Belgravia's Elizabeth Street, a few minutes east of Sloane Square, smacks of a Richard Curtis film. The store window of a perfumery is framed with pink flowers; elegant dresses in elegant boutiques are arranged in elegant displays. Everything is neat, everything is beautiful.
But all pales in comparison to the pastel candy box that is Peggy Porschen. Even for those who remain unexcited about the various hues of rose, this is not a place you can ignore. Three small steps precede the entrance, which is framed by a heart-shaped wreath of little pink flowers and a string of lights; above it is an elegant cursive logo. The windows show big pending hearts covered with decorative flowers, while dainty white tray tables sit out front. Unending groups of Peggy Porschen disciples wait their turn for a picture at the front door. Many, it's fair to say, are girls looking to update their Instagram profile. Some even wear pink clothes — a statement of their devotion to this rose-tinted altar.
My friend and I spot a gaggle of 10 or so, waiting for tables — all taken by couples and cliques enjoying afternoon tea and cupcakes (it's a chilly January afternoon). A sign — an elegant sign, naturally — politely requests people wait to be seated.
Since 2010, this bakery-boutique — founded by the eponymous cake designer — has made sugar-loving Londoners weak at the knees. But, with 200k followers on Instagram, how much of it is about the aesthetics, rather than having a nice slice of cake and a cup of tea?
We get in line, squinting to see through the side windows. Waitresses in pink shirts shuttle back and forth, carrying trays loaded with red velvet cupcakes, and wedges of 'fluttering hearts' strawberry and champagne drip cake (almost £8 a slice), all presented on pink plates. A waitress explains to one table of girls, how a competition in 2017 inspired Peggy Porschen to festoon itself with decorations. They decided to keep them, switching them up for dates like Halloween and Valentine's Day (imagine trying to book for this place for 14 February). The group receives their trays laden with cute treats and immediately start to take pictures of each other holding their cups. Even the hot drinks are topped off with decorative chocolate powder designs. Every last detail is designed to sate the eyes.
We're almost at the end of the queue now, and get talking to a couple of instagrammers, who report on the best eats in London and Hong Kong. I ask them how they've found out about the place; they laugh: "on Instagram!". Time for us to venture inside.
The interior of Peggy Porschen is as small as it is a sugar-coated fairy tale: on the shelves sit books of Peggy Porschen recipes, packages of white and pink meringues, candies and other sweet treats. At the counter, customers drool over the goodies, pondering which to buy.
A cosy Christmas scene at the one and only @peggyporschenofficial. Hope you are all having a relaxing weekend! I’m coming down from a major sugar high after the most delicious and beautiful afternoon tea at @theconnaught. More on my stories, including a cream/jam first poll, which has shocked me to my very core (AM I DOING IT WRONG??) . . . #prettycitylondon #prettylittlelondon #pastels #prettiestpastels #sweetescapes #theeverygirlholiday #abmholidayspirit #averyprettycitylondonchristmas #caffeinecouture #theshopkeepers #dspink #abmlifeiscolorful #intentionallife #christmasinlondon #thisislondon #londoncityworld #verytandc #AdventureWithRD #ggholiday
Next to our table, two girls have almost finished their orders. They explain they discovered the place on... Instagram (!), and because one of them has just scored a good grade at university, they're here to celebrate. Another two girls are getting their last snaps in, before leaving. They are tourists: "we saw it on Instagram and we really liked the concept of the place".
A few pictures, a cup of tea and for my friend and I, and we're all pinked out. While paying, I ask our waitress about the sort of people who come here. Most of the clients are tourists and instagrammers, she explains. "Sometimes they get straight into the toilet to get changed and then do actual shooting sessions!" We can't imagine that happening in a Greggs.
Be in no doubt, the tea and cake at Peggy Porschen is good. But this is the cafe that Instagram built, and the eye candy is just as important as the taste of the treats themselves.
By Beatrice Guzzardi