We could tell you that flowers are for life and not just for the Chelsea Flower Show. We could even point out that blooms of every hue have been used in cooking around the world for centuries. But really, what we want you to do is to release your inner hippie, put on your best flowery shirt/skirt, grab a floral cocktail from the nearest bar, and sit back and imagine just how gorgeous these blossom-strewn dishes look. And then we want you to go out and try a few. We can’t promise they’ll count towards your five a day, but they’ll brighten up your week no end.
Did you know you could eat tulips? Club Gascon chef Pascal Aussignac’s green tulip primavera with truffle vinaigrette (£14) is one of London’s most iconic restaurant dishes. Here’s a recipe if you fancy having a go yourself. The lightly scented flowers have an earthy, rich, peppery, herbaceous flavour, and crunchy texture. The restaurant uses these bulbous perennials and other blooms abundantly, including pickled sunflower in a dish of venison carpaccio with winkles and salted cod (£15.50).
Pastry chef Ji Sun Shin uses these heavily perfumed, delicate blossoms to garnish elderflower rice pudding served in shot glasses, along with wild primroses, borage flowers and pansies. The flowers have an enchanting taste that’s the essence of summer. The pudding is part of the Chelsea Flower Show afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel. Including cakes and pastries, it costs £32.50 per person and is available until 25 May.
They like hibiscus flowers so much that they named the restaurant after them. Well, presumably. Chef Claude Bosi adds these tangy blooms to a cardamom-scented dish of line-caught mackerel, Yorkshire rhubarb and cucumber. The item is available as part of the restaurant’s variously-priced tasting menus. A few years ago, hibiscus suddenly started appearing in everything from shortbread to risotto — the sun-dried tomato of the flower world, if you will, but much more beautiful.
Hibiscus doesn’t just give favourable treatment to its namesake flower, oh no. These multi-coloured perennials prettify Devonshire crab, granny smith apple and smoked haddock consommé, also on their variously-priced tasting menus.
Never heard of them? Us neither. Referring to them on the menu as ‘heavenly flowers’, House of Ho gives a rare opportunity in London to try these intriguing, fragrant green buds that are native to China. Used in seasonal South East Asian dishes, here they’re stir-fried in a hot wok with oyster sauce until crispy, in a side dish that costs £4.
Better known as gardenia, these fragrant, sweet-tasting blossoms are used in a milk chocolate cake (£29.75), available in the Peyton & Byrne bakery and café at St Pancras International — probably because the flower is also known as ‘transport of joy’. Selling until 24 May, this chocoholics’ dream is made by sandwiching jasmine petal-flavoured milk chocolate mousse between two dark chocolate sponges covered with chocolate ganache. Rail journeys suddenly became more interesting.
The flavour of these beautiful perfumed flowers varies according to variety, ranging from sweet to peppery and astringent. Renowned baker and cake artist Lily Vanilli, whose Sunday-only bakery sells several stunning cakes with fresh flower flavours and garnishes, uses freeze-dried red rose petals in her raspberry and chocolate cake. And whole pink roses are used in blackberry and coconut cake. To seduce your senses with more floral delights, follow Lily on Instagram.
Fresh blooms are infused in rose ice cream at Manicomio Chelsea, available as part of their ‘Chelsea in Bloom’ menu (£24.50 for 2 courses / £28.50 for 3 courses). This frozen dessert accompanies English strawberries, prosecco jelly and honeycomb, and the menu is available 20 -24 May. La Porte des Indes serves a number of rosy desserts, too, such as rose petal confit jam phirnee (ground rice pudding) and lychee and rose pannacotta, made from dried petals and flower extract.
A popular choice on dessert menus everywhere, then, roses are also found in milk pudding with poached rhubarb (£7) at Polpetto. Chef Florence Knight told us she uses chervil, thyme, cuckoo, gorse and other types of flowers seasonally, as an essential part of her countryside-inspired cooking and not as a gimmick.
If roses are red, violets are… well, violet and not blue — but who cares about hue when dinner’s due? Chef Jesse Dunford Wood of Parlour in Kensal Rise scatters these sweet-tasting flora, along with marigolds, bean blossoms and borage flowers, over raw vegetable ravioli with goats cheese. Paper thin slices of red and golden beetroot, kohlrabi and swede, marinated in white wine vinegar and doused in sweet and sour cranberry and raisin dressing, are served with whipped goats cheese and hazelnuts. The dish costs £7 for a small portion and £13.50 for large.
