As Easter approaches, we meet the founder of Sweet Tooth Tours. Lynne Staartjes talks about Belgravia foodie hotspots, London’s sweetest street and celebrates all things chocolate. Our March interview is choc a block with tasty treats and some cracking ideas for Easter.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself?
A: I trained as a pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London and worked at Peggy Porschen Cakes in Belgravia and Pierre Hermé Paris. I am a New Yorker originally and live in Chelsea now. I spotted a gap in the market in July 2017 and launched Sweet Tooth Tours.
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three chocolates would you take with you?
A: Milk chocolate with caramelised hazelnuts as an indulgence. Snickers and Kit Kats are two of my favourite candy bars. And one more thing, an endless supply of chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and fudge or whipped cream.
Q: Where is London’s sweetest street?
A: Elizabeth Street is one of the sweetest spots on the tours. There is Peggy Porchen, Olivogelo ice creams, Poilâne Bakery and Baker & Spice, who sell delicious cinnamon buns. Even the perfume shops smell sweet on Elizabeth Street.
Q: Describe your dream home?
A: It would have a large kitchen with multiple ovens to make lots of goodies. There would be plenty of natural light and a bath tub with a ledge for chocolates. My dream home would be located on a garden square, a smaller quaint square in Belgravia. What colour would it be? It would be painted pastel pink, but this might not pass planning permission.
Q: What do you like about London?
A: I have lived in London for six years and love the diversity as well as the neighbourhood feeling. I don’t like the weather so much, though.
Q: Have you worked with any celebrities over the years?
A: I bumped into Heston Blumenthal about two week’s ago, who was in Neill Strain buying roses and eucalyptus. He joined the tour at Pierre Hermé Paris.
Q: If you could take a celebrity on one of your tours, who would it be?
A: It would be the royals. I would l love to meet the Queen. If not the Queen, then Meghan Markle. Other famous personalities would be the fabulous pastry chef, Cédric Grolet.
Q: If you could go back in time – which year would you choose and why?
A: Pastry has never been better, but the late 19th century/early 20th century would have been an interesting time in England. Sugar became affordable for the masses and sweet shops were opening across the country. The big British chocolate brands were also established around this time.
Q: Some people eat chocolate to boost their creativity. What type of chocolate helps boosts your creativity?
A: I take tasting chocolate very seriously. I would choose something that does not weigh you down too much. A chocolate macaron, a slice of chocolate cake or a pure origin chocolate. It would help me keep an open mind.
Q: What chocolates would your perfect house be made from?
A: The roof would be made of tablets of chocolate bars with caramelised hazelnuts or a macaron roof would be a lovely addition, particularly with beautiful bright colours with rounded edges. There would be a mosaic floor filled with champagne truffles. Oh, the windows would made of liquid chocolate with chocolate coming out of the shower and some chocolate wallpaper, too. The door would be covered with fruits, probably pineapples.
Q: Where do you take people on Sweet Tooth Tours?
A: Each tour has up to six guests, lasts approximately 2½ hours and includes tasting portions at several stops. Guests are accompanied around Belgravia on foot to discover its edible hidden gems. In addition to learning about the desserts tasted, the shops and their owners, the tour also incorporates the history and stories of the local area. There are exclusive opportunities to peek into the onsite kitchens and chat with many of the shop owners. Guests can choose the signature Belgravia tour, a gluten-free version or the “Sugar and Spice” tour which also incorporates savoury stops.
Q: Who are your favourite architects or interior designers?
A: I like Nina Campbell in Walton Street, Knightsbridge or Pullman Editions on Pimlico Road, who sell travel posters.
Q: What is the most important room in the house for you?
A: It would have to be the kitchen without a doubt. I love to bake.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to make their own Easter eggs?
A: First you need the right equipment: thermometer, an Easter egg mould and some chocolate (Callebaut or Valrhona – couverture). Then comes the tricky part, where you melt the chocolate. It is called tempering. Pour the tempered chocolate in the moulds. Let it cool at room temperature and tap it out of the mould very carefully.
A word of warning here: if you do not know what tempering is, then don’t attempt to make Easter eggs. Roll some chocolate in the shape of Easter eggs instead.
Q: And lastly Easter is nearly upon us. What Easter eggs would you recommend?
A: I would recommend eggs from Pierre Hermé Paris, one of the treats that was inspired by the artist François Pompon. Harrods always stocks a wide selection, too. Or try a beautiful hand-painted egg from Fortnum & Mason.