clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Chef Jeremy Lee’s famous meringue “tumble” at Quo Vadis in Soho, with glasses of white wine on a dining table with a white table cloth and green painted walls in the background.
Chef Jeremy Lee’s famous meringue “tumble” at Quo Vadis in Soho.
Helen Cathcart

Dig Into the Sweet Nostalgia of the Best Old-School Puddings in London

Deep-fried bread-and-butter pudding with cold custard, meringues piled high with cream and nostalgia, flaming crepes suzette, and more

View as Map
Chef Jeremy Lee’s famous meringue “tumble” at Quo Vadis in Soho.
| Helen Cathcart

Pudding can be the crowning joy of a good meal. It’s the opportunity for a little froth and fun, once the kitchen has earned the trust and affection of the eater. Historically, British traditional cooking has known this to be the case. Wibbly wobbly jellies, meringues upon meringues in a rococo pouf, a whole lemon boiled inside a pudding: Surprise! It’s all so silly and delightful!

There is power in a morsel of sweet pudding to conjure halcyon memories — sometimes real, but more often imaginary — of innocent school days, 1970s glamour, or cigar smoke filled 19th century eating clubs. It’s a cultural or collective nostalgia, one which may bear little or no resemblance to any historically lived reality, but which has a strong and pleasurable pull nonetheless.

So while contemporary restaurant desserts tend towards the staid — a little something to satisfy the sweet-toothed or those still hungry after a meal of scanty small plates — there remain both the old guard and a new breed who know the talismanic power of a good pud.

Read More
If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Oslo Court

Copy Link

Faded glory can be a good thing, and French restaurant Oslo Court has the indisputable proof. From the bottom of its dusky rose tablecloths to the tips of its curly leaf parsley garnishes, this St. John’s Wood dining room wears its washed-out glamour like the badge of honour it is. The high camp pinnacle of any meal here is pudding. Sadly, time has not stood still: The famous dessert trolley has been decommissioned. But theatricals are still guaranteed, with beloved waiter Neil Heshmat always ready to flirt his way across the royal blue carpet with a flower-adorned plate of crepes suzette, profiteroles, or lemon meringue tart.

Quo Vadis

Copy Link

At Soho restaurant and private members’ club Quo Vadis, pudding is sovereign. Chef Jeremy Lee has a penchant for pudding proper: the kind that’s steamed, boiled, or baked, and drowsy with golden syrup. In the winter, it’s a Dickensian affair, with offerings of figgy pudding, sticky treacle and ginger, or marmalade and mincemeat almond tarts. For parties, there are the rumbunctious meringue towers for which Lee is renowned, preposterously gravity-defying and draped in lurid fruity cascades.

Regency Cafe

Copy Link

Marco Schiavetta would have made a brilliant conductor. From behind the counter at Regency Café, he keeps perfect rhythm, moving an endless stream of customers along, foisting hot plates and piles of margarine-slicked fluffy bread into their hands, and trumpeting cries of “sauce?” and “don’t be shy” to the slow-movers. Even before the eating, a visit to this white-tiled Pimlico café is an intoxicating experience. There is just one dessert on the fry-up and pie focused chalkboard, but for customers looking to bide a little more time inside the Regency’s warm walls, there could be nothing better than a big bowl of bread-and-butter pudding with custard. It’s the culinary equivalent of spending just five more minutes under the bedcovers, and will make the bracing bitterness outside easier to face.

Café Deco

Copy Link

As an alumna of both Quo Vadis and Rochelle Canteen, it’s no surprise Anna Tobias knows that pudding is serious play. The main throughline at Café Deco is elegant and unostentatious European cuisine, but there’s still a hint of Wes Anderson kitsch in this pastel-hued restaurant. Customers should be prepared to get silly with delight when presented with dessert: marvel at a quince Knickerbocker glory that will knock sunshine into the bleakest day; sing oranges and lemons to a St Clements cream (a Simon Hopkinson citrus posset from the 1990s); or plunge gleefully into the glistening warmth of a treacle tart with Jersey cream.

The menu at London’s oldest restaurant Rules embraces the linguistic helter-skelter of traditional British cooking. There are both savoury puddings — steak-and-kidney with an optional oyster, and “savouries” for pudding — if anyone fancies a healthy dose of Welsh rarebit to top off a whole roast grouse or a pie in a paper ruff. Otherwise, it’s time to sink deeper into the blood velvet banquettes with sticky toffee pudding draped in walnut praline, or a sandcastle of golden syrup sponge.

