Having recently expanded the content of the blog to include recipes, today I am making yet another digression by uploading a review of this wonderful patisserie. Whilst staying with our good friends Serafiina and Arto at their house in Hampstead, a visit to Lanka, Finchley Road, London, was recommended. We took some other friends with us on Sunday afternoon, and we were all very impressed, so I thought it definitely worth mentioning on the blog.
This is a fairly small, but elegantly laid out patisserie. There is no fuss or clutter, just those things that are needed for the display and serving of the products. Everything is laid out with a certain care and attention to detail that seems to permeate the business; the pastries have an elegance and precision that one would expect from a fine French patisserie, but then so does everything else, from the arrangement of display shelves, to the serving of the coffee and pastries. There are a few tables and seats, so that one can eat in, and they served us good filter coffee. They also serve teas, and I do not doubt that they are of fine quality, although none of us fancied tea that afternoon. In fact, green tea seems to play a significant role as a somewhat unusual flavouring in several of the pastries
The staff were so friendly, and ever so patient whilst we inspected just about every pastry in the cabinet before we made up our minds what to try: a chocolate gateau that was dark and rich; a tart chiboust, with a light pastry cream and a crisp caramel top; a couple of macaroons; and a green tea pannacotta. The last one was my selection – I wanted to see how the green tea would flavour this very tempting looking dish. It was certainly a new experience, and well worth trying. On the base was a thin layer of sponge, so light that it simply melted in the mouth. The pannacotta was, of course, set a little more than the traditional Italian dessert, as it would not otherwise hold its form when sliced, but it was entirely smooth and creamy. This was topped with a darker jellied layer. Running through the pannacotta layer were seams of sweetened red beans, which offered an interesting colour, flavour, and texture. The dish was subtly flavoured and not overly sweetened, which made it very interesting indeed, and quite delicious. I must confess that perhaps this might not be my absolute favourite pastry, but nonetheless I would recommend it, simply because it is, in my experience, a unique creation, and beautifully made.
The creator of this wonderful establishment is Japanese chef Masayuki Hara. He was busy at work in the basement kitchen from which wafted the rich, smoky aromas of caramel, but shared a few words with us and his other customers when he popped upstairs to deliver further delicacies. Like the other staff, he was thoroughly pleasant. I am a critical fellow, but I really could not find any fault with this delightful patisserie. We took a small bag of macaroons home with us, but they did not make it past the evening. Like everything else, they were perfect little delicacies; wonderfully gooey beneath a delicious light crust, with perfectly smooth and delicious fillings.
The only thing that left me feeling rather sad is that this passion for fine pastry is not more commonly found in this country. The delicacies that grace even an average French bakery are too often worlds apart from that found in a typical British establishment. That is not to say that good products cannot be found, but anyone that has travelled even a little will appreciate that the general standard is rather low. So, if you happen to be in the area, why not take a moment to experience a beautiful little slice of the art of the pastry chef?