Bread & Friends is a welcome addition to Portland’s speciality coffee scene, which opened in April this year in a lovely old brick building in the heart of downtown Portland (Maine). Although the location, on Fore Street, between Monument Square and the waterfront, is new, Bread & Friends has been around for a while, popping up at farmers’ markets around Maine, selling its artisan bread.
However, Fore Street is a whole new venture for Bread & Friends, which mills its own flour and bakes all the bread, pastries and cakes on site, selling them fresh each day from racks behind the counter. The four friends behind Bread & Friends could have stopped there, but inside they have added a coffee shop/brunch restaurant spread across two rooms which wrap around the on-site bakery. There’s also a row of tables outside on Fore Street.
This is no ordinary bakery café though. Rather than settle for the ordinary, Bread & Friends has created something amazing on Fore Street. The food is outstanding, while the coffee, from Bolt Coffee in Providence, is very bit as good, with the Seven Hills blend and decaf on espresso, joined by the Mass Appeal blend on batch-brew filter.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Bread & Friends is part of a small, isolated block on the corner of Fore Street and Cotton Street, surrounded by open-air parking lots in contrast the maze of narrow streets which make up much of downtown Portland. However, don’t let that description put you off, because Bread & Friends occupies the ground floor of a glorious, old brick-built building that faces onto Fore Street, while running back up the hill along Cotton Street.
Originally two separate spaces, Bread & Friends has two front doors, although the right-hand one acts as the main entrance. A row of tables lines the front of Bread & Friends, starting with a pair of two-person tables at the left-hand end. Next comes a further three pairs of two-person tables between the two doors, with a final four-person table on the corner of Cotton Street to the right of the main door.
Inside is the first of two rooms, which together are arranged in an L-shape around the bakery. Long and thin, this one has the counter on the left, with seating on the right, a five-person round table in the windows at the front joined by four two-person tables along a padded bench against the exposed brick of the right-hand wall. At the far end, a long corridor runs back past the bakery, visible through large windows on the left, to the rest rooms and fire exit at the back.
To your left is the front of the counter, where you’ll find the La Marzocco Linea espresso machine. Beyond this, an opening in the wall leads to the second of the two rooms, which stretches along the front of the bakery, visible though large windows on the right. A long, padded bench with three two-person tables runs under the windows, continuing along the far wall and returning a short distance along the front wall, stopping at the second door. This forms a neat, U-shaped alcove with a pair of round two/three-person tables.
Although you’re welcome to buy bread or coffee to go at the counter, Bread & Friends has full table service, so if you’re staying, you’ll be greeted by a member of staff and shown to a table where you’ll be given the menus and a carafe of water. Amanda and I had gone for Sunday brunch, but any chance I had of sneaking in unrecognised was undone by the head of coffee, Madelyn, who had previously served me at Gracenote in Boston, and who recognised me as soon as I started talking…
Between us, Amanda and I had a devilled egg, fried potatoes, French toast and two demi-baguettes (one each), all of which were outstanding. While the devilled egg was a touch spicy for me, the potatoes were as good as the best diner potatoes I’ve had anywhere in America. The French toast, meanwhile, was made with the lightest, fluffiest bread, reminiscence of the bread I’ve enjoyed on many occasions at Bread, Espresso & in Tokyo. Finally, the demi-baguettes were perfect, crunchy on the outside and soft inside, as good as any I’ve had in France. Even the strawberry fennel jam was amazing.
With food that good, you don’t want the coffee to let you down and fortunately it didn’t. I had a cortado, served in a glass, while Amanda had a latte in a ten-sided earthenware cup, in both cases, the rich, chocolate notes of the coffee coming well through the milk. I also popped back a few days later to pick up some more bread (baguettes, seeded sourdough and focaccia), enjoying a quick espresso at the same time, the Seven Hills blend really shining, rich and well-balanced. Finally, we bought a bag of the Mass Appeal, which we enjoyed in our cafetiere each morning that week.
While I was wandering around, taking photos, Amanda had a behind-the-scenes tour of the bakery (you can see her through the windows in one of the photos). As a talented home baker, she found this fascinating, learning all about the bespoke ovens that came from Spain and the various production areas of the bakery. Just as exciting was the grain mill which Bread & Friends uses to mill its own flour for some of the baking, although there are plans to expand this to mill the majority of the flour.
|505 FORE STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04101 • USA|
|https://breadandfriendsmaine.com||+1 207 536 4399|
|Monday||08:00 – 13:00||Roaster||Bolt Coffee (espresso + batch brew)|
|Tuesday||CLOSED||Seating||Tables, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||CLOSED||Food||Brunch, Cakes, Bread|
|Thursday||08:00 – 13:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||08:00 – 13:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 13:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 13:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||16th, 21st July 2023|
If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Portland’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Portland.
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