There’s something unbeatable about the combination of a sheet metal grey day so cold it freezes the tears that tiptoe down your face and a bakery where handthrown ceramic mugs of foamy bitter chocolate and feather light pastries become the very definition of cosy.
If I ever find myself in a world where I have to renounce a food group, all things kneaded, rested, proved & baked can rest easy because I’d sooner give up breathing than I would bread and all its siblings.
Seriously, a life without warm loaves that spill puffy clouds of steam into the air upon tearing into, without tangy sourdough and its soft gaping craters that beg for salted butter to drip through them, without viennoiserie whose almost transparent layers of gossamer fine pastry are the perfect place for plump jammy berries or darkly beguiling chocolate or sharp citrus curd to lay their heads…well, this is not a life worth living.
The recently opened Pophams in Islington is a peachy example of why I truly love this sort of food. It tastes wonderful, it’s satisfying and breathes life back into your body on the sort of February day that hibernation or emigration were made for and it’s pretty.
Oh. So. Pretty.
Puh-lease don’t come at me with your food bore chat of butter calories and back well off with your carbohydrate concerns…there’s a time and a place for leafy green loveliness but this, my friends, is not it. Darkly crusted sourdough has the sort of dreamily punctured texture that demands ham, cheese & a sweet, mild mustard climb inside and hunker down comfortably in…
…while the Rosemary & Sea Salt Plait has such a dainty texture you could almost be forgiven for wondering aloud if you actually ate it at all…
…were it not for the flaky crumbs of evidence that litter your jumper like the bib of a 3-year-old learning to eat with sincere, fist-waving gusto.
Peanut Butter, Jelly & Banana. It did Elvis no harm – at the START of his life nitpickers, at the start – and it won’t do you any harm either as long as you eat it this way, in the most immaculate piece of viennoiserie architecture I’ve ever seen. Honestly, these are the sort of knife edge perfection layers that would give anyone a touch of pastry OCD…
Fine tiers of rich, airy pastry fold around the sort of thick peanut butter that sticks your chops together and a sweetly sharp raspberry jam, heavy with seeds and the flavours of sunshine while sliced banana crowns the whole glorious affair an absolute delight.
Don’t leave without undoing the top button of your waistband and free-falling face first into the Rhubarb, Cardamom & Custard Croissant. Let’s cut to the chase here, if there’s a prettier raw ingredient to commit to film than rhubarb, show it to me now or forever hold your peace, admit that you’re wrong and slink off to buy me another one of these beauties as penance.
Tangy, creamy and held together by shards of pastry that shatter in your mouth leaving your teeth to sink into rosy pink stems & a luxurious custard flecked with whispers of the aromatic East, this is a beautifully modern take on one of the nation’s most cherished flavour profiles.
In the interests of impartiality, I guess I should flag up to you the less impressive aspects of Pophams…
…there are none. With their baked goods, their lovely service & their cosy style now the object of my desire & the target of my affection in much the same way as Keanu Reeves always has been and always will be – be a pal and hang on a minute while I nip off to Google his beard in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ will you? – Pophams is practically perfect in every way.