I’m not used to being in Central London on weekdays, so on the rare occasions I am, I get the compelling urge to explore its iconic cafes. My most recent trip to the City happened on a sunny Thursday morning, just a couple of weeks ago; it was the perfect opportunity to visit a place I had long set my eyes on, and enjoy a relaxed breakfast with an Easter twist (that’s my seasonal posting done here. See, it’s not hard to do. *nods in approval and breathes sighs of relief*).
Many things attracted me to Fleet River Bakery. Its website, which immediately won my favours with the promise of “tempting cakes, biscuits and pastries”. Its location, only a few steps away from Holborn station, but hidden enough to allow customers to escape its noisy crowds. Its coffee, made with single estate Monmouth beans. Find me a cafe that serves Monmouth coffee, and I’ll run there as fast as my criminally unfit legs let me.
Unlike other City cafes, Fleet River Bakery is almost uncrowded at eight in the morning. If you want to indulge in a cup of coffee before plunging in your busy office, or need a quiet place to get some work done before a day of meetings, make this your spot of choice.
The cafe’s lack of seating is only apparent: a bright dining room awaits behind the door on the far left corner, overlooked by many a first-time visitor. Its neutral decor includes a few large photographs hanging on the walls, and a big mirror that gives the chamber a more spacious look and feel. Music plays in the background, at a pleasantly unobtrusive volume; judging by what I heard (some Metronomy and Beirut, methinks), the selection is quite nice, suited to customers of all ages and tastes, and to the cafe’s cocoon-like atmosphere.
Quite understandably, Fleet River Bakery’s selection of fresh cakes and bakes is at its peak in the morning. My first attempted visit, at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, had me leave empty-handed because most snacks had already sold out. A little disappointing, considering that they had two more hours to go, but not uncommon in London. Good food sells fast in this city; no place for late eaters, indeed.
The highlight of my visit was, once again, the food. Fleet River Bakery gave me the long-awaited chance to step into the world of British Easter bakes: hadn’t I stood before their counter of temptations on that particular Thursday, I probably would still not know what a hot cross bun tastes like. Yes, you’ve heard that right. I’ve lived in the UK for over three years, and only just had my very first hot cross bun. And yes, I feel every bit as ashamed as I should.
Head Chef Emeline Gilbert’s baking skill made my first experience with this Easter classic a very positive one. My bun was as plump, soft and sticky as I’d hoped for – and was it a hint of cinnamon I tasted in there? Real or imagined, that delightful flavour got me hooked. Seriously: where have hot cross buns been all my life? Or, more accurately, where have I been the past three Easters?
If you’re out and about today, head to Fleet River Bakery for an Eastery snack; if you can’t make it, be sure to stop by the next time you fancy a breakfast treat. Visit in the early morning to be spoilt for choice, budget a fiver for a pastry and a hot drink (perhaps a little cheeky, but the quality is high enough to justify it), and order a cup of that excellent Monmouth coffee. If this plan doesn’t persuade you, here are a few food puns to put a smile on your face. Can’t beat a good fix of British sense of humour, right?
Fleet River Bakery
71 Lincolns Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JF
(nearest tube station: Holborn)
020 7691 1457
Open 7am – 7pm Monday to Wednesday, 7am – 9pm Thursday and Friday, 8.30am – 6pm Saturday, 8.30am – 4pm Sunday
Closed Easter Sunday and Monday
Find Fleet River Bakery’s menu on Zomato.