London’s oldest bakeries can be found where they always were: by churches, on street corners, and nestled among parades of shops. These places feel charming in a villagey kind of way, but they’re still bursting with drama. They occupy ancient rooms, kaleidoscopes of yellow, brown and flamingo pink, filled with the sweet and savoury foods they’ve been serving for centuries.
In fact, some of these bakeries have been turning butter and flour into pastry since Queen Victoria was on the throne, back when we were naming sponge cakes after her. So they serve plenty of seemingly homegrown stuff, like Eccles cakes and Cornish pasties. But many of their spiced, knot-shaped, sultana-speckled things have roots in other countries, some of which have been here for so long that we forget their origins, often obscured by colonial history and the legacy of the British Empire. Although old-school bakeries feel “British” and “traditional,” they’re a lot more complicated than that.
It’s a small miracle that any of these historical bakeries have survived. Tastes have changed a huge amount since they opened, as have rents, high streets and the make-up of the city. Today London has a spectacular variety of places that sell bread, pastries and sweet things, from Caribbean bakeries in Mitcham to railway arches milling grains into flour in London Fields. Before all those places came along, Londoners went to their forbears. These are the ones that are left.Read More