Words: Mallory Legg
The holiday season is upon us. To me, this means warm drinks, Sunday roasts, and bread… lots and lots of bread. I don’t think I'm alone in this either; who wouldn’t want to combat a dark and rainy English winter with a warm croissant, a gooey bun, or a fresh cut of sourdough? There is comfort in carbs; if you’re in denial of this little pleasure that life offers us, look away because we’re talking bakeries. What qualifies a good bakery, you might ask? My criteria are this: warm lighting that illuminates clutter, clutter of things, sure, but also clutter of pastries and bread packed on high in the display. I want a hole-in-the-wall vibe: unpretentious, friendly, and inviting, with an ever-evolving menu that changes with the seasons. But give me a perfect bite, a warm bite that ignites a fire in your belly, the bite that makes all those criteria disappear. Is this so much to ask?
Luckily for you, we are on hand to wrap up the best London bakeries that you have to visit this Christmas.
Photo: Bread Ahead
If you read my article on Borough Market, you'll know I'm incredibly partial to Bread Ahead. Perhaps I shouldn’t waste words to highlight something I've already gushed over, but I simply must do it again, perhaps just in a few words. Bread Ahead has a lot to offer when it comes to baked goods. It is the undeniable first choice of the borough market crowd and has never failed me on a loaf, a pastry, or a pizza slice. And given its positioning in Borough Market, it is the perfect holiday bakery stop as you traverse through the alleys of Borough. To this bread lover, it is among the best of the best and simply can’t be left out of the discussion.
Photo: Fabrique Bakery
Here are a few things that scream cosy: baked goods, stone ovens, and romance. Fabrique Bakery somehow has all three. David and Charlotta Zetterström fell in love while working part-time at a bakery and, later, worked together to open a bakery of their own in Stockholm that specialized in sourdough bread. Within months, new flagships of their bakery, including eventually 6 London locations, would open where they would maintain their ethos of using only the best ingredients to make baked goods in stone ovens. I would recommend any of the specialty sweet buns that might be on display, as well as the making of a hallmark movie to immortalize the founding couple.
Photo: Toad Bakery
Here's an example of the seasonal bakery. Toad, with its always-changing menu rotating around their classic stock of croissants and cinnamon buns, is a stop to behold for a warm, sweet (or savoury) treat on this particularly grey holiday season. Don't walk. Run to Camberwell; maybe you’ll score a butter braised leeks, stilton, and chestnut croissant before they're all gone. Or perhaps there will have been something even better brought to shelves at Toad by then.
Photo: Another Pantry
Layla, in Ladbroke Grove, was my neighbourhood bakery for quite some time. That is the best part about it. It is a true neighbourhood bakery. They use wild grains and work with ancient traditions to make handmade loaves of bread, pastries, and my personal favourite, sausage rolls. Layla is a happy place; the sun shines inside illuminating the treats such as mulled wine and tarte tatins. It is a fantastic excuse to head up Portobello.
Buns from Home
Mixed berry cheesecake, night pair/chocolate/charcoal, forest fruits and white chocolate, brown sugar/caramel/poached apples/buckwheat custard. These are all flavours that Buns From Home have thought up and innovatively used as fillings for their freshly baked, hand-rolled croissant buns. It was only three years ago that Buns from Home were selling their baked goods from their home kitchen; now having over 140K Instagram followers and 12 stores throughout London, they are a sight to behold and an essential treat to grab on the go.
Photo: Willys Pies
Now and then, a sweet treat is great. But what about those who have a penchant for a savoury snack? I’ve got your back. Willys Pies, another product of lockdown, began as pies made from Chef Willy’s home kitchen and then hand-delivered through masks. And little has changed! Each and every pie is made by Willy himself, sometimes even delivered by him, so that every individual in London has access to one of the best contributions to British traditional foods. Keep an eye on the fillings as they change with the months and the seasons… I only expect great things for the winter months…