One of the hardest things about working in the retail sector is, frankly, encounters with people and especially those who don’t or can’t listen. So, by the time the patient member of staff behind the counter of doughnuts at Liverpool’s Baltic Bakehouse has said, for the hundredth time that morning: “We can’t give you a latte, we do French Press coffee” (to us, as it goes, twice) she would be forgiven for wanting to throw the coffee in question at the next person to ask.
Baltic Bakehouse doesn’t have a coffee machine, that’s worth getting out of the way to save anyone else the rejection or annoyance. It’s an economical space in an area just outside the immediate city centre, hugging the ‘Baltic Triangle’ an area of council housing, industrial workshops and a growing number of small, independent businesses taking advantage of the freedom such places afford them. Perhaps low rents, for the time being, too.
They are not too busy to cater for a customer base that’s far less interested in Instagramming their breakfast than devouring it.
Founded by Sam and Grace Henley in 2013, Baltic Bakehouse has been near peerless in Liverpool for some time, cracking that magic formula of sourdough baking with integrity, while not being so evangelical about things to ignore the power of the cruffin and taking the doughnut into new realms. Nor are they too busy to cater for a customer base that’s far less interested in Instagramming their breakfast than devouring it. Labourers, office workers and, of course, local creative types all file in to get stuck into bacon sandwiches, toasted cheese sandwiches and other earthy dishes, while grill smoke wafts gently over everyone’s heads. If you come for glamour, perhaps try elsewhere.
The coffee is great, simplicity does it every favour, and to go with it the ‘99’ doughnut, named after its British ice-cream counterpart of a blob of vanilla ice cream with a flaky chocolate bar stuck in it. Filled with vanilla custard, with said chocolate flake jammed in the top, it’s a good doughnut, but as so many bakeries seem to drift into creative realms with the fried bun, there comes a time when you feel you’d have been better of going for one filled, traditionally, with jam. The croissant was exceptional, weighing next to nothing, crispy without exploding into a plate of pastry shards and its structure showing perfect baking poise and, vitally, timing.
Formica-topped tables sit in rows, a communal space when it gets busy, while a wall of products lining the space contains the bread shelves. Baltic Bakehouse’s sourdough, Baltic Wild, is nothing if not convincing, with a robust crust, airy crumb and well-balanced flavour, holding up on its own as a fresh slice as well as being toasted for some days afterwards. Yeasted tin loaves, wholemeal and white, sit alongside traditional batch loaves and frequent specials come out of the diminutive bake house at the back of the café shop.
A sense of contentment pervades Liverpool, there’s no rush to follow trends, which embodies Baltic Bakehouse’s ethos. Where cities are said to ‘wake up’ to food scenes and the opportunity in public taste, Liverpool may be on the cusp of a new dawn in baking – new fixtures, Wild Loaf and Sicilian bakery, Cose Buone two cases in point – but, it’ll happen at its own pace with Baltic Bakehouse surely held up as reliable, local favourites.
46 Bridgewater St, Liverpool L1 0AY