Coffee, cake and flowers. It’s a good combination. It’s a better combination when it’s Columbia Road Flower Market and Lily Vanilli’s Bakery. Every Sunday Columbia Road in East London teems with market traders selling huge bunches of beautiful flowers and luscious plants. As you can probably imagine, every week it is transformed into the most colourful street in London, and it makes for the perfect lazy Sunday wander, be it summer or winter.
Keeping the crowds fuelled is Lily Vanilli’s Bakery, tucked away off of Columbia Road on Ezra Street, serving up not only delicious freshly baked cakes and brownies, but beautiful ones too. The flower theme runs true into Vanilli’s, with petals decorating sponges daintily alongside tarts piled with the plumpest of fresh berries. It’s the prettiest of spreads.
A long time fan of Lily Vanilli’s cook book Sweet Tooth (the summer berry pillow soft vanilla sponge has earned me quite the baker reputation among friends), it’s a joy to nip in on a Sunday for cake that takes none of the effort bar actually choosing one. With too many enticing looking treats on offer I grabbed a coffee first whilst I mused over my options. At gone 2pm, the spread has whittled down considerably and having missed a lot of what was originally on offer I would recommend getting there during the morning instead. That said, it was still hard to choose from the limited options left. The chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce topped with popcorn (eat in £3.60, take away £3.20) called out to me, as did the berry friands topped with large strawberries. The gluten free lemon and poppy seed cake (eat in £3.60, take away £3.20) got a few look ins too, but I kept coming back to the chocolate brownies with sea salt and pecans (eat in £4.20, take away £3.50), so I dived in and have zero regrets. Enter one of the best brownies I’ve ever had: dense and smooth, melt in your mouth richness, cut through with flakes of sea salt balancing the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and pecans to round the whole thing off. I can highly recommend if you find yourself stuck between choices.
For those who prefer savoury there are insanely good looking sausage rolls (with a vegetarian version to keep non-meat eaters happy), alongside sourdough slices loaded with melted cheese and vegetables. Excellent, strong coffee compliments the baked goods and the atmosphere is buzzy, more often than not with a large queue snaking around the bakery. This place is no secret, and unsurprising, because Lily Vanilli’s is the perfect pitstop: inviting and friendly, tables filled with friends chatting happily among large bunches of blooms in wrapped in brown paper whilst they eat delicious cakes off of mismatched crockery. Yes – coffee, cake and flowers on Columbia Road. It might just be the perfect Sunday.
6 The Courtyard, Ezra Street, London, E2 7RH
Only open Sundays between 08.30am and 4.30pm
Also at Fortnum and Mason every day.