O bakery divine, how sweet thou art. Truly, the magical pastries that emerge from bakeries’ ovens are simply incredible and I am forever in awe of what we humans can indeed create! As a child, I dreamed of living in a cottage by the sea, with a bakery down the street where I could pick up freshly baked goods each day. In my late 20s, I live in bustling London, not quite that picturesque seaside life I pictured, but I have found an amazing array of bakeries here. There is a large cluster of delicious options, particularly in East/North London! Let me take you through my top ten bakeries in this part of London to visit.
1. The Dusty Knuckle
This bakery has attracted attention from all over London, but I’m keeping this one right here in my heart. The Dusty Knuckle supplies a lot of Londoners their bread and pastries. Oftentimes when in East London you can see their pastries available at restaurants and cafes. Why? Well, simply because they are delicious! My favourite thing from the Dusty Knuckle though is their sandwiches! These are to die for and cannot recommend them enough. Their bread is soft yet sturdy to hold in all those fillings. My favourite sandwiches have been their Paxton’s Cheddar (Paxton’s cheddar cheese, carrot and ginger pickle, green chilli, raisins, crunchy salad) and their Isle of Wight Tomatoes (Isle of Wight tomatoes, smoked anchovies, almond aioli, lovage, garden lettuce).
Established in 2014, The Dusty Knuckle is located in a back alleyway car park in Dalston, Hackney. They also have a milk float, which lands at two different spots each day throughout the week to offer pastries and sandwiches to even more people. It’s a great idea!
This is the bakery that really started my hunt for the best baked goods in East London. Pophams will always have a special place in my heart, as I’ll never forget the first time I tried the many, crispy layers of their dough. They are a bit experimental with their combinations, which makes for a lovely surprise each time. My favourites to date though have been their brûléed apricot, orange and star anise custard pastry with thyme-infused honey glaze and their rhubarb, orange and caramel danish. However, anything with custard and/or fruit is a winner for me!
Pophams first opened up in 2017 in Islington, quite close to Angel, in a small, adorable space. In 2019 they opened a second cafe in a huge, wonderfully modern space, this time in Hackney, just north of London Fields. This firmly brings Pophams into the East London sphere of brilliant bakeries. However, they also feature in the West End’s Arcade Food Theatre, so if you find yourself central you can try one of their amazing pastries there too!
Also near London Fields in Hackney is the wondrous Violet. I absolutely adore this bakery — the vibe, the treats, the crowd, the bakers. This is one special place.
Their main thing is cake, and so they also do delicate cupcakes which are absolutely divine. They have your regular-sized cupcakes, but they also have mini-cupcakes when you just feel like a small treat. My favourite is the lemon cupcake. Seriously, the best cupcakes in all of London.
There are plans for Violet to expand to a large second location in, you guessed it, London Fields! This location would be on the south side of the park. I’m very excited but also hope that means I’ll have more of the Hackney location more to myself.
4. Brunswick East Bakehouse
The Brunswick East cafe opened in Dalston in 2015. This first location was warmingly welcomed as a highlight of Australian cafe culture (seriously, why is Australian coffee so good). And then, in 2019, they opened the Bakehouse in Hackney Downs. As a bakehouse, they focus on organic and seasonal sourdoughs, as well as several wonderful pastries.
Their menu changes frequently to take advantage of seasonal produce, and also their own creativity!
I am a recent newcomer to this modern bakery and cafe. Jolene is located in Newington Green, just south of Stoke Newington and north of Islington. Jolene is special in that they mill grains onsite to produce the finest bread and other baked goods. They rotate what is available, but they typically have a couple of savoury pastries, some classics like croissants and pain au chocolat, and then some super sweet treats like brownies or cookies.
Jolene comes from the same team as the restaurants Primeur and Western’s Laundry, one being a modern European restaurant and the other being a seafood house. Obviously, these guys are talented because now they’ve just opened a new, bigger bakery called Big Jo. It’s located just west of Finsbury Park.