Sweetings

Copy Link

Rules may claim to be London’s oldest restaurant, but 19th century seafood restaurant Sweetings is its superior in all but longevity. True luxury is here, where napkins are tucked into collars for long weekday lunches of crab, caviar, and Dover sole; and where lobster mash comes under the listing for vegetables. The dessert menu doesn’t miss a note. There are crumbles, steamed ginger, sticky toffee, jam roll, steamed syrup, bread-and-butter, and best of all: Spotted dick. That’s not an insult, but a contraction of the old term for pudding, puddick, and a reference to the fact this steamed suet dessert is studded with dried fruits. The Sweetings version has been on offer for well over a century.

Rochelle Canteen

Copy Link

Seventeen years since it opened, Rochelle Canteen remains one of London’s breeziest and most self-assured restaurants. When it comes to dessert, though, it’s not ashamed to be whimsical. Diners are invited to satisfy their deepest Enid Blyton fantasies with rhubarb jelly and ice cream, upside-down cakes, Bakewell tarts, and jammy steamed puddings. Platonic forms of school dinner desserts find their home in this former site of a Victorian school, with chef Margot Henderson reviving Eve’s pudding — a stewed apple and sponge dessert — brown bread ice cream, and all manner of sweets with marmalade.

St John Bread and Wine

Copy Link

St John Bread and Wine bravely goes where other modern British restaurants dare not: tapioca. Though it’s widely used in South American and Asian cuisine, in the context of British puddings tapioca is more often seen as trypobhobic pondwater. At Bread and Wine, it’s transformed into pearls of pale winter sun and bejeweled with pink rhubarb. It still might not be a crowd pleaser, but that’s the preserve of crumble, Eton Mess, and even Queen of Puddings, its breadcrumbs cloaked in custard and raspberry jam and piped with pert meringue kisses, on a pudding menu that manages to be just as engaging as the offerings of snails, liver, tripe, faggots, and pheasant for which the restaurant is reputed.

E Pellicci

Copy Link

For those seeking solace on a bleak, grey day, there is nowhere better than the dining room at E Pellicci, London’s most exquisite Italian café. Customers at this perfectly formed Art Deco chocolate box are guaranteed warmth, good humour, and a meal that makes them feel like royalty (the heir, not the spare.) Vast platters of fry-ups, blankets of chicken escalope, and cavernous bowls of spaghetti Bolognese take centre stage, but dessert refuses to be overlooked. Lattice-work jam tart, burnished apple crumble, or chocolate roly poly in a 2:1 ratio of Nutella to sponge, are cheek-brightening sugar explosions worth an after-school- or after-work-detour in-and-of themselves.

Cafe Cecilia

Copy Link

Café Cecilia may have only opened its doors in 2021, but it already has the feel of somewhere time-honoured. Partly, that’s the work of the few regulars with big hair and bigger sunglasses that are so often the mark of a more storied establishment. But it’s also because Max Rocha’s restaurant serves up dishes that immediately feel like old friends. Chief among them is the bread-and-butter-pudding. The doughy comfort is pressed overnight, then carved up into dense slabs and deep-fried. Served with cold custard, it’s the kind of innovation that rings immediately true — sitting somewhere in the fertile territory between bread and butter, French toast, and a deep-fried Mars bar.

Oslo Court

Faded glory can be a good thing, and French restaurant Oslo Court has the indisputable proof. From the bottom of its dusky rose tablecloths to the tips of its curly leaf parsley garnishes, this St. John’s Wood dining room wears its washed-out glamour like the badge of honour it is. The high camp pinnacle of any meal here is pudding. Sadly, time has not stood still: The famous dessert trolley has been decommissioned. But theatricals are still guaranteed, with beloved waiter Neil Heshmat always ready to flirt his way across the royal blue carpet with a flower-adorned plate of crepes suzette, profiteroles, or lemon meringue tart.

Quo Vadis

At Soho restaurant and private members’ club Quo Vadis, pudding is sovereign. Chef Jeremy Lee has a penchant for pudding proper: the kind that’s steamed, boiled, or baked, and drowsy with golden syrup. In the winter, it’s a Dickensian affair, with offerings of figgy pudding, sticky treacle and ginger, or marmalade and mincemeat almond tarts. For parties, there are the rumbunctious meringue towers for which Lee is renowned, preposterously gravity-defying and draped in lurid fruity cascades.

Regency Cafe

Marco Schiavetta would have made a brilliant conductor. From behind the counter at Regency Café, he keeps perfect rhythm, moving an endless stream of customers along, foisting hot plates and piles of margarine-slicked fluffy bread into their hands, and trumpeting cries of “sauce?” and “don’t be shy” to the slow-movers. Even before the eating, a visit to this white-tiled Pimlico café is an intoxicating experience. There is just one dessert on the fry-up and pie focused chalkboard, but for customers looking to bide a little more time inside the Regency’s warm walls, there could be nothing better than a big bowl of bread-and-butter pudding with custard. It’s the culinary equivalent of spending just five more minutes under the bedcovers, and will make the bracing bitterness outside easier to face.

