London's loveliest sweet shops
We all have complicated feelings around sugar. Good thing London's most fabulous sweet shops are a feast for the senses and an experience unto themselves. Tasting optional.
While we all have a complicated relationship to the s-word, sugar, there's mindlessly shoving candy in our mouths and there's enjoying a delectable sweet in an exciting, inspiring atmosphere - and there's a difference between the two.
According to figures from research insight company Kantar, UK confectionery sales have grown by 13%, reaching nearly £3.9 billion, over the past five years.
This has been fuelled in large part by the appeal of retro sweets; Love Hearts and lemon sherbets are being gobbled up by older generations as well as younger ones.
Retailers have responded to this demand for sweets with ever-more-exciting new flavour combinations, including cocktail-infused sweets for adults, as well as free-from vegan sweets without gelatine.
Confectionery spaces are also becoming more experiential: both Fortnum's and Selfridges have recently relaunched their confectionery spaces, with playful and sensory experiences to delight consumers of all ages.
Here are the sweet shops in London to check out for the experience as much as for the sweets themselves...
Selfridges Confectionery Hall
400 Oxford Street, London, W1A 1AB
Selfridges is the London destination to be these days: they've got a new bespoke fragrance lab popping up, secondhand e-tailer Vestiare Collective has opened up a permanent space and beloved NYC toy shop, FAO Schwarz, has just landed on the 4th floor (and it's a delight for kids and adults, plus includes the famed FAO Schweetz Pick and Mix train). To top it all off, Selfridges has completely revamped its confectionery department - and it's truly sweets heaven.
The new space features over 1,500 sweets and chocolates, including the largest vegan chocolate counter in the UK from Be Chocolat by Michel Clement and an interactive Flavour Funfair experience, where customers can push a button and win a treat.
There are also plenty of opportunities to try exciting new (and classic) flavour combinations, from Godiva's hand-dipped chocolate strawberries to Philippa Diggle's cheesy chocolate truffles - a world first. Come with an appetite.
London Spitalfields, 58 Wentworth Street, London, E1 7AL
This sweet spot in Spitalfields is known for its handmade colourful hard rock candy, swirly lollipops and delectable fudge, sweet popcorn, honeycomb and brittle. Pick up a present in the shop or order a bespoke candy treat online.
Or why not take it one step further and make your own? Spun Candy has a candy kitchen where you can learn to make lollipops, candy flowers, fudge and more. This may be the best destination for hen dos and kids' birthday parties yet.
Fortnum & Mason Confectionery Department
181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
Everyone's favourite afternoon tea spot has recently unveiled a new sweets department makeover, a chocolate wonderland with over 500 varieties of chocolate that pushes the boundaries in terms of innovation and flavour - Kent Orchard Honey, Oud Caramel, Yuzu and Ancho Chilli, Knickerbocker Glory... to name a few.
The experience isn't just about the taste, however: it's a sensory paradise for kids and their parents. Hot chocolate pours from the tap, aroma jars delight the olfactory senses and a live chocolatier station lets you see some of the magic in action. Plus there's nothing like a chocolate that's made with the best ingredients. using traditional techniques and exceptional-quality chocolate.
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies
159 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6PJ
We love everything that Hoxton Street Monster Supplies stands for: the secret literary charity, Ministry of Stories, hidden behind the sweets shop, the imaginative world that beckons once you enter, and the magical things that can happen once you immerse yourself in this world of monsters.
While you're browsing for sweets - Cubed Earwax, Brain Food, Petrified Mice, Tinned Fear - suitable for humans and monstrous alike (you'll actually be buying fudge, strawberry truffles, candied mice and boiled sweets), the kids can pen a letter to their favourite monster, and get a reply back.
OK, OK, so this isn't one for the kids, and they don't have a permanent physical space in London, but we still had to include London-based cocktail confectionery innovators, Smith & Sinclair, who are the go-to destination for boozy sweets like Hibiscus Negronis and Amaretto Sours. In candy form.
The gummy confections have a 7% ABV (equivalent to ½ shot of alcohol in each) and are shaken and stirred just like your favourite drinkable cocktails, using fresh fruit, herbs, premium spirits and syrups, then coated with garnish-infused sugars.
From edible fragrance to cocktail glitter dust to gin and prosecco candy kits, there really is something to appeal to everyone. Look out for them at London pop-ups.
Ariel Way, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7GF
Next time you're checking out KidZania at Westfield, be sure to pop into Zorba Sweets for your pick-and-mix fix: helpfully, the candies are divided up into Halal, vegan and vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections.
You'll find all of your favourite retro treats: flying saucers, Walnut Whips, fudge, gummies... the list goes on and on. A swift stopover here might just give you the energy boost you need before heading to that next kids' toy store.
1 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5JD
This colourful Covent Garden sweets shop is a favourite for gummies (including booze-infused cocktail gummies), chocs, candy jars and lollies. You'll also find plenty of vegan sweets, edible jewellery and an impressive pick-and-mix range with candies in every flavour and texture, from all across Europe.