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.
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|
|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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