Most eagle-eyed locals will have spied that the old greasy spoon Mamma Mia has just re-emerged as a new bakery, Somewhere Over Knowhere.
Opening last weekend, it’s the creation of Ash Clarke and Helen Gay, the married team behind the basement’s highly acclaimed experimental cocktail bar, Knowhere Special.
While the latter offers libational experiences with a palatable foodie-centric twist, the bakery above delights in more homely comforts: quality loaves freshly baked each day with sweet and savoury pastries, sandwiches, soups and organic teas and coffees.
It makes clever use of its small space: we enter into a light, open room with wooden floorboards and a communal dining table. There’s the aroma of baked bread in the air as owners Ash and Helen happily chat about their venture.
A blackboard lists daily specials and lunch options, with a wooden counter piled high with treats. Around the walls are pictures of rock and movie legends and the purposely mismatched elements of the basement bar’s signature shabby-chic style.
For those that have been to Two Doors Down or La Bouche in Hackney, there are similarities in the relaxed, cool vibe. Their focus is on serving high quality products at reasonable prices whilst ensuring that regulars come based on word-of-mouth.
The bakery was already bustling on its second day with a platter of carb-dreams to ogle: white and wholemeal bloomers, sourdoughs, ricotta and spinach pastries, sandwiches, brownies and a tempting banana bread.
It’s the sausage rolls that are the stars: small but perfectly formed with a sticky, eggy, sausage meat and flaky, golden glazed pastry, a sprinkling of seeds. A peppery piece of heaven; and we’re promised that more porky products will be on offer once the bakery gets going.
And it’s cheap enough to swing by most days: a couple of slices of toast is just £1 and you can help yourself to the selection of jams and other condiments on the communal table. The brioche, already apparently tipped by some French customers as the best in London, is as it should be – decadently buttery, a fluffy bake with a smooth golden glaze.
And coffee from Bean About Town, strong and nutty (and also sold in packets), is perfect with an apple Danish, a buttery affair with tangy hints of nutmeg and cinnamon in its gooey centre. Only disappointment? A pain au chocolat, risen to perfection, but let down by too paltry a portion of the dark stuff in its centre.
With such a carb-centric menu some may fear for their waistlines but there is respite with lighter selections of fruit pots, a pick-a-mix salad bar, herbal teas and freshly made soups that go brilliantly with their rosemary and tomato focaccia.
As if a bakery and cocktail bar wasn’t enough, at the back there’s a deli that will grow in the coming months to complement the menu: expect ghost pepper naga pastes, hot sauces, chilli-cashews, vinegars, mustards and Iberico pork fat. Yum.
In short, I can’t stop popping in. Somewhere Over Knowhere has, in two days, made me buy three loaves, and dazzled my household with shrieks of “what the hell bread is this, and where can I get it?”
With its great location, right by the canopy and next to the Assembly House, it’s sure to clean up in an area now thriving with new foodie businesses.
Alison King writes for the Independent. Follow her on @heartsnbones