Café Deco

As an alumna of both Quo Vadis and Rochelle Canteen, it’s no surprise Anna Tobias knows that pudding is serious play. The main throughline at Café Deco is elegant and unostentatious European cuisine, but there’s still a hint of Wes Anderson kitsch in this pastel-hued restaurant. Customers should be prepared to get silly with delight when presented with dessert: marvel at a quince Knickerbocker glory that will knock sunshine into the bleakest day; sing oranges and lemons to a St Clements cream (a Simon Hopkinson citrus posset from the 1990s); or plunge gleefully into the glistening warmth of a treacle tart with Jersey cream.

Rules

The menu at London’s oldest restaurant Rules embraces the linguistic helter-skelter of traditional British cooking. There are both savoury puddings — steak-and-kidney with an optional oyster, and “savouries” for pudding — if anyone fancies a healthy dose of Welsh rarebit to top off a whole roast grouse or a pie in a paper ruff. Otherwise, it’s time to sink deeper into the blood velvet banquettes with sticky toffee pudding draped in walnut praline, or a sandcastle of golden syrup sponge.

Sweetings

Rules may claim to be London’s oldest restaurant, but 19th century seafood restaurant Sweetings is its superior in all but longevity. True luxury is here, where napkins are tucked into collars for long weekday lunches of crab, caviar, and Dover sole; and where lobster mash comes under the listing for vegetables. The dessert menu doesn’t miss a note. There are crumbles, steamed ginger, sticky toffee, jam roll, steamed syrup, bread-and-butter, and best of all: Spotted dick. That’s not an insult, but a contraction of the old term for pudding, puddick, and a reference to the fact this steamed suet dessert is studded with dried fruits. The Sweetings version has been on offer for well over a century.

Rochelle Canteen

Seventeen years since it opened, Rochelle Canteen remains one of London’s breeziest and most self-assured restaurants. When it comes to dessert, though, it’s not ashamed to be whimsical. Diners are invited to satisfy their deepest Enid Blyton fantasies with rhubarb jelly and ice cream, upside-down cakes, Bakewell tarts, and jammy steamed puddings. Platonic forms of school dinner desserts find their home in this former site of a Victorian school, with chef Margot Henderson reviving Eve’s pudding — a stewed apple and sponge dessert — brown bread ice cream, and all manner of sweets with marmalade.

St John Bread and Wine

St John Bread and Wine bravely goes where other modern British restaurants dare not: tapioca. Though it’s widely used in South American and Asian cuisine, in the context of British puddings tapioca is more often seen as trypobhobic pondwater. At Bread and Wine, it’s transformed into pearls of pale winter sun and bejeweled with pink rhubarb. It still might not be a crowd pleaser, but that’s the preserve of crumble, Eton Mess, and even Queen of Puddings, its breadcrumbs cloaked in custard and raspberry jam and piped with pert meringue kisses, on a pudding menu that manages to be just as engaging as the offerings of snails, liver, tripe, faggots, and pheasant for which the restaurant is reputed.

E Pellicci

For those seeking solace on a bleak, grey day, there is nowhere better than the dining room at E Pellicci, London’s most exquisite Italian café. Customers at this perfectly formed Art Deco chocolate box are guaranteed warmth, good humour, and a meal that makes them feel like royalty (the heir, not the spare.) Vast platters of fry-ups, blankets of chicken escalope, and cavernous bowls of spaghetti Bolognese take centre stage, but dessert refuses to be overlooked. Lattice-work jam tart, burnished apple crumble, or chocolate roly poly in a 2:1 ratio of Nutella to sponge, are cheek-brightening sugar explosions worth an after-school- or after-work-detour in-and-of themselves.

Cafe Cecilia

Café Cecilia may have only opened its doors in 2021, but it already has the feel of somewhere time-honoured. Partly, that’s the work of the few regulars with big hair and bigger sunglasses that are so often the mark of a more storied establishment. But it’s also because Max Rocha’s restaurant serves up dishes that immediately feel like old friends. Chief among them is the bread-and-butter-pudding. The doughy comfort is pressed overnight, then carved up into dense slabs and deep-fried. Served with cold custard, it’s the kind of innovation that rings immediately true — sitting somewhere in the fertile territory between bread and butter, French toast, and a deep-fried Mars bar.

Related Maps