L’Eto Caffé

L’Eto Caffé is a beautiful little café situated next door to Hummingbird Bakery on Wardour Street in Soho with the most fabulous window display of cakes and desserts that you can feast yours eyes on.  I discovered it during my months as an intern at a busy PR office in Soho where I indulged in their Honey Cake on a regular basis when cake felt like the only option for survival!  However, I had a meeting with my personal tutor from university, having recently finished, to discuss the future, and I decided that one of L’Eto Caffé’s fabulous-looking cakes would be the perfect present to say thank you for all the help I had received throughout my time at university.  Therefore, I chose a decadent Chocolate Cinnamon Cake that stood tall in the café window.  After all, who doesn’t love a good chocolate cake, and one with a cinnamon twist at that?!

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Unfortunately, it did turn into the leaning tower of cake after fighting my way through the bustling crowds of Oxford Street, but it most certainly did not affect the taste.  The sponge was rich and moist, and the chocolate was deliciously decadent.  Each mouthful was a chocolate, heavenly dream.  This was made even better by the chocolate and cinnamon cream that sandwiched the chocolate layers together.  I would honestly class this as the best chocolate cake I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my very welcoming mouth!  It looks the part and tastes the part, and you can not ask for much more than that!

If you happen to be in the area, or fancy a coffee date with a special twist, I would thoroughly recommend L’Eto Caffé to fulfil your sweet cake cravings any day.  Their cakes are wonderful and the service is warm and friendly.  A visit to L’Eto Caffé could never leave you disappointed.

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Foodies Festival Highlights

This weekend Bristol Harbourside has been graced with the Foodies Festival, which is popping up in different locations all over the country this summer.  There are lots of different food tents hosting cooking, baking, and beer-tasting demonstrations – whatever takes your fancy, there will be something for you.  However, the highlight for me is the variety of stalls selling thousands of wonderfully different food and drink products, and the happy atmosphere with smiling crowds drinking, eating, and watching live music performances in the hot summer sunshine.  I had a wonderful time at the festival today, so I have decided to share with you some of my personal favourites from the event.

1. Custom Creams

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As you can see from the picture, Custom Creams offers their customers a bespoke ‘create your own’ ice cream/sorbet experience from a multitude of fresh and seasonal ingredients.  You can even choose to mix together two flavours that are not ‘tried and tested combos’, so you can really get your creative juices flowing!  Once you have chosen your flavours, you get to watch the very friendly men in charge of the magnificent machines freeze your chosen flavours ‘in a spectacular theatre of nitrogen mist’ right in front of your eyes!

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I chose to create a refreshing raspberry and mango sorbet and it was absolutely delicious!

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2. The Bourneville Waffle

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I had this wonderful waffle for brunch and I do not regret my choice in the slightest.  I opted for the Rocky Road waffle, although the Banoffe Pie waffle was extremely tempting!  However, I just could not resist marshmallows this time round!  My waffle was made with absolute precision.  After being made fresh in front of my own eyes, my hot waffle was delicately loaded with whipped cream, crushed cookies, chocolate buttons, mini marshmallows, and topped with a generous helping of luxuriously dark chocolate sauce. It was crisp on the outside, whilst being light and fluffy on the inside, and there was enough topping to make every mouthful a spectacular tasty treat.  It was rich and indulgent, and the perfect start to a fun and busy day!

3. American Kitchen

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Unfortunately, I was so focused on getting the last slice of ‘Fat Elvis’ pie that I completely forgot to take a photo of any of American Kitchen’s beautiful brownies or pies.  They had a wonderful variety, ranging from orange and raspberry brownies to the classic key lime pie.  However, I just could not miss out on this wonderfully strange sounding ‘Fat Elvis’ pie, and was more than enthusiastic when I was asked ‘would you like candied bacon with that?’  At no other point in my life have I ever thought that I would want candied bacon, and especially not on a pudding pie.  However, one spoonful of this wonderfully sweet and salty treat told me that I had made the right decision.  If you have the chance, buy a slice of this peculiar pie!  It looks magnificent, and it tastes magnificent!  It is completely unlike anything you will have ever had before.  And the portions are so big that I still have some left for pudding tonight.  Good old American food and portions for you there!

4. Dimkins Patisserie

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Today I had the pleasure of sampling Dimplin’s Blueberry and Liquorice flavoured macaroons, a flavour that I have never come across before.  Naturally, I was quite excited about this discovery, as I am a MASSIVE macaroon fan.  They were light and airy, yet crunchy on the outside, and beautifully creamy in the middle.  The flavours were very subtle, which gave a lovely contrast in flavours without the liquorice overpowering the delicate blueberry flavour.  With lots of different flavours to choose from, these will attract anyone who loves a little bite of everything!

