For decades, Japanese pastry chefs learned their trade in Paris and upon returning to Japan, infused French patisserie-style recipes with their own twists. The delicious fusion from the added Japanese flavours results in something simply phenomenal, and once you’ve tried a Japanese patisserie, you’ll want to keep going back.
So where can you find a Japanese-style patisserie in London? There are now several, but a long-standing favourite of both Japanese ex-pats and Japanese cake lovers is WA Café, which has two locations. Due to the success of the original café in Ealing, the owners opened a second branch near Covent Garden in 2018, achieving their dream of creating a Japanese-style patisserie in central London
What makes WA Café such a popular Japanese patisserie?
Let’s start with the cakes. At either WA Café, you’ll spot a tantalising selection of colourful and stunningly beautiful cakes on display. We’re talking strawberry shortcakes,
Now we’ve only just started with the menu. WA Café also has a range of delicious freshly baked goods. If you’ve lived in Japan, you’ll recognise them – sweetbreads like An-Pan and Melon Pan (shaped like a melon but does not contain it), as well as savoury delights such as their Chicken Katsu sandwiches, and Curry buns.
There are plenty of options for beverages to go along with the excellent culinary options. In addition to the usual teas and coffees, there are a number of Japanese specialised beverages available. If you’re feeling daring (or nostalgic), try a Hojicha Latte or a Kuro Goma (Black Sesame) latte.
Japanese Seasonal Specialities
Japan loves its seasons. When speaking to Japanese people in Japan, you’ll often hear mentions of the 4 seasons. Occasionally you make even be asked if you have 4 seasons back home. While the answer for many is yes, the same cannot be stated for a true differentiation of seasonal foods to the level that Japan has.
WA Japanese Patisserie Café keeps in line with culinary traditions by creating some exquisite seasonal gems. This year alone I’ve seen Sakura
Autumn Panna Cotta
WA Café’s Autumn Panna Cotta is self-described as the most ‘Japonesque’ dessert they make. I would have to wholeheartedly agree. The first thing that catches your eye is the Physalis or Japanese Lantern Plant with its orange fruit peering out of the open lantern. It’s a delight to see this on top of the dessert, and it reminds me of wandering through Japanese gardens in early autumn.
Occasionally you see food writers describing a dish as being “a symphony of flavours”. While my writing has not reached this level of grandiosity yet, this dessert really does come with many delicious layers and a multitude of textures and flavours that I’ll try and guide you through.
First, you take a spoonful of the Warabi-Mochi, a traditional Japanese sweet mochi that is pleasantly chewy. The Warabi-Mochi are lightly sprinkled with Kinako powder (roasted soybean flour).
Then you have the option of going for the Hojicha cream to the side (Hojicha is roasted Japanese tea) or diving straight into the gorgeous Panna Cotta, which has a delicate and slightly nutty Kinako taste to it.
At the bottom, lies a further treasure – a last sweet layer of Azuki beans and Hojicha jelly. To add to the enjoyment, you have a tiny pipette of Kuromitsu (dark sugar syrup) which you can drizzle onto any part of the dessert.
For my finale, I savoured the white chocolate stick that was placed behind the Japanese Lantern. But each to their own!
For my accompanying drink, I went with a hot Hojicha Latte. This was served in a beautiful ceramic cup with no handles on top of a lovely black wooden coaster. The distinct aroma and the unique toasted tea flavour complemented the Panna Cotta perfectly, and I could really savour each sip.
Even by itself, the Hojicha Latte is an immersive experience. While some are happy to do take-outs, I prefer drinking from the Japanese crockery and enjoying the relaxing café atmosphere.
Which WA Japanese Patisserie?
I suppose it will depend on where you live, but there are a few small differences between the two cafes. Ealing Broadway has larger windows and high ceilings, so there is more natural light, and you can get a window seat gazing out onto the green. You’ll probably see more Japanese families coming in and if you like your ceramics and Japanese style-plates, this is perhaps where your first visit should be.
The Covent Garden branch is of course the more convenient one if you are already near Central London, and while there is more seating space, there are a lot of eager people lining up to get in. Don’t be fooled into thinking the Ealing Broadway branch won’t be busy though – I’ve seen all tables were taken and a line forming outside late on Saturday afternoons.
My tip would be to schedule a morning visit – going early you can secure a table without the wait, and maybe more importantly the most popular cakes and pastries will still be available. If you are thinking of getting one of the seasonal or monthly special items, you may want to arrive before 11 am to be on the safe side.
Whichever you choose, both WA cafes will deliver the true Japanese-style patisserie experience. The cafes are well designed, kept spotlessly clean, the staff are kind and polite, and everything on the menu is incredible! Whether it’s your first encounter with Japanese cakes and pastries, or you are nostalgic for melon pans, WA café has the goods you need!
For more Japanese restaurant and café reviews, check out best-japanese.co.uk