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.
I first discovered Bread, Espresso & when I visited in its original Omotesandō location. Conveniently located a short walk from my hotel in Tokyo, it became a regular weekend brunch spot on that and subsequent visits. While I knew there multiple locations in Tokyo and, increasingly, around the country, I was unaware that Bread, Espresso & had opened in Kyoto, until I was alerted by the lovely baristas at % Arabica in Arashiyama. It was timely advice, since I was looking for breakfast (% Arabica only serves coffee) and Bread, Espresso & was a mere five-minute walk away!
Kyoto has some amazing coffee shops in outstanding locations and Bread, Espresso & can be added to the list. It occupies a restored 200-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse and associated buildings, set in a small compound. There’s a café in the farmhouse, the majority of the seating at traditional, low tables, while a separate takeaway bakery occupies another building.
Bread, Espresso & very much does what the name suggests. There are excellent (bread-based) breakfast and lunch menus, along with a selection of cakes, all baked on the premises, plus a concise, espresso-based coffee offering, all coupled with the usual high standard Japanese service.
Bread, Espresso & pretty much does what the name says, serving bread-based dishes, espresso-based drinks and a few other things from its original store in Omotesandō, a bustling district that’s seen the birth of some of Tokyo’s best coffee. So successful has it been that there are now 16 branches dotted around Tokyo and beyond, including a pair of new locations in Kyoto (which opened in the summer of 2019).
I’ll be honest: Omotesandō has many great coffee options and, as such, Bread, Espresso & is not somewhere I come for the coffee alone. That said, in a city where the non-speciality coffee can frequently be disappointing, Bread, Espresso &’s coffee has always been spot-on, plus it makes an excellent breakfast (until 10:00) and lunch spot, as well as a take-away bakery. There’s not a lot of seating, but for both my visits, table turn-over was high and the staff will always fit you in if possible.
Exeter’s growing speciality coffee scene is mostly concentrated in and around the centre, particularly since Darkhorse Espresso out on the Magdalen Road closed a couple of years ago. However, this is changing with the Uprising Bakehouse, a bakery (the clue’s in the name) which doubles as a lovely café, serving breakfast, lunch and speciality coffee from Origin. There’s the ubiquitous Pathfinder blend, which is joined on espresso by decaf, while there’s also a single-origin batch-brew filter.
All the bread, as well as the cakes and pastries, are baked on-site, while all the food’s prepared at the back on an open counter-top kitchen. There’s not much seating, just two long benches, one at the front, where you get the smell of the coffee being ground, and one at the back, where you get the smell of baking in the morning and cooking throughout the day. Either way, you win.
March 2018: The Magdalen Road Bakery (as was) has had a re-brand and is now known as the Uprising Bakehouse. There’s also a sister bakehouse, the Town Mill Bakery, in Lyme Regis.
Finding today’s Coffee Spot, Little Bean, was a combination of good luck, guesswork and determination. I first came across Little Bean’s coffee at AUNN Café & Co. on my first trip to Shanghai in October 2016. Back then I was told that the roastery/coffee shop was in Pudong, so when I found myself back in Shanghai the following year, staying/working in Pudong, I was determined to track Little Bean down.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Little Bean occupies a unit in an outdoor mall on Jinyan Road, across the river from Century Square. A spacious coffee shop, complete with a dinky Probat roaster behind the counter, occupies the ground floor, while upstairs there’s a training school and on-site bakery.
Turning to the coffee, Little Bean has a pair of single-origins on espresso (it also has two espresso machines, but I never worked out if the machines/origins were paired in any way) and another five on pour-over through the V60, plus you can buy the beans. As well as freshly-roasted coffee, you can have freshly-baked bread, with a wide variety to choose from, including croissants and various pastries. Finally, there’s a very tempting array of cakes/desserts to choose from if you want something sweet.
A highlight of last summer’s (brief) visit to Portland was Tandem Coffee Roasters, the roastery doubling as a lovely, intimate coffee bar. I was staying on the opposite side of town and Google Maps suggested I’d pass Tandem Coffee + Bakery on my way. So off I went, keeping an eye out for said bakery, only to walk right past without noticing!
My excuse? I, fool that I am, was looking for something bearing a vague resemblance to a bakery. Instead, I should have been keeping an eye out for something bearing a striking resemblance to a gas (petrol) station… Obviously. I discovered my mistake at the roastery, so on my way back, I paid more attention: there, right where Google Maps said it was, I discovered the bakery, occupying an old gas station.
Just as Tandem Cafe & Roastery’s a roastery with coffee bar attached, so Tandem Coffee + Bakery’s a bakery with coffee shop attached. And lovely outdoor seating. It doesn’t have quite the same range as the roastery, just a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, the same single-origin on Aeropress and another on bulk-brew. Being a bakery, there’s also multiple savoury and sweet things to feast upon.
To start at the beginning, Exeter’s Exploding Bakery was always one of my favourite places and made a very early appearance on the Coffee Spot, being just the 20th place that I wrote about after I visited in 2012. Back then it was definitely a bakery that served coffee, with a couple of tables and an espresso machine tucked into a busy, thriving bakery, baristas and bakers sharing the space.
When I ran into the guys from the Exploding Bakery at the Caffè Culture Show in 2015, they excitedly told me about all the changes that they had made, leaving me itching for a return. However, Exeter isn’t somewhere that you casually pass by (not if you live in Guildford, anyway), so it wasn’t until January of this year, when I was on my way down to Torquay, that I had the opportunity to pop in and say hello the new-look Exploding Bakery.
September 2016: The Exploding Bakery has expanded once again, taking over the adjacent unit. You can still sit in the bakery and drink your coffee, but you’ll find the counter and most of the seating one door over to the right.
Hart’s Bakery has rapidly established itself as synonymous with good cake, at least in Bristol’s speciality coffee circles, where it supplies many of my favourite Coffee Spots. What I hadn’t realised, until I visited it myself, is that it’s also a fantastic little coffee spot in its own right, serving its own amazing cakes, soup, toasties and pasties, along with great coffee from local roasters, Extract.
Another advantage is that it’s right outside Bristol’s Temple Meads Station, which is good news for coffee lovers since that area is not awash with great coffee. It’s an interesting space: located under an arch of Station Approach, the ramp leading up to Temple Meads, it has the feel of a large air raid shelter, probably due to the corrugated metal ceiling that lines the presumably brick underside of the arch.
The staff were very friendly, greeting everyone with a cheery hello as they come in. Sometimes you don’t want that, but entering such a large and open space, it makes you feel very welcome. Head baker, Laura [Hart], serves as well as baking, which all adds to the atmosphere, giving it a very communal feel.
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.