Intelligible only to the initiated, Sourdough was once an esoteric bread option which many considered, well, sour. Chewy too. How times have changed. Lovers of bread now revere this tang and prize a slight bounce in the middle of their bread. A good round of sourdough is now the marker of a top-class restaurant, with more and more of us having our own starter culture at home bubbling away and scaring off curious visitors. Hell, they’ve even named a whole month after it, with September being the month of Sourdough.
Pleasingly, one doesn’t have enjoy a multi-course tasting menu just to experience the capital’s finest sourdough, although that is one way to do it. No, now London has some great bakers specialising in this wonderful loaf. With Sourdough September just days away, we’ve picked our IDEAL ten places – some restaurants, some bakeries – serving the best sourdough in London.
HEDONE BAKERY, Bermondsey
An obsessive, research led approach to ingredients and method by chef Mikael Jonsson has resulted in a bread held in the highest esteem across London and beyond. It’s a belter, with a deep and complex crust and holes in the crumb showing off a perfect prove. This loaf is so good that numerous other top London restaurants have laid down their arms, admitted defeat and started buying in their bread from Hedone. If that’s not a seal of approval, we don’t know what is. Find loaves being slung at Spa Terminus, Bermondsey, and in several bakeries and cafes across the capital.
Website: Spa Terminus
NOBLE ROT, Clerkenwell
Noble Rot does some damn fantastic bread. Go to this winebar for a glass early evening and order the bread from the bar menu. A trio of cracking offerings make the perfect accompaniment to some Ortiz anchovies or a bowl of olives. The sourdough is fantastic, but don’t overlook their rosemary foccacia or rye – both equally stunning.
Address: 51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB
Mamma Dough is a South London pizza restaurant whose base uses an amazing, standout sourdough. It’s so good it muscled in on the name of the place. We’d definitely recommend a trip just for their starters – you can enjoy a plate of Sardinian charcuterie with some of their superb sourdough. Follow this with a pizza using that sourdough as a base and that’s a one-two punch of deliciousness.
Address: 354, Coldharbour Ln, Brixton SW9 8QH
E5 BAKEHOUSE, Hackney
One of the bakeries budding aficionados hold up as the template to baking success, E5 Bakehouse has such a devoted following that at the weekend you’ll see queues snaking towards Shoreditch. The enormity of the operation is apparent at the till as you order, you’ll see the kitchen in action and shelf upon shelf of the good stuff. The bread is so fine it supplies a number of London restaurants, including one of our favourites, Brawn.
Address: 395 Mentmore Terrace, London E8 3PH
ST. JOHN BREAD & WINE, Clerkenwell
St. John is held in high esteem in chef’s circles for many reasons. Their love of tradition, family recipes and rejection of unnecessary, showy flourishes has been a model for the current trend of more pared back, austere restaurant openings. This philosophy translates to their magnificent sourdough, served in their restaurant. If you don’t fancy a full meal, they also have a bakery nearby selling the wonderful loaf, on both Commercial and Druid Street.
Address: Ropewalk, London SE1 2HQ
BRICK HOUSE, East Dulwich (now permanently closed)
East Dulwich is fast becoming home to artisanal food and drink purveyors, and Brickhouse is the finest producer of sourdough in the area. There is great respect for their craft, leavening for two days and using baking stones. The owner travelled to San Francisco to learn the art of the famous fermented bread and we’re very grateful that he did.
*As of January 2020, Brick House has closed*
Address: 1 Zenoria St, East Dulwich, London SE22 8HP
Fabrique now has 5 outposts, testament to their superb way with dough. Theirs follows traditional, natural craft and a bake in the stone oven. Nothing is rushed and the deep flavour is evidence of this. What’s more, they’ll deliver their loaves to your door. What’s not to love?
Address: Arch 385, Geffrye St, London E2 8HZ
GAIL’S, South London
Gail’s is on the rise, much like their bread, now with over twenty stores in London. They haven’t let this success affect their product though, with great care, love and attention given to every loaf. They also serve gluten free sourdough, which is a big plus in our book.
THE DAIRY, Clapham
Blimey. We’ve got this far and not mentioned butter, sourdough’s best friend. The Dairy’s sourdough, presented in a small, brown paper bag – locking in all the warmth and fantastic aroma of the bread – is served with butter thoughtfully flavoured. At our most recent visit, this flavouring was chicken skin – a wonderful, salty foil to the bread.
*As of August 2020, The Dairy Clapham has sadly closed. Fortunately, a new iteration of The Dairy has since opened in Bermondsey, and praise the lord, their signature sourdough is still on the menu.*
Address: 15 The Pavement, London SW4 0HY
PAVILION BAKERY, Victoria Park
Voted London’s best bakery with reassuring regularity, Pavilion Bakery takes its sourdough seriously. The bread is on show out front, visually stimulating even before the aroma entices you in and doesn’t let you leave without a loaf in each arm.
Address: 18 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ0