Basque Cheesecake, that ultra-creamy cheesecake with no biscuit base, instantly recognisable by its brazenly caramelised, almost blackened exterior, has gone from being a dish specific to La Viña in San Sebastian, to appearing on menus all around the world with London being no exception. In that explosion in popularity, some things have been lost — namely that it’s not Basque cheesecake, but La Viña cheesecake, and that gorgeous top layer isn’t really burnt at all — but at the same time, things have been gained. As it is based on an alluringly simple recipe that calls for just six ingredients, every chef is vying to get the edge by adding their own idiosyncratic take on the iconic dessert, be it the cheese used, additional flavourings, or even the presentation. Here are 14 of the city’s finest to try.Read More
Where to Eat Burnished, Beautiful Basque Cheesecake in London
But first, stop calling it Basque cheesecake
Elliot’s first introduced Basque cheesecake to the menu in 2015, and it endures to this day — if comparably slept on in the London pantheon for this dessert. Epitomising Elliot’s approach to seasonal wood fired cooking using the best produce from independent suppliers, the cheesecake is given a short burst in the same wood fired oven used to bake sourdough pizzas and breads to create that signature darkly caramelised crust, and the accompanying seasonal fruits rotate throughout the year. Think black pepper-macerated strawberries, poached peaches, pickled greengages, caramel apples, and forced rhubarb.
James Donnelly began trialling recipes for this dessert during the first lockdown, while his restaurant, Donnelly’s at Bermondsey Bar & Kitchen, was closed. After much experimentation and refinement, Donnelly began selling the cheesecakes via his East Dulwich deli, Deli Twenty Two, and organised occasional “cheesecake drops” to London postcodes via Instagram. The cheesecake was such a success it made its way onto the Donnelly’s Restaurant re-opening menu and hasn’t left since, with Donnelly also supplying cheesecakes to all-day eatery Louie Louie on Walworth Road and its sibling Yard Café in Kennington, as well as Christophers Bakery in Herne Hill, where it is available by the slice. It is tall in stature, light and ludicrously creamy.
Basque restaurant Tokova located in Tooting’s Broadway Market offers a Basque-inspired sharing menu that epitomises the traditions of contemporary Basque cooking whilst championing local and wild seasonal produce. Tokova serves its cheesecake with Marcona almonds, which provide pleasingly contrasting crunch, and a tart red berry coulis which cuts through the intense richness of the cream cheese as well as intercepting the cheesecake’s monochrome tones of black burnt crust and white cream centre with a flash of red.
Also featured in:
José Pizarro’s cheesecake is based closely on the famous La Viña recipe. For differentiation, the restaurant serves it with a strawberry coulis made by cooking macerated British strawberries over a low heat and then sous vide for three hours, bringing together the best of Basque and British influences. The cheesecake is on the dessert menu across all venues and is also available to order whole via The Dispatch.
Barrafina Coal Drops Yard
Barrafina’s Idiazabal cheesecake is made with three types of cheese: Requeson, a ricotta-style cheese; traditional cream cheese; and Idiazabal, an aged, pressed cheese made from sheep’s milk from Latz and Carranzana sheep in the Basque Country and Navarre. The latter has a naturally smoky flavour that is accentuated by the burnt crust. It is mostly available as a special at Barrafina Coal Drop’s Yard, where it can be enjoyed at the end of a full meal or at the bar with a coffee or digestif.
Brat could be considered the restaurant responsible for popularising Basque cheesecake in London. Nigella Lawson certainly sees it that way, attributing its fame first to Santiago Rivera of La Viña in San Sebastian and then to Tomos Parry in her latest book. Brat’s cheesecake pays homage to La Viña whilst emphasising British produce. Brat blends cows’s curd from its cheesemaker St Jude with cream cheese (reserving the buttermilk for rice pudding) and orange zest for the mixture. It’s then cooked over oak in a hot wood-fired oven which lends a light smokiness as well as helping to achieve the slightly gooey centre and signature darkened crust. It’s served year-round with seasonal baked fruits, but forced rhubarb from Yorkshire’s famous Rhubarb Triangle is a resounding favourite.
Whilst other Basque style restaurants in London are Basque in origin but British in terms of ingredients and produce, Lurra has carved out a niche by offering a slice of San Sebastian in Marylebone with dishes and ingredients direct from the Basque Country. Although large cuts of prime Galician beef make Lurra one of the more expensive restaurants to find a slice of Basque cheesecake, it’s a little-known fact that diners can pop in to buy a slice to take away or order a whole cheesecake online. Lurra’s version is exceptionally smooth and creamy with a barely set centre.
