Many people remember the sweets and chocolates of their childhood with nostalgic sighs. While the treats of childhood which are no longer made might seem worlds away, there is a select group of people in London who have gone all out in recreating some of that remembered magic, but with a contemporary (and even adventurously adult) twist. Whether you screamed loudest for ice cream, loved a good sugar rush, or went in for dress-up rather than indulgent food temptations, here are some of the best sweet shops London has to offer that give childhood favourites surprising makeovers.
The Ice Creamists
Nothing says ‘childhood’ or ‘summer’ like a decadent ice cream in a waffle cone and nothing screams decadence like the Ice Creamists of London. They used to have a Covent Garden shop, and if you visited this popular spot, you would have been impressed with a repertoire of freshly-made flavours like ‘Taking the Pistachio’ and ‘Sex, Drugs and Choc ‘n Roll’ – and more than 250 other flavour ideas that were in constant rotation. The walls were black in the shop, the waffle cones are black, the chairs were black, and it wouldn’t be surprising if there were a secret stash of whips hidden behind the counters. A neon pink light flashed ‘God Save the Cream’ and flaming ice cream cocktails adorned the tables of sit-down patrons.
Today, the Ice Creamists have taken their art into the world of private parties and serve up their scintillating ice-cream sensations at events and celebrity parties. It’s risqué business with the Ice Creamists. Servers are tattooed, pierced, clad in patent leather and wear neon pink ties. They run the ice-cream service like a well-oiled steampunk machine with exceptional service and flash charming smiles behind their lip piercings and scaffolding ear bars.
Hardy’s Original Sweet Shop
If summer is the best time of year for ice cream, Halloween in October is all about dressing up and getting candy. When next Halloween arrives, why not treat yourself to an experience while stocking up for those tireless trick or treaters? Hardy’s Original Sweet Shop is the kind of place you dream of as a kid; dark wood walls lined with shelves which almost buckle with sweet-filled jars. These entice shoppers with English favourites in a variety of flavours, from rhubarb and custard candy to humbugs.
Once you’re inside Hardy’s, all resistance will crumble. There is a pick-‘n-mix behind the counter where you can have one of everything, there are jars lining the walls that you can pick up and buy, and there are also enormous coloured candy lollipops that would make excellent gifts for anyone who has the slightest sweet tooth.
There are also American imports (Americans might be the kings of candy), including Nerdz, cans of pop, Pop Tarts and mini boxes of sugared cereals which burst with flavour. But, perhaps best of all, there are also traditional English treats like authentic toffee at only 99p a bar, fudge in a variety of flavours and some exceptional chocolate concoctions that you’ll find difficult to leave behind when you approach the till.
This is the kind of shop you simply must visit whilst in London, whether for Halloween or for an anytime treat. The shop lets you experience that child-like excitement you get when you walk into your first sweetshop, the magical kind of store where you carefully choose the best sweets, which will later be wrapped up in a brown paper bag. I entered thinking I’d buy a very grown-up bar of dark chocolate and I left with a bar of toffee, some pick ‘n mix pigs made out of strawberry chocolate with candy crystals and an aeroplane-themed party pack.
At Halloween time, a fun costume is just as important as the candy. If you’re on the lookout for a feminine Halloween costume that’s classier than the typical witch or playboy bunny, then pop into Dolly Dare at their Spitalfields Boutique. Here you’ll find luscious lace and pink frills aplenty, where sweetie jars line the walls and sherbet and pastel colours peek out of every corner.
The name gives it away – stepping into this boutique is just like stepping into an adult-sized doll house. Pick out your favourite ultra-feminine dresses and patterned high heels, match them up with your choice of candy-coloured accessories, and give Barbie a run for her money as you step out of the fitting rooms. Ali sits at the counter, delightfully attired in Dolly Dare’s finest, making small changes to customers’ orders or fabrics at their request. She’s super friendly and helpful, and will gladly help you mix and match the perfect outfit for your wardrobe (or indeed for your Halloween getup!).
The dresses available are straight out of the 1950s, 60s and 70s and feature bold patterned fabrics and flared skirts. Give the Stepford Wife look a total revamp and pair up a retro 50s printed dress with long socks and killer stilettos, for a look that’s guaranteed to turn heads at any Halloween party. The boutique shop is ideally situated for a morning out – simply pop into the Spitalfields Antique Market or Trader’s Market, grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby organic food stalls, and browse the surrounding boutique shops for a bit of ‘not on the high street’ shopping.