I am not ignorant of the baked goods on offer at London’s cornucopia of bakeries, but as far as the many chains – both great and small – go, I remain mostly unmoved. I would say however that several branches (and yes they can vary a little from branch to branch) of Le Pain Quotidien, do decent baguettes. They are my go to when I want this french type of bread. I also find their seeded, walnut and rye loaves acceptable.
Poilane’s various loaves are stocked at most branches of Waitrose and I do love their country loaf, their rye bread and their walnut breads. Still, there are times when I sense that those loaves have been sitting on the shelves at the supermarket for a tad too long…. and the whole point of yummy bread is that it should be fresh. If you pop into Poilane’s Elizabeth street (or any other) branch, be sure to buy some of their delicious little biscuits (punitions) and an apple tart which is to die for. But I digress….
Again, if you’re at a supermarket and in need of a loaf, I’d recommend Dr. Vogel’s breads as they do not contain any indigestible additives. I’m also a fan of the Food Doctor’s seeded pittas which are tasty, well priced and more nutritious than most pitta.
The discerning shopper has been on holiday. I apologise for the lull in my activities, but I have not been idle. I will soon be updating the blog with tips and images from Buenos Aires and beyond.
This first real post back is about that most essential of foods: bread. I’m not going to advocate particular kinds of bread over others; rather I am going to write about breads that are exemplars of their kind.
In terms of principles, I favour breads that contain only the simplest of ingredients, and are generally transparent about what’s gone into their making.
I’ve recently had the wonderful experience of Abu Noor pitta bread (white and brown) freshly baked, while in Bristol. It is fantastic and I thoroughly recommend it, if you can get your hands on it. Fluffy as if home baked and delicious. Bristol is also home to the famous Bertinet Bakery, and their white loaf really is the perfect example of honest English bread.
In London, I am very happy with my recent encounter with the somewhat expensive but very very good Fabrique bakery, in Hoxton. I suggest going early on a weekday to dodge the hipsters. My favourites are the rye and cranberry black bread and their toast shaped loaves of rye bread which are both truly outstanding. I’m going to commit an East London heresy and say that their bread is far more delicious than those I have sampled at the very respectable E5 bakehouse in London fields. Apparently they supply bread to Fortnum’s so I’m not alone. Fabrique’s croissants are also delicious if not entirely authentic….
Here are some more pictures to illustrate my point.
I’ve just returned from a week at Cannes, and must recommend the wonderful traiteur and boulanger Belliard at 1 rue Chabaud – just off rue d’Antibes (a stone’s throw and a far cry from the Croisette) – for their impeccable croissants. They also do a decent lunch at 11 euros.
Blood oranges, bergamot lemons and your more humble varieties: we are generally happy with our deliveries from riverford.co.uk – I would not say the same of their veg boxes which sometimes feel punishingly full of unappetising cabbages. We’ve also been underwhelmed by their clementines.
All the supermarket chains are hit and miss when it comes to citrus fruit. A good batch can be followed by a disappointing one in the space of days. I’d always suggest that you ignore the packaging and pay attention to the variety as well as the supplier and farmer behind the fruit you buy. This information can generally be found near the barcode, and once you find a batch that you enjoy, make a mental note of that supplier in anticipation of your next trip to the supermarket.
Alternatively, it might be worth developing a good relationship with your local grocer, if you have one. Zena on Moscow Road (now sadly closed) used to keep Sicilian blood oranges for me because I had an open dialogue with them about this winter highlight.
I’d like to remind you that citrus fruit is at its best in European winter, and that (November to February) is the time to enjoy it at its best if you live in London. Of course it is available out of season as well, but you can’t expect the same standards and sap from jet-lagged fruit.
If you live in the United States, or have family and friends there, I find that Harry and David’s wonderful boxes of navel oranges make a marvellous gift or selfish treats.
Shall I write a hymn to Postcard Teas?
I would if I had a poetic bone in my body.
Instead I’ll just say that this calm little shop on Dering Street is a delight. And as long as I can afford it, I will devote myself to their Earl Grey and Bold Breakfast teas.
I’m not a snob about greasy spoon tea or PG Tips, but this is a different drink altogether and puts me in mind of how precious a commodity tea was in earlier times. And reassuringly enough, you can make a very satisfying cuppa from certain of the brews available here.
They also have a wonderful selection of accessories and green teas etc. I’ve never been a fan of green tea… But maybe one day, I’ll branch out.
The owner and staff are thoughtful and helpful too.