6. Yeast Bakery
It’s so hard to pick a favourite pastry, but I’m definitely a fan of French pastries. That butter and those layers, mmm so good! Okay, if I had to pick a favourite pastry, then it would be the Kouign-amann (pronounced as Queen Amahn). It’s a Breton pastry, which is not unlike a caramelised croissant. It involves the layered pastry dough we know and love, but it’s also sugared and baked to caramelise the outside. I actually first discovered this pastry at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in London (which shall be featured on my favourite bakeries list in the rest of London), as they sell a version of this called the DKA. Now, why am I ranting away about this type of pastry?
Yeast Bakery is a micro-bakery in Hackney, next to London fields, and they specialise in hand made viennoiserie, bread and… you guessed, kouign-amann. Their version comes in the form of a mini-kouign-amann. They have “plain” ones, but they also do a vast array of flavours, including hazelnut, crème brûlée, toffee banana and sesame, caramelised pineapple, apricot and vanilla… the list goes on! Usually, they’ll have anywhere from 3-12 flavours available at any one time. It’s incredibly tempting to try more than one — no shame here. And even if a kouign-amann does not sound like your thing, the Yeast Bakery has tons of other baked goods that are equally delicious. For one, their croissants are to die for! Here’s an insiders tip though: make sure you go before 1 pm otherwise only a handful of those kouign-amanns and other pastries will be around!
Sometimes a bakery is not just a bakery. Sometimes, a bakery is also a social enterprise movement that empowers women who have had a social and economic disadvantage. Luminary hires such women and teaches baking, equipping them with transferable skills for the world of work. So, what can these women bake? A ton of delicious treats! Treats like brownies (they’re really into brownies), cookies, croissants, cinnamon buns and scones. They also have a cake ordering service whereby you can order full-sized cakes in all sorts of flavours. Sometimes the bakery cuts up a cake for visitors to have individual-sized pieces too! Some amazing flavours include lemon and blueberry, orange, cardamom and pistachio, and salted caramel and chocolate. They have locations in both Camden and Stoke Newington, though I have only been to the latter. It’s a lovely bakery in a residential part of the neighbourhood. A perfect stop for a weekend treat.
The Pavilion Bakery is a true east London staple. It has three locations (plus one in Cornwall), though they are all a bit different in style and offerings. Their first location opened in Victoria Park back in 2007. It’s a lovely space, and a great location too as it’s right on one of the lakes in the park. Here Pavilion serves its famous Sri Lankan breakfast, consisting of iddyappam (rice noodles made with coconut milk) and pol sambola (coconut relish made of grated coconut, fried onion, chilli flakes and lime juice). Pavilion is also at the south end of Broadway Market and along Columbia Road, where you can go pick up some freshly baked loaves, cinnamon buns, and some Sri Lankan bits as well.
9. Lily Vanilli
Another Columbia Road bakery, Lily Vanilli offers a weekly changing seasonal menu of cakes, pastries, brownies and other baked goods (like sausage rolls). Her cakes are so whimsical and such a sweet, indulgent treat.
10. Bake Street
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat because I live ridiculously close to this cafe. However, it is delicious! Bake Street is a sort of a hodgepodge of wonderfully delicious things. Their sister company is called Evering Cake, and Bake Street is where they sell their baked goods. So, this cafe is the only way to try a slice of their delicious cake without ordering a full one. They often rotate what cakes are available each day, but some amazing combos have been lemon, elderflower and raspberry, spiced chai, chunky money, earl grey orange, and even pina colada! Evering Cake also makes bar bakes, again, available at Bake Street. They have salted caramel brownies, banana bread, Bakewell slices, and also incredible lemon bars. Bake Street also has available some pastries, which are actually from The Dusty Knuckle (see above). Also, they have amazing coffee from The Roasting Shed, a coffee roaster based in Hackney Wick.
And that’s a wrap! I hope this post inspires you to try out some wonderful bakeries in East and North London the next time you’re around. I promise you won’t regret a single option on this list.
Looking for more London eats? Check out my restaurant reviews here.