This tiny bakery in Crystal Palace, South London, is one of my favourite shops on this planet. I love everything about it, as I’m one of those freaks who actually runs into traffic towards a good bakery window display. When it opened several years ago, I was one of their first customers through the door and think it sells the best croissants outside of France!
Everything at the Blackbird is handbaked using organic flour from Shipton Mills. The quality is fantastic. You can buy knobbly rustic loaves that feel satisfying when you pick them up – some sourdough, others flavoured with aromatic herbs such as rosemary and caraway, plaited challah loaves and spelt bread topped with seeds. They also make knockout cakes: think lemon and poppyseed, apple and spice, carrot with cream cheese icing or flourless chocolate cake. Proper wedges of English cake – not flimsy slices.
The bakery occupies a triangular Victorian corner shop space that was derelict for several years because retailers couldn’t figure out how to fill it, but it fits in perfectly, as though it has always been there. Aside from the tempting cake counter and shelves of homemade jams and biscuits, there is a wood burning stove, a general air of chilled out contentment and you can sit inside and watch the world go by nursing a nice mug of tea and some thick slices of toast. It’s cosy bliss.
But what I would walk across hot coals for are their plain butter croissants. They are magnificent – huge, crusty, buttery, salty and boasting a properly serious heft to them without being stodgy. Being half French, I feel I have a little bit of a say in what makes a good croissant, and I seriously consider these ones to be the best I have eaten outside of France. French friends of mine have also been amazed by them.
In fact, I start thinking about my weekend croissant from the minute I reach my desk on a Monday. I’m not even joking!
The Blackbird Bakery
71 Westow Street
Tel: 020 8768 0357
Branches also in Dulwich and Herne Hill