London’s Finest – Crème de la Crêpe
Published 18 February 2010
The current food trend in London seems to be the reinvention of once-basic and utilitarian foods into something decadent, luxurious, and exciting. The one food that has stolen all the limelight thus far has been the humble cupcake, transformed by the tens of new cupcake emporiums that have opened up in London recently.
Nick Willoughby is waging his own campaign to make another age-weathered dessert into something hip and modern: the French crêpe. The founder of Crème de la Crêpe started his first crêpe stand in Market Square in St Andrews, serving authentic French crêpes filled with quality ingredients and for a fair price. Soon, business was booming, and he set up shop in London’s famous Borough Market, where hordes of hungry Londoners swamped his crêpe stand every week. By that time, Nick had perfected his new concept, delicious bite-sized crêpe canapés called crêpettes, which quickly revolutionized the crêpe concept and became an instant hit in trend-setting London.
Soon, Nick expanded to a quaint and cosy shop in the Covent Garden Market, where we decided to pay a visit and find out if his famous crêpes will live up to their expectations.
On arrival at Covent Garden, it took a bit of time to find the Crème de la Crêpe café as it is in a cosy corner of one of basements mini-plazas in the middle of the market complex. Inside, we were welcomed by Nick, who had organized for us and several other bloggers to find out more about his Crème de la Crêpe story and to sample some of the famous crêpettes.
Before I could start grilling Nick, trays of crêpettes arrived fresh from the open-plan kitchen, neatly presented and looking so nice that it felt like a shame to have to eat them! In they went somewhat reluctantly into my mouth, and I can honestly say that they were some of the best canapés that I had ever tasted; forget about caviar on toast, mini quiches, or Vol-au-vents. Crêpes that I have had, up till now, have been mainly one dimensional, with just one filling and usually just the standard strawberries and crème or Nutella flavoured. These savoury crêpes were bursting with flavour, and filled with combinations of ingredients that fit well together. While crêpes with interesting fillings were a novelty, the fillings themselves were adapted from traditional winning combinations, such as the Philly Cheesesteak (Yorkshire beef, mature cheddar, caramelized onion marmalade, ranch dressing, and rocket) or the Italian Job (goat’s cheese, fresh peto, sun-blushed tomatoes, and rocket).
Particularly exceptional was the Gone Fishin’ crêpe, made with hot smoked salon, spring onions, lemon and black pepper mayonnaise, and rocket. Absolutely delightful, so much so that I volunteered to be first up to try my hand at making a crêpe, secretly hoping that Nick would show me how to make one of the Gone Fishin’ ones.
It was during the crêpe making tutorial, complete with a swizzlestick and a crêpe making hotplate, that I realized that I’m not too bad at making crêpes. Distracted with my newfound relief that if I ever lost my job I could apply to be a crêpe-maker, I promptly forgot to ask Nick about making a Gone Fishin’ crêpe, and ended up with a crêpe filled with a Nestle Milkybar.
Towards the end of the night, sweet dessert crêpes started coming out of the kitchen, with the pick of the lot being the Banoffee Pie, made with a combination of banas, dulce de leche, ginger biscuits, and extra-thick double cream – truly decadent and perfect way to end an enjoyable evening at Crème de la Crêpe!
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Cuisine: French crêperie with a modern funky twist
Price Range: £3.30 – £5.50 per crêpe.
Address: Unit 29, The Piazza, Covent Garden Market, London WC2E 8RD (Google Map)
Telephone Number: 020 7836 6896
Opening Hours: 11am-7pm Monday to Fridays, 11am-6pm Saturday & Sundays