Slightly Peckish: Lanka: Japanese Cake Shop + Tea Salon (LDN)
As you may all know, I'm half-Japanese and half-Sri Lankan, so anything to do with either country sparks an immediate interest. So when I began hearing rumours about a new Japanese cake shop and tea salon springing up in trendy Primrose Hill in north London last year, my ears perked up. My sister and I went to investigate one sunny summers day, we walked past a Japanese-looking patisserie and kept on walking because it was named Lanka. Imagine our confusion. We went back to check what kind of hybrid shop it was only to discover that it was indeed the rumoured cake shop.
On talking to the Japanese chef and owner, Masayuki Hara who trained in classic French cuisine with a stint at Michel Roux Jr.'s two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche, we learned that he named his shop Lanka because he loves Sri Lanka. Hey, so do we! They also source all their tea from the Euphorium Tea Salon in Colombo (whose owner, Midori Pieris is also, I think, half-Japanese and half-Sri Lankan). See all the Japanese-Sri Lankan connections? So cool. I actually visited the Euphorium Tea Salon the last time I was in Sri Lanka, only to find it was closed that day. Sniff. I'll definitely go next January.
The interior of Lanka is light, white and clean. And the cakes look mouthwatering. The only problem is that it only seats about 10 people (that's six at the counter and two small tables). Primrose Hill is an extremely popular haunt amongst the young and trendy with a lively high street with cafés, restaurants and select shops and a beautiful park where you can see the London skyline. It's also where Kate Moss, Jude Law et al. used to live in their heyday and is still popular with the celebs, which makes it damned difficult to get a seat.
The first time we actually managed to find seats, we had the much talked about matcha chocolate cake which was moist and dense with a hit of matcha. We liked it tremendously. The accompanying scoop of vanilla ice cream was sublime.
The second time we took our mum who is a Mont Blanc fanatic. It's funny how you can't find Mont Clanc, the chestnut cake, in London. We normally eat it when we go to Paris (Angelina's is the best we've had although that's probably the only thing I'd have there. Even the coffee is atrocious) or Japan where it's popular. Lanka's Mont Blanc wasn't bad, although my mum complained there wasn't enough chestnut paste (which is reminiscent of azuki paste).
But the best thing we had there was the baked cheesecake. It tasted like what you would get in Japan. Soft, creamy and extremely light. Heaven in a slice.
London is currently going through a coffee boom and Lanka was no different in serving rich, creamy and intense coffee made from Monmouth Coffee beans.