5. The Fresh Lemonade

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Last but not least, The Fresh Lemonade Company is the perfect place to grab a refreshing cocktail to sit down with and listen to the live music that has been put on for your own enjoyment.  I had a wonderful Cherry Bakewell cocktail (left).  All of these cocktails are made with the company’s fresh lemonade and are absolutely beautiful.

If you are heading to the festival tomorrow you are guaranteed to have a fabulous time.  There is an amazing variety of foods and drinks for you to try and buy, and a multitude of entertainment acts to enjoy whilst you rest your feet and arms from all the bags full of fresh food (and the cheeky bottle of elderflower gin) you have purchased!  I hope the summer sun stays out for you and that you have as much fun as I did today.  Happy eating my fellow foodies!

Wallace & Gromit Cupcakes

Bristol is well known for its association with Aardman Animation’s much-loved characters, Wallace and Gromit.  So when I spotted these beautifully decorated Gromit and Shaun the Sheep cupcakes whilst enjoying a leisurely weekend stroll around Bristol Harbourside, I just couldn’t resist trying one!  Unfortunately, the Wallace and Gromit themed cupcakes did not come in a great choice of flavour. The Gromit cupcakes were all vanilla, and the Shaun the Sheep cupcakes were vanilla with strawberry jam.  Despite the cute little marshmallows creating a fluffy sheep coat on top of Shaun’s head, I just couldn’t say no to the cute Gromit faces staring up at me, as he was always my favourite character growing up!  But if there happened to be a greater variety of flavours next time I stumble across Lilymead Bakery’s stall, I doubt I’ll be able to resist these cute little Shaun the Sheep cupcakes!

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Despite my reservations over vanilla cupcakes, mainly their blandness in flavour, I decided that I would still give these gorgeous cupcakes a shot!  I have to admit that these were a bit more flavoursome than most vanilla cupcakes, given the strong buttercream topping that was swirled on top, and the thick icing that was used to create the Gromit decoration.  However, the thickness of both these toppings did make them rather sickly, and I’m not sure I could have managed a whole one!  (Staying with my dear mother, I have the pleasure of sharing every sweet treat with her, as she has even more of a sweet tooth than I do!)  Nevertheless, this cupcake was a lovely treat at the end of a lovely day.

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Aesthetically, these cupcakes are perfect for anyone who loves Wallace and Gromit as much as I do.  They stood out as being simple and unique, and were simply irresistible!  The flavours may not have been magnificent or adventurous, and the sponge may have been slightly stodgy, but the decoration and attention to detail was absolutely beautiful, and they definitely pull at the heart strings of a Bristolian who grew up with Wallace and Gromit as a central part of their childhood.  I love that Lilymead Bakery obviously put a lot of thought into what represents Bristol to Bristolians, and supplied us with these gorgeous cupcakes for the weekend.

Bake-a-Boo

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 21st birthday party of one of my best friends, Emma, at Bake-a-Boo in West Hampstead.  I was really excited about visiting this small ‘bake shop, tea room & party parlour’, as it comes highly recommended in a lot of reviews, but somehow it had managed to escape my cupcake radar!

From the second we stepped through the door, it was obvious why Bake-a-Boo has received constant praise from everyone who has set foot in this beautiful, homely tea room.  They truly go above and beyond with their afternoon tea bookings.  Not only did they dedicate the whole back room to this wonderful celebration so that it was like our own private tea party, they truly went to such an amazing effort to make it the cutest and most beautiful surprise a girl could wish for; Emma was absolutely delighted when she saw her beautifully decorated birthday room.  There was multi-coloured bunting, happy birthday banners, and party hats galore.  And don’t even get me started on the dressing up box and all its glamorous feather bowers that were waiting to be draped round our necks!

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The cuteness didn’t just end there.  Every aspect of the afternoon tea was dedicated to personal touches.  There was a little box for all the guests to place birthday wishes in, party bags full of sweets with little ‘E’ for Emma stickers holding them together, and the most adorable pink vanilla cupcakes with personalised ’21’ and ‘Emma’ flags poking out of the top!