Chatsworth Bakery opened under lockdown out of chef Tom Mathews and co-founder Sian Evans’ flat in Croydon with the dream of eventually creating an open space for community to come together over seriously tasty food. It now has a permanent site in SE19, offering huge focaccia sandwiches, loaves, and sweet bakes for collection and delivery, including a standout tiramisu version of Basque cheesecake. The mixture contains a generous amount of freshly ground and brewed coffee plus a strong splash of Marsala wine, and the atypical base is made by compressing coffee and marsala-soaked savoiardi biscuits. For those who struggle to choose when it comes to dessert, this hybrid offers the best of two of the best.
Also featured in:
Liv’s Baked Goodies
Liv’s Baked Goodies was a lockdown success for Turkish born and raised chef, Olivia Benbanaste, whose previous experience ranges from famed NYC restaurant Eleven Madison Park to cooking as sous chef alongside baking specialist Henrietta Inman for a year long pop-up at Yardarm Leyton. Benbanaste began making and delivering sweet and savoury bakes during lockdown, and owing to popularity, Liv’s Baked Goods is here to stay. This honey mascarpone Basque cheesecake hints at the love of baked cheesecake she developed in NYC, whilst incorporating the global techniques picked up whilst working all around the world and a complex honey flavour profile that reflects her Turkish heritage and the seasonal, local approach to baking inspired by Yardarm. The cheesecake is available in two sizes, baked to order, for delivery across London.
Food stylist and developer Kirthanaa Naidu’s Pandan leaf and coconut basque cheesecake rose to Instagram fame after making an appearance as a guest dessert at now-closed Joy at Portobello. Naidu wanted to create Basque cheesecake, one of her favourite European desserts, with flavours inspired by her Malaysian heritage and found the naturally sweet tropical flavours of Pandan and coconut worked particularly well with the lingering bitterness of the crust. The flavour was an instant hit and quickly gained a dedicated customer base. Orders for whole 6” cheesecakes can be placed via DM on Instagram.
Basque cheesecake became a staple of Big Jo’s takeaway menu during lockdown, with the unique addition of a buttery biscuit base there to help ensure it travelled home in one piece. Big Jo is now fully open as a restaurant but continues to offer a changing menu of regeneratively farmed baked goods to take away, as well as supplying sister restaurant Jolene and the newly opened ‘mini Jo’ satellite bakeries on Redchurch Street and Colebrook Row. Unfortunately, the click and collect option introduced during lockdown which doubled up as a cheesecake reservation hotline is no longer available, so follow each location’s Instagram for the daily offering and arrive early to avoid disappointment!
Sakurado Japanese Patisserie London
Franco-Japanese patisserie Sakurado, best known for its mille-crepe cakes and signature jiggly Japanese soufflé cheesecake, offers three varieties of Basque cheesecake. The classic version is traditional in flavour but has an exceptionally runny centre due to a higher proportion of liquid cream to pressed cheese than most European recipes, whilst the matcha and dark chocolate and durian flavours each bring distinctly East Asian flavours to this classic dessert. The cheesecakes are available by the slice or whole in both the Chinatown and Kensington stores, and can be ordered for local and nationwide delivery.
Side Piece @ Trude’s
Side Piece is a Shrewsbury based micro-bakery that has run pop-ups at Clapham Common’s luxury grocery store Trude’s Grocery. The Pump Street chocolate Basque cheesecake is made with a whopping 300g of Pump Street’s 70 percent single estate Grenada chocolate, which lends pronounced fruity notes to the tangy cream cheese, resulting in a rich and complex filling. The addition of a Bourbon biscuit base may be unconventional for Basque cheesecake, but provides structural support as well as a welcome malty crunch. Side Piece also makes a Madagascan vanilla Basque cheesecake with a digestive biscuit base, that offers the best of Basque and NY cheesecake combined. Keep an eye on Instagram for updates of the next pop-up.
Common Ground is an all-day joint in Stroud Green, with a wide range of baked goods including an ultra-creamy Basque cheesecake. It’s a faithful recreation of the original La Viña version, made by combining good quality cream cheese and caster sugar with yolk-rich Cacklebean rggs, a dash of vanilla, gluten free flour and a pinch of salt. It is baked until smoky and caramelised on top yet precariously wobbly in the middle, before being cooled and left to set in the fridge overnight — further improving its texture and flavour. It’s currently available weekends only, and with only 12 slices available, it’s worth setting an alarm.
Also featured in: