Exeter’s Exploding Bakery ticks so many boxes. For starters, it’s just outside Exeter Central Station, so it’s excellent when waiting for your train. As the name suggests (“Bakery”, rather than “Exploding”) it’s a bakery, so there’s always fresh, baked-on-the-premises cakes. If you’re after lunch, there’s focaccia, frittata and soup. The range isn’t huge, but the ethos is quality over quantity. Then there’s the coffee, along with tea and hot chocolate (regular and white). Best of all, it’s a real, working bakery which shares the premises with the coffee shop, so you can watch the staff baking their wonderful bread as you drink their coffee and eat their cake.
The Exploding Bakery has come a long way since I first visited it in October 2012. Back then it was definitely a bakery that served coffee, a couple of tables and an espresso machine tucked into a busy, thriving bakery, baristas and bakers sharing the space. These days, it looks and feels much more like a coffee shop, offering a house espresso from Monmouth, with regular guests on the second grinder, plus filter coffee through the V60, again using a range of guest roasters. And, of course, the bakery is still there.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
As I’ve explained (moaned?) elsewhere, finding decent coffee shops in stations can be hard. Although things are steadily improving, nothing quite beats the joy of finding a decent, independent Coffee Spot at a station. Technically, the Exploding Bakery isn’t at a station since it’s just outside Exeter Central, but it’s close enough to count. There’s competition too, with the Boston Tea Party and Devon Coffee just two minute’s walk down the road.
The Exploding Bakery sits on the left-hand end of a crescent of shops which has the station at its centre. There are four long tables with benches on the pavement outside, which run perpendicular to the shop front. The door is on the left, which leads into the coffee shop part of the Exploding Bakery, while on the right, a generous window looks into the bakery itself.
Stepping inside, you enter what is, in effect, a cosy, little coffee shop. Directly ahead of you is a large, handsome counter, while to your left, a four-person table nestles against the wall. To your right, there’s a large, communal table which demarcates the space between the coffee shop and the bakery. If you like sitting in a coffee shop and watching the bakers at work, then the Exploding Bakery is the place for you, since everything they bake is made here and everything is clearly in view. Unless, like me, you arrive on a Friday, which is when the bakers have the day off…
The Exploding Bakery uses Monmouth as its house espresso, with a regularly-rotating guest roaster on the second grinder, featuring the likes of London’s Campbell & Syme, Bath’s Round Hill Roastery, Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Roasters and old friends of the Coffee Spot, Horsham Coffee Roaster. There’s also filter coffee through the V60, again with a rotating cast of roasters. While I was there, the filter was a Kenyan from Clifton, while the guest espresso was another Kenyan, this time from slightly further afield, Denmark’s La Cabra.
I had a lovely flat white, which, at the barista’s recommendation, was made with the house espresso. The coffee and milk combined perfectly and the result was a very smooth, well-balanced drink. Naturally I was spoiled for choice when it came to cake, so once again, I went with my barista’s recommendation, in this case a seeded flapjack. This was ridiculously good, with loads of seeds and a chewy consistency that made it so easy to eat since it never once fell apart.
Although it was a while ago, on my first visit, I had, in honour of being in Devon, the Devon Apple Cake, which was delightfully moist. I’d paired that with an espresso which, for various reasons I now forget, was from Climpson and Sons rather than the usual Monmouth. Back then I found it rather too fruity for my palate, but I suspect that now I would rather quite like it!
The “Exploding” part of the name “Exploding Bakery” is about the sensation of eating proper, hand-prepared cake compared to the bland, mass-produced nonsense that passes for cake in so many other places, where sweetness is a poor substitute for taste and texture. This used to be explained by a lovely, hand-written chalkboard in the window: as it said, the taste “explodes” in your mouth. How very fitting!
You can read more about the changes at the Exploding Bakery in the Coffee Spot Update, while if you want to check out the original gallery and the original post, you can find them after the table.
|CENTRAL STATION BUILDINGS • QUEEN ST • EXETER • EX4 3SB|
|www.explodingbakery.com||+44 (0) 1392 427900|
|Monday||08:00 – 16:00||Roaster||Monmouth + Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 16:00||Seating||Tables (inside and outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 16:00||Food||Cakes, Lunch|
|Thursday||08:00 – 16:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 16:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa (£5 minimum)|
|Saturday||09:00 – 16:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 31st October 2012|
|Update: 15th January 2016|
The Exploding Bakery is principally a bakery, making bread and cakes for the catering and wholesale market. The impression I get is that they run a café on the side, so the café shares space with the bakery in a wonderfully informal setting. However, don’t let that mislead you into thinking that the café is afterthought. Nothing could be further from the truth and the café is run with same passion and commitment that goes into the bakery.
When you step into the Exploding Bakery, you are immediately met with the cakes which are laid out on your left, along with a couple of tables on the right. The cakes are all tray bakes: none of your artfully-arranged cupcakes, sponges and meringues to catch the eye, just honest-to-goodness yummy cakes (you can tell I sympathise; as a cake baker, I’ve never much cared for how my cakes look, just how they taste). Beyond them is the espresso machine, but then that’s pretty much it, with the rest of the shop given over to the bakery itself.
The advantage of this is that you can watch the staff as they go about their daily business of baking bread and cakes, which is just fascinating. They’re also very friendly and happy to chat with the customers. The coffee is made and served with passion and the cakes are excellent: I had, in honour of being in Devon, the Devon Apple Cake, which was delightfully moist. The espresso came in a glass and, for the second time in a week, I was offered a glass of water without having to ask.
The only downside to the Exploding Bakery is its size. I know I’ve featured some small places on the Coffee Spot, but the Exploding Bakery is the smallest in terms of space given over to the café. There are just two tables and four chairs inside and a further two tables and two chairs outside. Despite that, and probably because the staff haven’t tried to pack the place with tables, it doesn’t feel at all cramped and, because you share the space with the bakery, it actually feels quite airy. Unsurprisingly, most of the business is takeaway, and there was a steady stream of customers while I was there.
One final word about the Exploding Bakery. The range on offer (food, cake and drinks) is refreshingly small. Not that I’m knocking places with a massive choice, but I loved the attitude at the Exploding Bakery. As the staff told me, if they’re not 100% happy with something, they don’t do it. Quality over quantity wins every time in my book.
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