Fortitude Bakehouse

My 6oz with milk (aka a flat white), made with an Ethiopian Ana Sora, a naturally-processed coffee from Has Bean, served in a glass at Fortitude Bakehouse, London.Fortitude Bakehouse, tucked away in the heart of Bloomsbury behind Russell Square Tube Station, opened in the summer of last year, an event which largely passed me by, perhaps explaining why I left it until the start of this month to pay it a visit. It is, as the name suggests, a bakery, reminding me, in concept at least, of the original Exploding Bakery in Exeter.

There’s a single counter running the entire width of the shop, behind which the bakery bustles away, turning out sourdough sweets and savouries, all of which you’ll find laden on the counter. Even better, at the far end, a Victoria Arduino White Eagle espresso machine dispenses drinks from a concise espresso menu, using a single-origin from Has Bean. Although aimed mostly at the takeaway trade, there’s a small amount of seating inside, while outside on the quiet street, you’ll find six two-person tables.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Colonnade in London, in the heart of Bloomsbury, behind Russell Square Station.
  • And there, a short way down on the right, is Fortitude Bakehouse.
  • The is the view, from the other direction (from the west, heading towards Russell Square).
  • Just in case you were left in any doubt.
  • The door, which is on the right, was permanently open during my visit. Let's go in, shall we?
  • The salad choices and the soup are on a chalk board hanging on the door.
  • Inside, Fortitude is dominated by the counter, which stretches away to your left.
  • The seating, meanwhile, starts with this bench to your left and runs along the front wall.
  • It's followed by a bar, with six stools...
  • ... which follows the contours of the wall, all the way to the far end.
  • Finally, there's another low bench against the left-hand wall.
  • A look back along the bar against the front wall, underneath the windows.
  • There are two of these, high up on the wall, which let in a surprising amount of light.
  • The plants on the windowsills add a welcome touch of green.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • Fortitude uses every available space for storage, such as these shelves at the far end...
  • ... as well as the space under the benches at the far end...
  • ... and under the bench by the door. Check out the tiled floor, by the way.
  • The counter runs the full width of the store, menu and information boards hanging above.
  • The signs tell you all about Fortitude...
  • ... including what it does.
  • Then comes the concise espresso menu...
  • ... and the steeps and infusions menu
  • During opening hours, the bakery is in full swing behind the counter...
  • ... so you can watch the bakers at work. They all seemed very happy, by the way.
  • The bakery's output, displayed on the counter, starts with various sweet loaves.
  • Next are the buns, which all looked very tempting.
  • There are sticky buns...
  • ... and morning buns...
  • ... while behind them are the little buns and sourdough muffins.
  • Since I visited in December, there were also mince pies.
  • It's not all sweet things though. I saaw Goat's Cheese & Red Pepper Pastries...
  • ... and the sole non-vegetarian item, a solitary sausage roll.
  • There are also two salad options...
  • ... and, at the far end, more savoury options: veg brioche and Berber omelette baibout.
  • A look back along the counter from the far end.
  • I was there for lunch, and, spoilt for choice, I settled on the veg brioche bun.
  • I also had a morning bun, which I took away with me to enjoy later.
  • However, there's more: coffee! The Victoria Arduino White Eagle espresso machine...
  • ... takes pride of place on the far end of the counter.
  • The coffee, by the way, is from Has Bean. During my visit it was this natural Ethiopian.
  • The milk is from Estate Dairy, while there's an oat milk alternative from Minor Figures.
  • If you stand at the far end of the counter, you can watch the espresso extracting...
  • ... and the milk being steamed.
  • Almost done.
  • And here's the end result, a lovely 6oz with milk, served in a glass...
  • ... with some lovely latte art...
  • ... which lasted all the way to the bottom of the glass, which is where I'll leave you.
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Fortitude Bakehouse is on Colonnade, a quiet, cobbled street running directly behind Russell Square Station. The south side is lined with a terrace of two-storey brick buildings, with Fortitude occupying a spot towards the western (Russell Square) end of the street. The simple façade has a three-part, blue, wooden door to the right and two small windows high up in the wall on the left. When I visited in the winter, only the right-hand of the three doors was in use, but I suspect that in the summer, all three might be flung open.

There’s more seating outside than in, where six round, two-person tables line the edge of the street, one to the right of the door, the other five to the left. Inside, the layout is similarly simple, with the front third of Fortitude given over to the retail/café side, while the back two-thirds belong to the bakery, the two separated by the large counter which runs the full width of Fortitude.

There’s a single, low bench (which seats three at a pinch) against the remaining two parts of the door, while beyond that, against the front wall (and opposite the espresso machine), is a six-person bar, seating provided by tall stools. Finally, at the far end, against the left-hand wall, is another low bench, again seating three at a pinch.

Fortitude is a working bakery, so you can watch the bakers at work behind the counter if you like. It also means that the whole place smells amazing, since the ovens are constantly on the go. The output is displayed along the counter, starting with the cakes (buns, muffins and, since it was December when I visited, mince pies), followed by the savouries, which are mostly vegetarian (the sausage roll being the only exception when I was there). There are also a couple of salads and soup, all of which can be had to go, or to sit in.

Finally, at the far end, the Victoria Arduino White Eagle and its Mythos One grinder dispense the drinks, Fortitude only using single-origins from Has Bean, the coffee changing as and when the current order runs out. The coffee, meanwhile, is sold by size: espresso, or espresso with milk (4, 6 8oz).

I had an Ethiopian Ana Sora, a naturally-processed coffee, in a 6oz with milk (from Estate Dairy, with an oat milk option from Minor Figures). Served in a glass, the coffee and milk went really well together, producing a sweet, well-balanced drink, but with fruity rather than classic chocolate notes.

Tempted by practically everything displayed on the counter, I had a gorgeous brioche bun for lunch. The thick, soft bun was filled by a salad base with red pepper and feta cheese, topped by harissa sauce. I also bought a morning bun to enjoy later, which proved very different from its US counterpart. It had an excellent, chewy dough with a crispy top, coated in caster sugar. Best of all was the surprise cream and jam filling!

35 COLONNADE • BLOOMSBURY • LONDON • WC1N 1JA
www.fortitudebakehouse.com +44 (0) 20 7837 5456
Monday 07:30 – 15:30 Roaster Has Bean (espresso only)
Tuesday 07:30 – 15:30 Seating Bench, Bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 15:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 15:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 15:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday CLOSED Wifi No
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain No Visits 2nd December 2019

If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.


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