St John Bakery and Maltby Street Market
Over the last couple of months whenever I’ve poked my nose into the London foodie Twitter-verse, someone has been chatting about St John Bakery doughnuts. They’ve taken on the same mythical status as Hawksmoor steak, Lucky Chip burgers and Lisboa Patisserie custard tarts; they are, according to popular wisdom, ‘the best’. So after reading yet another eulogising review I decided enough was enough, and I was bloody well going to try one.
On Saturday morning I took the tube down to Bermondsey and walked along to Druid Street. When I first moved to London I loved wandering around Borough Market on a weekend morning, but the sheer volume of people there now means I get too stressed to enjoy browsing. Over the last year or so (perhaps more) Ropewalk on Maltby Street has emerged as the new destination market for those who love food, but hate crowds. This is due in large part to the the row of warehouses that make up neighbouring Druid Street. Most seem to be owned by food-related companies, acting as wholesale venues during the week, and pulling up their shutters on Saturdays to sell directly to hungry customers. I walked past a butcher sawing up a pig (not a pretty sight pre-coffee) and found number 72, St John Bakery.
On the long trestle tables were rows and rows of breads, cakes and biscuits. I spied some delicious looking eccles cakes and some very tempting brownies, but I remained focused. It was the doughnuts I was here for, nothing else. On this Saturday there were three flavours: custard, chocolate custard and strawberry jam. I asked for a mixed half a dozen, five to be boxed up and one to be placed directly (well napkin aside) into my greedy little hand. Each one was £2. Barely a metre from the door, I tucked in.
The custard went up my nose. I didn’t care. The dough was perfectly springy and the dusting of caster sugar gave each mouthful a delightful crunch. The custard was more like a creme patissiere, lighter, slightly foamy, and freckled with real vanilla. It was delicious. Was it the best doughnut in London? The honest answer is I don’t think I’ve eaten enough doughnuts in London to say with any real certainty. I think I’m going to have to try more. Any suggestions readers?
Afterwards my sticky lips and I went across to Maltby Street. It was still quite early (about 10am) and there were only a few other browsers about.
I bought a flat white from Craft Coffee, tried some delicious fennel and garlic salami from Islington based Picco Salumi, and had a long conversation with the lovely people at Foodnatics. They are fairly new to the London scene, originally from Israel and are making delicious fresh hummus. They were also selling small jars of a sauce they call ‘The Yemeni’. It is made from coriander and green chilies, and is a condiment used a lot in Yemen cooking (its actual name is apparently very hard to pronounce). It had an incredible kick to it, and I took a jar home with me to stir into soups and spice up salads. As I walked past Little Bird Gin I cursed that it was still before midday and therefore of an unacceptable drinking time. If I had been with someone I might have bent the rules, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to have a gin cocktail, on my own, at 10.30am on a Saturday morning. I’ll just have to go back another time…