Taipei is one of the few places in Asia other than Tokyo and Hong Kong where you can find a few genuinely good patisseries. Sweet as Hope, opened by Chef Robert Hope, the former Head pastry chef at Savoy and Executive pastry chef in Futian Shangri-la, is definitely one of the best among the competitive Taipei patisseries.
I visited Sweet as Hope immediately after landing with an empty stomach expecting a rather sweet lunch. In fact, the lunch consisted of only sweets, but one has to keep the pretence when travelling with CM, who clearly lacks the imagination to eat just sweets for lunch. To ensure that I would miss nothing, I pre-ordered Scottish Trifle and Whole Candied Lemon, both signature desserts of Chef Hope.
A freshly baked cinnamon roll marked the beginning of my noontime-feast of sweets. Compared to the one I had at Nordic Bakery in London that was sinfully rich in flavour, Chef Hope’s version was lighter but no less pleasant. The edge of the roll was crispy as chips and the centre was soft as marshmallow. Chef Hope’s roll was definitely better baked.
As that was CM’s birthday, I ordered the strawberry almond cake for him (a prelude of my Victorian sponge for him when we were back to HK). He claimed that the cake was the best he had since our honeymoon trip. Apparently the cakes in HK could not satisfy him. The almond cake was moist and dense, with an optimum degree of sweetness to complement the strawberry without overshadowing it. He was glad that he agreed to skip the lunch to have all these desserts with me – see, always listen to your wife!
The Scottish Trifle was my favourite. It contained several layers: chocolate, whisky-infused custard cream, hazelnut custard, fresh raspberry, jam and sponge cake soaked with whisky. The chocolate layer became even creamier when you eat it with the super-moist sponge cake. The richness of the chocolate and whisky complemented with each other while the lightness of custard cream and the sourness of raspberry both gave a healthy dose of balance. I put the spoon deep down into the bottom to get all layers in a bite - what a complex mixture of taste and texture! Each layer may be ordinary when alone, but together they made a complex and sophisticated experience. I would definitely come back for this dessert.
Apart from the Scottish trifle, the Whole Candied Lemon was another signature dish that has to be pre-ordered. The lemon was hollowed and candied with syrup – the process alone consumes the better half of an hour even for masters like Chef Hope. He then filled it in with lemon custard and grapefruit. One could hardly forget the glorious moment when it was sliced open with lemon curd oozing out. The lemon skin was very aromatic but the custard was a bit less sour and lemony than I expected.
While we were still enjoying our desserts, the lady owner asked us if we wanted to try their soufflé. It must be pre-ordered and ordered for 2 portions minimum. We were lucky to share it with another customer. The soufflé was fresh from the oven behind us. Its golden crust reminded me of what I had at The Ledbury in London. This one was less sweet and a bit floury. Speaking of texture, the one at the Ledbury was better, but the one here was also excellent.
I keep only a short “must-visit” list for Taipei, most items on it are cafes. Sweet as Hope is one of the few patisseries that is on my list. Perhaps I should consider taking Chef Hope’s class when I visited Taipei next time!
Sweet as Hope Bakery