Today I want to tell you about Gail’s Garden Party. When I first moved to Hampstead I spent a while working my way through all of the local bakeries, tea houses, and coffee shops trying to find the best one.

Gail's Garden Party in Hampstead

Cafes in Hampstead

The quality and atmosphere varied widely. There was the old-but-well-loved Coffee Cup and the uber-pink, cupcake-filled Tea Cup (yes, the names are very creative).

There was the hyper-corporate Starbucks and its English counterpart, Cafe Nero. And there was the seemingly-never-open Chaiwalla, among others.

I sampled the food and tea at each one, and although there were a few other decent places, the undisputed winner was Gail’s.

With fresh pastries, cakes, and sandwiches lining the front window in an ever-changing array of scrumptiousness, Gail’s won my heart (both literally and figuratively).

With its amazing scones and muffins, great local Hampstead teas, and the friendliest service in all of London, I fell in love.

Needless to say, I’ve become quite a regular.

Loaves of Gail's Bread and Apples at Gail's Garden Party in Hampstead

Gail’s Garden Party

And so I was delighted to find out that Gail’s was hosting the annual Gail’s Garden Party on Saturday. I was even more delighted that I would actually be in town to enjoy the festivities.

My boyfriend and I woke up late and wandered over to the party around 11 to pick up some breakfast. We bought our pastries from Gail’s outdoor table, where the manager–who now knows me–said hello.

Gail's Bread

Breakfast in hand, we walked along Oriel Place, checking out the food vendors at Gail’s Garden Party along the way. There were sausages galore, a wine tasting table, and several cheese stands.

Encouraged by the mellow sitar music, we floated past the tables, moving into the beautiful garden tucked behind the buildings.

The flagstone walks were full of Gail’s Garden Party booths brimming with every kind of food, meat, and sauce imaginable. Even the old antiques dealer from down the road had a table full of trinkets for sale.

Cheese at a Market in London

We circled the garden, swept past stalls selling sweet-smelling empanadas, fresh goat’s cheese, and dry sausages, and continued our way up the lane.

Slowly we strolled past a spice vendor selling concoctions as far ranging as Mexican guacamole spice and garam masala, then let our noses lead us on to the German bratwurst at the next table.

Spices in Yellow Tins

Wandering through the smoky air, we came across Gail’s second table, which was full of every kind of bread from Russian Rye to my personal favorite, Walnut Campagne.

At the end of the lane we found ourselves in a quandary. Having just eaten our pastries, we weren’t hungry. And yet we wanted so much to try all of the other delicious food at Gail’s Garden Party.

We went to a nearby cafe to sit in the gorgeous autumn sunshine and mull our options over a cup of tea. Eventually we solved our problem by taking a long walk through Hampstead Heath and Golders Hill Park to work up an appetite.

Jars of Pickled Foods

Hungry again, we made our way back to the market in the late afternoon and feasted on Argentine beef empanadas with tasty olives and German bratwurst with fresh sauerkraut.

We also sampled assorted nibbles of cheese, olive oil-soaked bread, and duck liver pate.

We would have returned for dinner, but the market closed at 5pm and we didn’t have time to work up an appetite for another round of food.

We’ll just have to wait until Gail’s Garden Party next year. In the meantime, my weekly Gail’s fix will have to hold me over.

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