From small towns across America to major cities like Portland and Washington D.C., bakeries are having a seriously sweet renaissance. Across the pond, talented bread and pastry makers trained in some of the world’s best restaurants are baking mouthwatering loaves, doughnuts, and even whoopie pies. These seven standouts in London should be on your must-visit list.
St. John, Bermondsey
This bakery, run by the famous nose-to-tail restaurant (and supplier of all its bread), is rarely open to the public. It is part of a group of some of the city’s most accomplished producers and suppliers (from cheese to wine) located under the industrial arches around Maltby Street, all of whom open up their work premises for short hours on Saturdays and Sundays. The result is huge queues of fans who know that this is where to come for the best doughnuts—think substantial, chewy buns oozing with custard or chocolate—in London.
Bread Ahead, Borough Market
Run by St. John alum Justin Gellatly, Bread Ahead in the foodie mecca of Borough Market is also known for doughnuts. But in addition, it does fantastic cheese and olive sticks and practical loaves of sourdough and ciabatta. It has an admirable waste policy and opened a cooking school last year.
E5 Bakehouse, Hackney
With a name that refers to its Hackney location, E5 Bakehouse has become a stalwart on the Insta-feeds of local hipsters and foodies. Its most famous product is the Hackney Wild sourdough, which TV chef Michel Roux famously referred to as bread that “turns me on.” But all of its breads are accomplished and produced with an ethical, sustainable approach, plus there are cakes too, making the café a good place to linger for a warming lunch or granola bar and coffee.
Violet Bakery, Hackney
Anyone with a sweet tooth should bookmark Violet, a five-year-old bakery and cafe, run by food stylist and former Chez Panisse pastry chef Clare Ptak, near the happening restaurant-lined street of Broadway Market (where she started out with a market stall). Best sellers include her whoopie pie, which is so popular it spawned its own book.
Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury and beyond
A specialist in classic cakes, beautifully iced cupcakes, and buns, this small north London bakery has recently expanded beyond its Bloomsbury original to Farringdon and St Paul’s. Its duffin (an addictive doughnut/muffin combo which sparked a row with Starbucks when it seemingly ripped off the concept) is worth a trip in itself.
Blackbird Bakery, Herne Hill (and other south London locations)
For many south Londoners, a weekend is not complete without picking up a chunky loaf of caraway, honey wholemeal, or rosemary and spelt bread from the Blackbird Bakery, which began life as a tiny hole-in-the-wall and now has six branches around southeast London. Head to Herne Hill on a Sunday morning and you can combine a slice of buttermilk-and-currant bread (made from organic, free range, and fair trade ingredients) with a freshly roasted flat white at the café and a stroll around the excellent Farmers Market outside.
The Delicatessen, Clapham
This new deli is part of the growing empire of Robin Gill (whose resume includes stints at Noma and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons) a chef proving a strong influence in helping to transform Clapham’s culinary chops. The deli sells a range of innovative sandwiches, on its homemade loaves of sourdough (try it with the excellent smoked bone marrow butter), potato flatbread, and Guinness soda bread, all of which appear on the menu at the Michelin-recommended Dairy restaurant next door.
Emily Mathieson is on the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in London, you can follow her at @emilymtraveled.