February 26 2010
Amid the upscale boutiques, manicurists and hairdressers that dominate my local St John’s Wood High Street in London is The Bread Shop. This establishment not only emits the kind of smells that made you want to shove your face into your grandmother’s floury apron as a child, it also manages to remain utterly in keeping with the size-zero dress mannequins on display in stores such as Joseph, a few doors away. Founded in 1999 by Jonathan Cohen, whose goal was “to turn buying bread into a pleasure rather than a daily chore”, The Bread Shop has proved so successful, there are now four more outlets in various parts of London.
Inside, the allure goes beyond the heady aroma of the bread, which is of course baked fresh daily. Loaves, rolls and pastries are as fetchingly displayed in bins and on shelves as you might more commonly expect to find sweaters or lingerie. Mulling over the Tuscany olive, potato-crust and seedy loaves (to name but a few) and the hearty but unfussy cakes and pastries makes for a much more enjoyable experience than pointing to a loaf stacked behind a counter. You can even perch at the counter and soak up the aromas over a cup of coffee. Of all the exceptional breads available here, my favourite is the seed loaf (£2.95): a dense, firm bread packed full of the goodness of seven different seeds.
St John’s Wood High Street is not short of decent restaurants, but here you can hark back to the days when all you needed to spoil yourself rotten was an oven-fresh slice of bread slathered in butter.