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There was an absolute abundance of food too!  There were loads of little finger sandwiches packed with lots of different fillings, beautiful warm scones with mounds of jam and clotted cream served in heart shape dishes, thick slices of home made shortbread that were covered in icing sugar, indulgent mini brownie squares, sweet strawberries dipped in chocolate, multi coloured flying saucers, and, of course, cakes with candles for the birthday girl to blow out!

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I definitely filled up on all the goodies!  The scones were absolutely beautiful and could simply be pulled apart to be piled high with jam and clotted cream; the shortbread was sweet and crumbly; the dark chocolate brownies were heavenly indulgent; and the strawberries were wonderfully fresh and juicy, with a thick coating of chocolate that left us all picking at them even when we were full!

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I also adored the vintage mismatched crockery, and their tea selection was commendable.  I went for a fruity strawberry and kiwi tea to match the hot summer weather!  It was absolutely delightful and I’m pretty sure I drank nearly a whole teapot’s worth to myself!

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Overall, this was a fabulous tea party, which was thoroughly thought out and is completely worth the trip out of central London to West Hampstead!  Not a single complaint can be made about this afternoon tea, as it was carried out to absolute perfection.  We had a wonderful time and I would not hesitate to recommend this place to anyone who was looking for something special for an upcoming celebration.

Happy Birthday Emma!  I hope you had a lovely day!

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High Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason is possibly one of the most quintessentially English afternoon tea establishments in London.  It is a favourite with the tourists and British alike, and is known for its impeccably high standards.  It also happens to make the perfect family afternoon tea destination, as it caters to the fussiest of eaters with three different types of afternoon tea: the traditional sandwich, scone, and cake combination; a savoury afternoon tea for those who do not have a sweet tooth; and the more luxurious high tea for those who fancy a hot dish rather than sandwiches, but still want to indulge in the afternoon tea experience.  As it was my birthday, and we were sitting down to eat around dinner time, the high tea seemed like the perfect option.  And I can confirm that we most certainly were not disappointed!

It was quite exciting waiting for our first dish to arrive, as we had all ordered something different from the Tea Salon Savouries menu.  My mum had chosen the Twice-Baked Shropshire Ham & Barbers Cheddar Soufflé with Honey Mustard Butter Sauce, my dad had gone for the Scotch Egg Kedgeree, Mild Curry Butter Sauce, Raisin Puree dish, and I  couldn’t resist the Lobster Omelette Victoria with Lobster Bisque & Shaved Truffle.  Of course I had to go for the most decadent item on the menu, it was my birthday!

On aesthetics, the Scotch Egg Kedgeree won hands down.

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The colours were evidently as vibrant, rich, and luxurious as the taste, with my dad claiming that it was the best scotch egg he’d ever tasted (and trust me, he has eaten a LOT of scotch eggs in his time)!  Considering that Fortnum & Mason claim to have invented the scotch egg, this is an excitingly historical dish with a story, and is a treat that is not to be missed!

My mum was also very impressed with her Cheese Soufflé.

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However, when one is indulging in the luxuries of Fortnum & Mason, one believes that one should go all out and order the most extravagant and lavish item on the menu: the Lobster Omelette!

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It may not have the aesthetic appeal of the scotch egg, but the taste is simply fabulous and unlike anything I have ever had before, and with the generous amount of large chunks of lobster, this dish is a complete treat.  The lobster bisque and eggs are clearly combined together to make the omelette, and the truffle, which can be seen on top of the omelette, gives the taste a whole new dimension.  I’m not sure words can even describe how wonderful this dish truly is, so you just need to try it!

Once we had finished feasting on our savoury delicacies and were waiting for the rest of our afternoon tea to arrive, my mum and I turned our attention to the tea.

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The tea is actually the first part of the experience that is served to the table, but with my delicate mouth not being able to handle the hot temperature when it first arrived, and the excitement of the main course, it wasn’t until the table was cleared of food that I felt ready to indulge myself into the full tea experience!  I had chosen the only yellow tea on the menu: Huang Ya Cha Yellow Buds.  With its light and fragrant flavour, this was a truly lovely tea to accompany the whole meal.  My mum opted for the Russian Caravan, which was also a light tea, but not quite as delicate as the Huang Ya Cha Yellow Buds.  I’m not a massive tea fan, but I actually really enjoyed both of these delights!  The menu also gives a good description of the origin and history of each tea, so it was quite fun knowing that we had the tea of the Tsars sitting on our table!

When the afternoon tea stands did arrive, it was a really exciting surprise to find out exactly what sweet treats we had been given, as the menu gives nothing away!

