Friday, 7 August 2009

The London Review of Bread

I was in London this week for the Great British Beer Festival, but man does not live by beer alone -- there's bread as well.

On Wednesday a friend took me to Franco Manca in Brixton Market. It is a splendid place. There's a clay oven in the back of the shop and about eight tables packed with people tucking in to the enormous pizzas that come from the oven. The pizza, made with a natural leaven, is soft, chewy and charred from the oven. The salads are even better than the pizza.

A couple of units down from there was Wild Caper where they also sell amazing looking bread (as well as boring stuff like olives and wine). They were nice enough to let me take pictures of their bread, even though we didn't buy any. I learned once I got home that the bread is also baked at Franco Manca; that's a hard working oven.

Borough Market, as everyone knows by now, is packed with food producers selling great stuff. At Flour Power's stall I bought a piece of rye levain bread (these things are the size of an LP record, or bigger, so they also sell half and quarter loaves). It's gorgeous, really rather sour indeed and with an underlying sweetness and chewy brown crust. It's the kind of bread you can just eat without anything on it. It seems almost a shame to hide it.

Another interesting loaf they sell is one which is just 400 grammes and is slashed so that you can cut it into seven slices. The story is that this slice was a day's bread ration during the Second World War. A sobering thought. I know that some people today don't eat much more than 400g of bread a week, but I don't think that Londoners in the Blitz had the option of filling up on crisps and frozen shepherd's pie instead.

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