sunday – had a very chaotic week with sick children, technical blog changes and son’s birthday so have not been able to post until now…you know how it is 😉

  2. I love this post so much! You really took me there to this flower market and all those quaint shops. I would gladly spend a few hours there browsing on my own; it’s my idea of paradise. : ) The flowers are so glorious and I just love hearing about the sweets/bake shops, tea room and the shop with the vintage china! I’m sure you had a lovely morning and I hope you were filled with inspiration! Thanks for sharing this…it was lovely to read.

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      So glad you liked it Monica! I was a little apprehensive about not posting a recipe but it is fun to mix things up a little don’t you think? Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  3. Gorgeous photos! I love that second set with the four – those purple flowers are stunning!! Sounds like a great market to spend some time in … I am so ready for the farmers markets here to be back in full swing – I love spending time on weekend mornings there!

  4. I need to go to London as soon as possible. It sounds like a wonderful place indeed and looks so lovely!

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