Only about a month has passed since 2017’s historic solar eclipse, but preparations for moon-gazing are again underway – albeit of a more traditional kind. The Mid-Autumn Festival, a highlight of the Chinese calendar, this year falls on October 4, and with it comes the arrival of the beloved mooncake, a sticky, round pastry that’s created only during festival season. Here are four of the finest places in London to sample this spectacular delicacy.
Lotus seed or red bean paste are the typical mooncake fillings, but renowned French pastry chef Pierre Hermé will from September 11 to October 8 offer four versions (£36 for a box of four) inspired by his signature macaron flavours. There’s a divine chocolate concoction filled with dark-chocolate praline and smothered in dark chocolate, and the equally luxurious Infiniment Vanille with Madagascan vanilla and soft almond. The nut also makes its way into a rose and raspberry cake, with litchi and rose fruit paste, which will pair well with the Ispahan tea from which this particular mooncake takes its name. Finally, the Vert Matcha & Yuzu is a rousing mix of bitter green tea and candied yuzu, decadently draped in white chocolate. Pierre Hermé, 13 Lowndes Street, London SW1 (020-7245 0317; pierreherme.com) and 38 Monmouth Street, London WC2 (020-7240 8653). Selfridges Foodhall, 400 Oxford Street, London W1 (020-7318 3908; selfridges.com).
Located on the 10th floor of Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel, Min Jiang has wall-length windows that offer panoramic views of Kensington Gardens and landmarks such as the London Eye, the Gherkin and the Shard. Its mooncakes (from £8) have been flown in from Singapore this year, and are about as traditional as they come, made with either lotus with melon-seed paste or white lotus with a double yolk. They landed in early September, so get to Min Jiang before they’re gone. Min Jiang, Royal Garden Hotel, 2-24 Kensington High Street, London W8 (020-7361 1988; minjiang.co.uk).
Over in Soho, Bun House’s interpretation of the mooncake is by turns traditional and experimental, reflecting the venue’s split personality: a traditional lotus-seed mooncake (£9.88) will be available from the upstairs restaurant, while the downstairs Tea Room – which recalls a 1960s Hong Kong cocktail den – will offer more experimental mini mooncakes (£5.80) filled with either matcha, purple yam or candied winter melon custard (and pairing brilliantly with the signature Baijiu cocktails). All are available until October 4, when the Tea Room will transform into a Mid-Autumn party spot serving two celebratory cocktails: a smooth taro and sesame number, and a punchier concoction combining pu’er tea and sorghum. Bun House, 24 Greek St, London W1 (020-8017 9888; bun.house).
Speciality mooncakes are something of a tradition at dim sum maestro Yauatcha, whose two locations in Soho and the City have been offering highly individual twists on the treat for years. This season will be no exception, with an extra-sweet and creamy egg-custard filling for a version built around more traditional, hearty egg flavours. Yauatcha City, Broadgate Circle, London EC2 (020-3817 9888; yauatcha.com/city). Yauatcha Soho, 15-17 Broadwick Street, London W1 (020-7494 8888; yauatcha.com/soho).