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Each little delicacy was completely perfect-looking, and it was hard to decide where to begin!  I started with the rose éclair, as I had never tried anything fragranced with flowers before, and I was actually really excited by this cute, little pink delight!  It turned out to be my absolute favourite pastry of the whole selection, and I even ended up taking some home with me!  The flavour was so light and delicate, that it almost tiptoed on your tongue.  If I could return and just request a plate of these little beauties, I think I actually would!

Exploring the plate in a clockwise direction (from the éclair), the milk chocolate stick had a lovely crunchy mint surprise, the pistachio dome unexpectedly oozed a beautiful red jam when bitten into, the macaroon was filled with a delightful caramel sauce, and the dark chocolate square was extremely rich in flavour.  Everything was carefully thought out to bring the maximum amount of pleasure, through taste, texture, and looks, as well as a little unexpected surprise in almost every one!

There was also a dessert trolley if these little bite-size puddings don’t quite satisfy your sweet tooth!  The best part about the dessert trolley is that if you are celebrating something special, the attentive waiters will bring a slice of cake to your table, with a candle glowing, whilst the pianist plays ‘Happy Birthday’ on the piano!  My mum was presented with a giant slice of Raspberry Trifle Cake, and I was given a slice of Bakewell Tart.

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We were also allowed to order whatever else we wanted from the trolley, which was a huge relief as I had been eyeing up the Battenberg from the moment we had arrived!  Luckily, they let me take a slice home instead of forcing me to eat it there, as I was stuffed after everything we had already eaten!

Obviously, we were also served up a lovely helping of scones: 1 plain, and 1 fruit scone each.

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These were beautifully crumbly and warm, and were absolutely perfect with the blueberry and raspberry jams and clotted cream that we smothered on top.

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At Fortnum & Mason it really is the little things that go a long way, and I loved the cute messages on the inside of the jam lids.

The atmosphere was also beautiful with the grand piano playing in the background the whole time.  At one point, the pianist even played ‘Colours of Wind’ from Pocahontas and I got ridiculously excited and started singing along!

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This truly is a lovely and special place to spend your time indulging in afternoon tea.  The service is attentive, smart, and friendly; the food is absolutely beautiful; and to top it all off, there is a whole department store to entertain yourself with before or after the whole experience!  I for one cannot wait to return to indulge in my favourite treat at quite possibly my favourite store!

Le Déjeuner á Balthazar Boulangerie

Clearly, when it comes to writing about authentic French cafés in the heart of London, my GCSE French comes in rather handy (for once)!  Not that I can say much more than ‘Lunch at Balthazar Boulangerie’… But no one needs to know that!

I have to admit that Paris is one of my favourite European cities, and the one that I have visited the most considering it’s a short train ride away from London.  Somehow it manages to keep so much charm and French amour, despite the hoards of tourists that are constantly flocking to this beautiful, romantic city.  For me, part of the beauty and romance of the French capital are its small, cramped, simplistic wooden cafés and restaurants that are crammed into the backstreets, with menus that even Google Translate can barely help me with.  However, I jump for joy when I spot one with fresh sandwiches and cakes piled high on display, assembled to highlight an array of colourful meats, salads, and pastries, so I couldn’t be happier to find that Balthazar Boulangerie has captured my favourite part of Paris right on my doorstep!

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The choice was phenomenal, as every sandwich was bursting with a rainbow of fresh ingredients and the salads stood out vibrantly.  Eventually, my mum and I decided to share a sandwich and two salads.  And at the end of it all, we decided that we couldn’t resist a cheeky dessert to finish off the whole experience!  Truth be told, we’d been oohing and ahhing over the sugar-filled treats long before choosing our savoury ‘main’!

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We started our Parisian taste trip with a lovely salami, mozzarella and salad-filled sandwich on paysan (potato and onion) bread.  The flavours were a beautiful combination, and the bread was so light and fluffy, with a bit of a chewy crunch on the outside.  It was quite possibly the best sandwich I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying in London.

The service was absolutely impeccable too.  Having told them that we were going to share the sandwich, they served it cut in half for us both to enjoy without having to battle with the cutting it in half ourselves.  You would be shocked at how many cafés and restaurants have served us things to share without extra cutlery, plates, or splitting it prior to serving.  Balthazar is one of those places that you instantly feel relaxed as the staff are so friendly and helpful and are actually good at their job!

