Bread is a staple food around the world and evidence shows that humans were processing and eating wild grains 23,000 years ago. In recent decades, mass-produced bread has resulted in low-quality loaves for consumers in many countries, but in the UK a new generation of artisan bakers is determined to reinstate bread as it used to be made. Visitors to London have a wide range of outstanding bakeries to choose from, where the focus is on top-class ingredients – sometimes organic – and traditional methods such as the use of sourdough and stone ovens. Some of these small-scale bakeries also have a café area where visitors can sit and enjoy freshly made bread, rolls and pastries in a welcoming atmosphere.
Former environmental consultant Ben Mackinnon set up E5 Bakehouse, tucked away under the railway arches in London Fields, as a place which focuses on making organic bread using UK ingredients: in fact, the emphasis on being local is so strong that the flour is milled in the arch next door. Spelt, multigrain and rye breads are all made here, and the bestselling loaf is the Hackney Wild, made with a blend of heritage and modern wheat grains. Take time to enjoy the baked delights in E5 Bakehouse’s café, including filled baguettes, toast and open sandwiches, where the smell of freshly baked bread adds to the relaxed atmosphere.
E5 Bakehouse, Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace, London E8 3PH, +44 (0)20 8986 9600
Following on from his successful French-inspired brasserie and bakery in Manhattan, British restaurateur Keith McNally opened Balthazar London in 2013 comprising a café and next-door boulangerie. Located a stone’s throw from Covent Garden, Balthazar Boulangerie serves excellent French pastries and small cakes made on the premises, as well as rustic breads including sourdough, rye, spelt walnut and sultana varieties, which are handmade at the company’s workshop in Waterloo. The décor is elegant and chic, with an old-world feel and a beautiful tiled floor. The small space accommodates some bar stools where customers can sit and enjoy a hot or cold drink, sandwiches and pastries.
Balthazar Boulangerie, 4-6 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HZ, +44 (0)20 3301 1155
St John Bakery
Part of the acclaimed St John restaurant group, this bakery is only open to the public at the weekend. The key element to St John breads is time: the slow fermentation process means that the dough is proved for 40 hours so that that each loaf is packed with flavour; it also results in bread which has a long shelf life and keeps moist for several days. The offer includes brown, white and 100% rye sourdoughs; white, brown and light rye loaves; raisin loaves and soda bread. Be sure to pick up some doughnuts while you’re here. St John Bakery is located behind Maltby Street market, just a short walking distance from London Bridge station.
St John Bakery, 72 Druid Street, London SE1 2HQ, +44 (0)20 7251 0848
Originally opened in Stockholm, Swedish bakery Fabrique established its first bakery outside of its home country in Hoxton in 2012. Sourdough bread, including Nordic rye loaves, are made here using traditional methods and baked in a stone oven, and the open space allows visitors to see the bakers in action. Sandwiches are a favourite among locals visiting Fabrique’s café and pastries are also available: we recommend trying a cinnamon and cardamom bun. The concept is so popular that branches have also opened in Covent Garden and Notting Hill.
Fabrique, Arch 385, Geffrye Street, London E2 8HZ, +44 (0)20 7033 0268