Pizza place turns patisserie on Stoke Newington’s Church Street.
La Duchesse café takes over what used to be a small Italian pizza place in Stokey and
it has had a little facelift to fit in with this colourful end of Church Street. It now has a
bold yellow header and a diddy wheat grain logo, which just about helps it stand out from
the kebab shops and newsagents that cluster here. Floor-to-ceiling windows sit at the
shop front and a spread of cakes and pastries are tempting eye candy on the countertop.
A combination of white and exposed brick walls, as well as mounted wicker baskets
and beaten books on shelves give a rustic country feel to the décor, although this seems
incongruous with modern light fittings, a deli counter and laminate wooden floorboards.
A couple of alcoves hide antique armchair seats towards the rear of this narrow room
away from the action at the café counter.
There’s no more buzz about La Duchesse than in the many other cafes that litter everpopular Church Street. In fact, it can be a little quiet at peak morning and weekend
brunch times since many still associate the venue with its pizza-serving days. But those
tempting pastries and cakes in the window do catch the eye of passers-by, and some stop
off for a coffee on the go as well as dropping by for a more leisurely bite. Staff make
every effort to impress new customers, but it can seem a little forced, even smarmy, at
times. Especially when they forget to warn you that they don’t take card and will hold a
member of your party ‘as hostage’ while you adventure across the road to take cash out.
It’s all light-hearted, you’ll hope.
Those alluring cakes cost just £2.90 and are the highlight at La Duchesse – the carrot
cake is moist and covered in a creamy butter icing. Fresh fruit tarts at £3.50 have the
traditional glaze and look every bit as professional as you could hope them to. And the
lemon meringue tarts are a visual triumph, showing off their bronzed peaks in the cake
display case or high and mighty on the counter. All butter croissants (£1.80) are a little
lardy and a can be hard from sitting out on display too long, though. The café has also
ventured into breakfast territory and the patisserie does sweet options like French toast
with honey and whipped cream (£4.80) well, while options veering towards the English
breakfast side of things are a little less accomplished. Omelette and salad (£5.80) is an
unadventurous offering and although it tastes fine, you may be hoping for a little more
ingenuity. Having said that, portions are generous and prices are keen for the area, best
witnessed in the continental breakfast, which costs just £6.60 and includes a croissant,
ham, emmantal cheese, fruit salad and fruit juice.
The coffee is acceptable at La Duchesse, but it won’t be anything to write home
about and can occasionally taste unpalatably bitter. An americano costs £1.80 while a
cappuccino is just £1.90. Smoothies add a bit more variety to proceedings and include an
uplifting Merry Berry (£3) or Blue Melon with a juicy combination of melon, grape and
The Last Word
La Duchesse does a good trade in pretty pastries and tasty cakes and fills a gap in the
market for them at this end of Church Street. But it needs to up its game in the brunch
stakes and could do with brushing up on the barista skills pretty swiftly.