As the nights draw in and daylight hours shrink, surely there is no greater indulgence than a great coffee shared with good company? I'm no great fan of winter in England, between the jarring Christmas colours spotted everywhere and the torrential rain, it's hard to sustain a feeling of merriment in London between November and February.
So when I was invited to the Halva Bakery in Fulham, newly opened in 2015, I was looking forward to breaking out of rainy London and being transported to Parisian dreams of patisseries and romance. On a bright, blustery morning I find the quaint, neatly decorated bakery with windows filled with tempting treats and decorated inside in a cross between chic dining room and a first class train waiting room.
Here, in Parsons Green, we are deep in the land of the mothers who munch - a different generation to the ladies who lunch they wander in and out of Halva with their bugaboo strollers, designer handbags and Breton striped babies. In the hour I sit nursing my pastry, eight wander in ordering buttery pastries and flat whites. And that's part of the joy of Halva - there is a sense of freedom to use it as your own - takeaway coffee, weekly bread orders, exceptional tarts, good value lunch options or quiet retreat space - all vie for attention and yet somehow the offering isn't diminished by so many voices.
At the helm of this bakery, the young head chef is just 26 - passionate and enthusiastic she blends contemporary flavours with traditional techniques making for a magically eclectic bakery. I order the delicate and intricate lemon tart beautifully topped with alternating piped lemon curd and meringue and topped with fine slivers of grated lime peel. It's as delicious as it is pretty. The meringues quivers that top the delicate lemon tart are divine: powdery soft yet still firm enough to maintain their prowess; their sweetness is the perfect match for the sharp creamy lemon curd.
My friend orders the Valrhona chocolate tart a cacophony of chocolate, pastry, cream and some silver leaf for added pizzazz. The more hardcore foodies amongst you may know that Valrhona is a premium French chocolate company founded in 1922. However, if like me your chocolate knowledge isn't quite up to scratch, a quick google on the free WiFi can help translate the slightly more obscure descriptions of the decadent delights on display.
Too often we use pretty as a descriptive word akin to a slightly lacklustre younger sibling of beautiful. In some circles pretty is nigh on insulting. However, the pastry and deserts on display at Halva are the pure definition of the word pretty. They are sugar and spice and all things nice. A little girls idea of heaven. And to be honest; most adults would tend to agree. Heavenly Halva and the pretty pastries. The perfect remedy to beat the Winter blues.