Week 26 – London (again) part one

This week I made my way down to London for my second lot of work placement. This time around I’m spending two weeks at E5 Bakehouse, a bakery that is radically different to The Artisan Bakery where I had my last placement. E5 is a combined bakery and cafe housed in a railway arch in South Hackney. My first impression was that this residential area is significantly more pleasant than the industrial side of London I experienced last time. There is plenty of life around the railway, London Fields and main roads of Hackney. Notable local institutions that I visited during my stay included The Hackney Picture House, Hackney Bureau, The Cat and Mutton and Broadway Market.

As far as London bakeries go, E5 Bakehouse is rather unique. They are one of the few bread bakeries that produce on the same site that they sell. I guess that rent prices in London coupled with limited space means that it almost always makes more sense to bake offsite then transport to shops within the city. Working from a railway arch means that E5 has plenty of space and a lower rental cost. E5 has kept the space relatively open, meaning that the customers can see the bakers working away, while the bakers can see the customers enjoying their hard work. I also discovered during my stay that there are a few downsides to working in an arch, but I won’t list them here.

E5 produces a focussed range of quality bread. Everyone working there is a real bread-head and they take no shortcuts in the bread making process. Their most popular bread, named the Hackney Wild, is slowly and cooly fermented over a couple of days and the result is quite spectacular. This week I helped out with mixing and shaping. They have a neat old twin arm mixer, but it doesn’t do much work. Most of the dough is divided into small bowls then worked by hand. It makes an impressive sight on Fridays (one of the busier days) when the bakery is full of bowls of dough, each slowly rising.

I’ve had a bit of time to explore more of London and have managed to get to a few places I missed out on last time around. The highlight so far has been Look Mum No Hands – a cafe and bike shop combined. All bike-themed cafes I have been into previously have been light-on in the cafe department or too intensely bikey. Look Mum seems to strike the balance perfectly, with a small but select bike section set amongst a rather large eating area – which includes a screen for showing races and films. I spent Sunday afternoon watching Liège–Bastogne–Liège and it seemed to work perfectly as a space. I’ll definitely be paying a few more visits before my time in London is up!

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