Israeli bakery chain Roladin recently opened a gourmet doughnut shop in the heart of London’s tourist district, offering the eatery’s famous luxury Hanukkah doughnuts outside Israel for the first time.
The chain selected the best-performing “concept” doughnuts over their years of seasonal availability in Israel and added a few new ones to offer in the new London shop all year long — and not just during the Jewish holiday.
Roladin’s creative doughnuts, designed with special fillings, glazes, and finishes (including gold leaf), have always been launched with a certain amount of fanfare in Israel in the weeks before Hanukkah, a winter holiday when Jewish people traditionally eat doughnuts, latkes, and other deep-fried treats.
Roladin’s doughnuts typically attract long lines and disappear as soon as the holiday ends.
Roladin co-founder Kobi Hakak said that the opening of the London shop, under the name “Donutelier by Roladin,” was the realization of a long-term dream for the bakery company he founded with his brother, based on their mother’s handwritten doughnut recipes and their own love of baking.
The company opened its first shop in the central town of Ramat Hasharon in 1989 and now operates close to 100 stores across Israel. The chain also opened a kiosk in a mall in The Netherlands.
Hakak told The Times of Israel that Roladin has always wanted to make the chain and its doughnuts, cakes, and pastries accessible to large audiences. “Our motto is baking happiness. This allows us to take it to another level,” he said.
And the push to open a store in the British capital came from a London-based Israeli businessman in the food and beverage field who visited Israel during Hanukkah in recent years. Arik Waiss, the Israeli entrepreneur who is working with Roladin on the London venture, said, “I came to Israel at Hanukkah time and saw the sufganiyot [doughnut] fever.
“I thought there was potential to offer these doughnuts as a high-fashion item,” said Waiss, who approached Roladin with the idea.
Their partnership was born just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the London launch was delayed. Last year premises were sourced on Charing Cross Road, close to London’s Leicester Square and Covent Garden districts, and Israeli designer Alona Eliyasi was commissioned to create a space that would reflect Roladin’s indulgent and luxurious brand and the doughnuts’ visual appeal.
The finished Donutelier shop features a chandelier designed to look like bags of cream, a dedicated Instagram corner, doughnut recipes printed large, and — in the basement — a fully operational bakery that makes the doughnuts and sends them upstairs to be decorated in public view.
To ensure Donutelier stayed true to its Israeli origins, Roladin pastry chefs were dispatched to spend time training UK staff. The London shop now offers 12 different varieties, selected from Israel’s annual Roladin doughnut menu over the years. New varieties will be introduced every month or so, alongside doughnuts developed for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day.
Flavors currently include pistachio and raspberry, peanut caramel, a St-Honore-inspired doughnut, and the Pink Royal — a wildberry cream doughnut with strawberry meringues, dried raspberries, and a raspberry chantilly cream.
The doughnuts are served up in gift boxes for between £4 and £6 each (NIS 17 to 25).
The London shop welcomes hundreds of customers every day, the company says, with even bigger crowds on weekends. On Instagram, Donutelier by Roladin published doughnut content to over 12,000 followers.
“People love us and they love the doughnuts. The store is already a destination and I have people from all around the world asking about the possibility of opening further Donutelier stores,” Hakak said.
London has seen an increasing number of dessert-only stores popping up in recent years, a trend imported from Asia and popular with both tourists and locals. The city as a whole has continued to grow as a foodie destination, attracting a large number of Israeli chefs and restaurants.
Waiss said the doughnuts Donutelier sells are “some of the most innovative and luxurious doughnuts the world has ever seen” and the response from customers so far seems to suggest that they feel they are worth the calories.
But there are no plans to introduce Donutelier to Israeli consumers: “Our doughnuts are famous across Israel, and people eat them like crazy over Hanukkah, and then that is it,” Hakak said.
Waiss and Hakak are already looking for another London location, and hope to open a second Donutelier location within the next six months. A branch in Amsterdam is likely to follow and based on the initial enthusiasm for the concept being maintained, there are hopes that Roladin’s doughnut showcase can expand across Europe in the years ahead.
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