Today I had to go for some medical tests, and as I have mentioned before, after such encounters I like to give myself an edible treat – it is a legacy from my childhood. Serendipitously, there was the loveliest little sweet shop right opposite the clinic (it was snowing and therefore far too cold for the aforementioned banana ice cream). Inside, it was packed with row upon row of traditional sweetie jars, racks of witty greetings cards, and an assortment of faux-vintage tea trays and cake tins. I bought a bag of cinder toffee and, having asked the shopkeeper what he would recommend, 100g of strawberries-and-creams. If you are ever in the vicinity, I heartily recommend popping in for a sugar hit.Lollipop, 201 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1TH (020 7585 1588)
It was only when I got home that I noticed that the pre-packaged bags of old-school favourites, like my cinder toffee, were tied with pink velvet ribbon. This got me thinking that it is so often these little touches that set a shop apart from its competitors; this attention to detail that allows them to charge prices that are actually pretty hefty, in the knowledge that (if the shop is located in a certain kind of area) people will keep coming back.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and my chat with the shopkeeper – and part of what you’re paying for in any commercial transaction is the quality of that experience – but if you would rather save your pennies and have some fun in the kitchen, this may be just the book for you:
Hope and Greenwood (‘Purveyors of Splendid Confectionery’) is a brand built on a savvy eye for quaint detail, a quirky, characterful marketing voice and some stylish packaging. Plus the sweets are pretty good too, which certainly helps. They have two shops in London, and their merchandise is stocked in Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason, as well as in high-end local foodie outlets. The fact that they have now brought out a book suggests that they are confident of having a large fanbase.
Said book is a veritable journey through the world of confectionery. On no account would you want to show this to your dentist. Every chapter (Chocolate, Fudge and Toffee, Nutty, Mallows and Nougat, Fruity) provides countless opportunities for rotting teeth. But they make it all look like such glorious fun. Particularly irresistible are the violet creams (my Mum’s favourite), syrup sponge nuggets, sticky toffee truffles, Mr Greenwood’s buttered brazils, peanut pretzel knobblies, and – yum yum yummm – sherbet lemon marshmallows. Can’t wait to get started on some of these and make a real mess in the kitchen.
– – –
One last thing, vaguely relevant to the theme. Christmas is barely over and already we have Easter chocolate in the shops…what’s that about?! Today I spotted Mars’ seasonal (or woefully premature, depending on how you look at it) offering – the MaltEaster: ‘milk chocolate bunny with a crunchy and creamy Malteasers centre’- and, on the shelf below, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Caramel Bunnies. I’m going to conduct a taste-test with some friends tomorrow; will let you know the verdict.