An early morning strolls on a Saturday along the quiet druid street in Bermondsey will no doubt be the last thing on your mind. To be fair, as most of us will most likely be laying dormant in bed, nursing our hangover from the night before, who would want to partake in such a ridiculous activity. But if you are one of those in the know, it will be a big mistake not to venture out to this remote little area in the city.
Just a stone throw away from the famous and far-too-crowded Borough market are a collective of hidden gems that forms the Maltby Street market (I will talk more about this at a later post). Amongst the hidden gems is the St. John Bakery (of the St. John Bread and Wine chain). Every Saturday, they open their door from 9:00am to 2:00pm selling the freshest and best doughy treasures that money can buy. Every loaf is baked on the premises and sell to the public on the very same day and this goes on until they are sold out. However, what persuaded me to get up that early in the morning can't just be allure of the fresh bread, surely, you might asked. And the answer is no, of course not! It is not the fresh bread that lured me to this corner of the world time and time again. The culprit that possessed such mammoth strength of persuasion is no other than the famous doughnut. Yes , THAT Doughnut!
So what's so special about the St. John Bakery's doughtnut? It is light and fluffy, with just the right amount of subtle sweetness; filled within are the creamiest vanilla-infused custard that oozes and dribbles down your chin as you take a bite. It is both delicate and fresh and is immensely popular. This is often the first item to sell out in the bakery and that is precisely the reason why you need to be early in order to be in with the chances of grabbing yourself one of this tasty sugared bun.
Of course if you are not a doughnut fan (even typing that felt rather silly, how could you not be?), there are other baked delights such as brownies, eccles cakes, hot cross buns etc. But believe me, you will be willing to part with £2 of you hard earned cash for a taste of the custard doughnut or the jam doughnut.
Right next door to the St. John Bakery is the good almighty Bea's Diner (of Bea's of Bloomsbury). This quaint diner has slowly become my favourite Saturday haunt for a perfect American style breakfast. Forget about those inferior imitating dross that brand themselves as authentic diners but only ended up serving badly made pancakes in an altogether too over-the-top interior. There were no jukebox or the synthetic red leather seatings here; nor were there any black and white chequered tiles to be seen. In their place were some understated and modern pine-wood tables and benches. Piles of serviette-wrapped cutlery on a plate along with bottles of maple syrup. A far cry from those cliché 50s decor that we came to associated with a diner.
The focus here was very much on the food. The menu was small but well thought out. There were the usual pancakes and french toasts, along with the toasted bagels and muffins etc as well as the diner-style bottomless filter coffee.
Of the few times that I've been here, I had tried all the different selections of pancakes and french toasts and they were all superb. The buttermilk pancakes were thick and light. It had that perfect texture that just readily absorbed the maple syrup to yield a beautifully creamy texture. For the blueberries option, they were cooked within the pancakes thus keeping them moist and soft. But my favourite was the plain pancakes with roasted strawberries. The roasting process concentrated the sweet, aromatic flavours of the strawberries and together with the dollops of cream, were simply a joy to eat.
For me, the best breakfast dish that were on the menu was definitely the french toast with caramel banana and walnut. The usage of brioche was a brilliant twist to this classic dish. It was so light and puffy and was a perfect platform for the slices of creamy sweet caramel bananas. The walnuts provided a nutty crunch and a drizzle of the perfumed maple syrup made this a heavenly breakfast impossible to resist.
The friendly service made this a perfect destination for anyone who is after a hangover-cure breakfast or just a catch up with friends over some tasty brunch. A word of warning though, the chef, Bea is extremely generous with her serving portion and what you ended up is a pile of delicious food on your plate - in true American diner style. You are more than welcome to share your plate but if you are like me, you will tackle this gallantly head on.
St. John Bakery
Bea's Diner (of Bea's Of Bloomsbury)