There are some German words that are seen as somehow curious or cute, the untranslatable descriptions of feelings or odd marriages of nouns to depict living beings and their quirks. However, ‘anziehungskraft’ is neither cute nor strictly untranslatable, but as ‘irresistibly luring’ it’s the best word to describe the Scandinavian buns in the window of Fabrique at High Holborn, London.
Sat in the window seat of the Swedish bakery’s latest branch in the English capital, the head-turning capabilities of a stack of cinnamon, saffron and cardamom buns is a semi-comical event to witness. The draw almost reduces grown adults to children dragging on their parents’ rushed sleeves through the city to gaze into the windows of a toy or sweet shop. Many of them, unable to resist, give up and step inside.
The first London incarnation of Fabrique opened in an archway in Shoreditch in 2012, becoming the first, international outpost of the quickly growing, Swedish chain. Fabrique’s origins and aims appear to be honourable, even in the face of such expansion, offering naturally-leavened and stone-baked baking with real bakers, rather than feeding every process into machines. Such is their attention to detail, visitors including roving reporters from the Wall Street Journal, have claimed their buns to be the best around.
The High Holborn branch has the worn, rustic charm of a branded fit out, with piles of buns and huge loaves of bread all on top of and behind the counter. Small, one-to-one seating arrangements with low lighting and candles on tables makes for a homely, if a ‘don’t hang around’ atmosphere, as the busy high street rushes by and, through the open door, rushes in. There’s no real room for a laptop as well as a cup of coffee, so not a place to bed in for the day.
Barely-ground cardamom seeds popping with flavour and glistening shards of the sugary glaze clinging to the bitten edge of the bun.
Grabbing cardamom and cinnamon bun, at £3 each, it’s easy to understand why they’re so acclaimed. Even hours after baking, in a mid-afternoon visit, they’re difficult to put down after the first bite. The barely-ground cardamom seeds popping with flavour and glistening shards of the sugary glaze clinging to the bitten edge of the bun, the dough is of the satisfying denseness a yeasted, European bun offers as a perfect match for a well-made coffee. Considering the pace of business in the café, the coffee doesn’t disappoint. It’s often the case that a push-button machine and hurried staff can culminate in a more-milk-than-coffee cup of froth, but Fabrique’s patterned latte is worth stopping for.
Hunks of bread are sold by thirds, hived off those huge loaves behind the counter. Rye looms large, being a Swedish bakery, with lengths of seeded, dark-rye sat alongside the sourdough and yeasted options. Taking a third of the rustic sourdough away, they scent of rye permeated the bag and dominated after toasting. Getting better with age, the first slice was dense, mellowing out on day two and three and providing a dryer, less spongy, less crashing-to-the-bottom-of-your-stomach crumb. It’s not pretty, like a felled tree covered in flour, which is no bad thing.
Sometime soon the people of London will grow tired of cinnamon buns, as every trend has its day, but perhaps outside of the here today/gone tomorrow foibles of a world that moves too fast, Fabrique’s street presence will keep them coming in for more as it does now.
239 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EW