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Usually I can give or take a salad, but these salads were to die for and I will definitely be returning for these time and time again!  The salad on the left consisted of gorgeous maple-roasted tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, pine nuts, lentils and caramelised onions.  Despite watching the mass of tourists, huddling under umbrellas and hoarding into Covent Garden on a typical London day in the season of April showers, the European and Mediterranean feel of the flavours and ingredients allowed your thoughts to wander to those days of summer, lounging by the swimming pool, basking in the hot, hot rays of the sun and enjoying the freshest and most delicious salads on your sun bed.  However, my favourite was the salad on the right: chickpea and cucumber salad with currants, mint, mixed spices, and Greek yoghurt.  It was the coronation chicken of salads, but with chickpeas instead of chicken!  The dressing was absolutely wonderful with the slight curry flavour sweetened dramatically with the tiny currants that made their way into every mouthful.  I literally could have eaten this all day!

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I then washed the whole thing down with a powerfully refreshing home made ginger ice tea.  It was fantastically fiery and sweet all at the same time.  I would definitely recommend one of these, especially if you’re feeling a bit bunged up; it most certainly ‘blows away the cobwebs’ as my dad would say!

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And to finish it all off we chose to indulge in a wonderful strawberries and cream choux pastry.  I have actually attempted to make choux pastry swans in the rather recent past, and I think my attempt (if it can even be called that) really allowed me to appreciate every little bite of this marvellous treat!  The pastry was crisp and light, and the gloriously sweet cream, combined with the freshest of strawberries really allowed the flavours of this beautiful treat to prevail.  I doubt I’ll be able to walk past Balthazar in the future without popping in to see what lovely French treats are on display for me to enjoy!

Some Egg-stra Special Easter Treats

Easter in the capital is a pretty wonderful place.  Everywhere you go there are egg-stravangant Easter eggs and Easter-themed treats in abundance!  Some of my favourite window shopping spots have been the golden chocolate rabbits in Paul.A.Young, as well as Fortnum & Mason’s beautiful bunny biscuits (I am addicted to bunny-themed anything so it’s hardly surprising that these treats in particular have caught my eye)!

However, my favourite local bakery in London is Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden, and having seen their special selection of Easter cupcakes advertised on Twitter whilst I was back at home visiting the family, I couldn’t resist taking the slightly longer route to the library on my first day back in the capital to pick up some of these egg-stra special treats to help me power through the essay writing that day!

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My favourite by far was the Hot Cross Bun Cupcake, simply because the warmth of the cinnamon, which was enhanced by the sweetness of the raisins, positively oozed with Easter vibes.  It literally tasted just like a hot cross bun, nostalgically returning me to those childhood days of eating warm, toasted hot cross buns, loaded with butter, in the garden with my mum.  Even as a massive fan of Primrose Bakery, I just wasn’t expecting such perfection!  And the smooth, creamy, all-spice cream cheese frosting, topped with crunchy hot cross bun croutons, really was the icing on the cake.  These cupcakes were an absolute dream, and quite frankly I’m a little bit disappointed that it isn’t Easter all year round now!

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Next up was the Creme Egg Cupcake.  I do find it hard to say no to a good chocolate cupcake, and this was certainly no egg-ception!  With its rich and indulgent dark chocolate brownie sponge, which contained an egg-cellent surprise of a mini creme egg in the centre, this cupcake was an absolute treat.  It was made even better with its sweet, fluffy yellow and white marshmallow icing, which always adds a beautiful thick and gooey texture to the whole experience.  And for the half a creme egg on top, no one can ever have too many creme eggs at Easter!

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And last but not least was the beautifully decorated Vanilla Cupcake.  With its soft sponge and flavouring, it makes for a delicate and delightful Easter treat, especially with its lovely, thick vanilla frosting.  I absolutely love the bright colours on the decorative eggs, which added a lovely crunch in comparison to the delicacy of the rest of the cake.

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I also discovered some beautiful bird truffles in Godiva’s Covent Garden shop, which I took home to make a lovely little Easter nest for the boyfriend.

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This was created very simply using a chocolate meringue from Carluccios, chocolate whipped cream, Mikado sticks for the nest, Marks & Spencer mini eggs, and the beautiful Godiva bird truffles.  Each one was satisfying with a beautiful and interesting filling.  The white chocolate bird was filled with a thick and nutty milk chocolate delight, the dark chocolate bird was filled with a runny banana-flavoured syrup, and the milk chocolate bird was a caramel-themed treat.

I am a massive fan of themed treats and all of the bakeries and the shops in London really showed off their talents this Easter with an array of delicious tasting and looking treats for us all to choose from!  I cannot wait for the next big event to come along in the capital because, let’s face it, it manages to create something special every time!