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” by the way, as the lovely, hand-written chalkboard in the window explains, is all about the taste 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. As the sign says, the taste “explodes” in your mouth.
March 2016: I’ve updated my piece on the Exploding Bakery. This is the original write-up, published in November 2012. For an up-to-date description, please see the updated post, while you can see what’s changed in my Coffee Spot Update.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
As I’ve explained (moaned?) elsewhere, finding decent coffee spots in stations can be hard. Although some of the mass-market, cookie-cutter chains aren’t bad (Pumpkin springs to mind), nothing quite beats the joy of finding a decent, independent coffee spot at a station. Now, technically, the Exploding Bakery isn’t at a station. Rather, it’s just outside Exeter Central Station, but it’s close enough to count, although it has competition, with another café in the same block and the Boston Tea Party and Devon Coffee just two minute’s walk down the road.
In fairness, 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.
|CENTRAL STATION BUILDINGS • QUEEN ST • EXETER • EX4 3SB|
|www.explodingbakery.com||+44 (0) 1392 427900|
|Monday||08:00 – 16:00||Roaster||Monmouth (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 16:00||Seating||Tables (two inside and two outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 16:00||Food||Cakes, Lunch|
|Thursday||08:00 – 16:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 16:00||Payment||Card + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 16:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 31st October 2012
Update: 15th January 2016