Related to violets — and not only because the first four letters of both words are the same — these pretty little flowers taste a bit like mustard. Discussing the finer points of taste differences between violets and violas with a chef has certainly been one of the more surreal aspects of this job. Blue ones make an appearance in datterini tomato, edamame and seaweed salad with white soya dressing (£9.50) on glamorous Modern Japanese restaurant Aqua Kyoto's regular menu.
Related to both violas and violets, pansies taste mild, sweet and sharp. They’re scattered over a pizza of goats cheese at the aptly-named Goat, a New York-style Italian restaurant in Chelsea. Cooked in a wood-fired oven and topped with own-made tomato sauce, this fabulous dish also features sliced courgettes, rocket and mozzarella. It costs £11, and is available until the end of May.
Along with our old friends violets and pansies, these yellow and orange flowers are added to the Honky Royal flower salad at the American restaurant and bar Honky Tonk Chelsea. Costing £11.45 and available 20-24 May, this healthy plate also contains pea shoot cress, radishes, lambs lettuce leaves, boiled eggs, roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh peas, and is dressed in a balsamic reduction. The flowers give the salad a mixture of sweet, sharp and peppery flavours.
These fragile pink and white flowers look so pretty… until they start littering the pavements. Just as well there are no pavements at the stunning fairy tale-like ‘secret garden’ cherry blossom pop-up at Sake no Hana. The event celebrates the arrival of spring and the Japanese cherry blossom season ‘sakura’. The short season is traditionally celebrated with ‘hanami’ blossom-viewing parties.
Here you can enjoy a lunch of cherry blossom-strewn bento box (£28) containing miso soup, salad, chicken and sushi. Additionally, cherry blossom tea ice cream accompanies a cherry-chocolate dessert of fresh cherries, almonds, nashi pear and ginger (£8), garnished with more blossoms. Vanilla macarons with cherry blossom tea ganache are also available (£1.60 each / £7 for five). But hurry, the season is fading fast, and the pop-up is only popping up until 19 May.
Butterfly Pea Flower
Used in Thai food, the Roman name of these bright blue and purple flowers translates as ‘genus clitoris’, as they’re said to resemble the female genitals — so let’s stick to the pretty English name, shall we? The extract of blue butterfly pea is mixed with lime juice and rice flour to make dough for chor muang dumplings, which are filled with shrimp, pork or chicken; then a special brass tong is used to create a flower shape with dimpled petals. These steamed morsels are topped with fried garlic, red chilli and coriander leaves, and served as part of Blue Elephant's Sunday lunch and special menus.
Who hasn’t sat on the Spanish Steps biting into a pizza bianca strewn with courgette flowers? (You haven’t? Then book a flight to Rome pronto.) Also known as zucchini blossoms, these Chinese lantern-shaped yellow flowers have a sweet, delicate taste of the squash they’re attached to. They’re used in Italian and Spanish cuisines, and can be found in several London restaurants and tapas bars. Steamed courgette flowers accompany crab and ginger bisque, ‘crab cocktail’ and crab bon-bon in the Chelsea Flower Show menu at Harvey Nichols's Fifth Floor restaurant. Well, that’s enough ‘c’s in a dish. Three courses with a floral cocktail costs £38.50, available until the end of May.
Plump, purple-maroon blossoms of the banana tree are widely used in south Indian and South East Asian cuisines (and available in several Asian greengrocers). At the House of Ho you’ll find them in a salad with duck (£7). At Indian Zilla and its sister restaurant Indian Zing, chef Manoj Vasaikar uses them in a kofta (dumpling) with colocasia leaves, cooked in a mild curry with pumpkin, bottle gourd and fresh herbs and spices (£11.50).
Banana blossoms are also found in two dishes at La Porte des Indes. Mixed with chickpea flour, red onions and crushed caraway seeds, banana blossom beignets are served with tamarind sauce, and available as part of their Sunday jazz brunch or special seasonal menus. The other dish is Salade du Metis, a speciality from Pondicherry, in which they’re mixed with green leaves, mushrooms and chicken, and dressed in tamarind juice and roasted garlic flakes.
So have you come across any more flower power in London’s restaurants, delis or bakeries? Say it with flowers in the comment section below.
Images have been kindly provided by the restaurants.