Bake Street, 58 Evering Rd, Lower Clapton, London, N16 7SR
Bake Street: rises to the occasion with very little to prove
Having seen snaking queues edging their way towards the door via Instagram, I arrive at Bake Street on a Sunday at 10:30am for the 11am menu for which it’s become so famous. Naturally, it’s virtually empty when I arrive, so I skulk about with a flat white like a tough guy waiting for my pal.
It’s got that hallmark of a great bakery where your appetite becomes almost immaterial and you just want at least one of everything. Yes, there’s the seminal crème brulée cookies which I order as if possessing a tick, so too are peanut pain au choc’s, pistachio and raspberry slices, Snickerdoodles (which remain a point of contention as the most misleading counterfeit of expectations but I’ve no doubt are delicious here). Barrel-chested croissants reflective and spooled with lamination, see people pull them apart in a way that induces an involuntary look of ‘Blue Steel’ a la Zoolander.
The Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich with American cheese is truly excellent. A beautifully seasoned coating housing a succulent piece of chicken that is crunchy everywhere you bite, seasoned to a T and glowing in that spicy oil, with just a few pickles laying beneath. The brioche bun is thoroughly toasted, giving that properly caramelised sweetness whilst upgrading the overall structural integrity. It’s a pity I’m sharing it as I want to instantly order another.
The smash burger is interesting: thicker than expected with a fair but not particularly heavy sear, glistening with juices but lacking that lacey crust of caramelisation that you hanker for in a smash. The cheese has splayed itself oozily across the burger, finding its way into every nook and cranny and fusing the whole burger together which suggests it was put under a bell to steam just before serving. It’s so gratifying to sink your teeth into and on the whole, results in a very soft texture profile and I’m not mad at this- but if it was just billed just as a cheeseburger, I’d be pleased with all the boxes that it ticks.
The lamb Birra tacos with a jalapeño and garlic aji sauce are pretty generous on the filling and stream with juices, all the way down the wrist and into my jacket sleeve. The cheese lacing on the inside is all those burnished hues that make you utter ‘this is going to be good’ under your breath. Acting as some limited waterproofing, it hits us that we should’ve scarfed these immediately, as the pooling essence causes the tacos to break down, leaving you with no real choice but to haphazardly shove the thing in, in one. Some radishes give that crisp bite of freshness along with the near-luminous aji and the lamb itself is yielding and succulent but the consommé is pining for a hit of salt which is frustrating.
The Tater Tots are what you expect- little hashbrown nuggets which I only now regret not smooshing three of and adding to the burgers or the bottom of the taco tray.
The absolute curveball is the soft serve. Ordering a dual swirl of 'Horlicks Chocolate’ and 'Butterscotch Delight’, (‘ChocoScotch Delight’) you can tell from the look that the texture is going to be textbook and almost cartoon-like with its swirl and hooked tip. Ordering one cone and one cup, the choice is clear. Get the cup- it’s easily 3-4x as much. The flavours weren’t entirely distinct mostly tasting of (albeit very nice) chocolate but no maltiness, which was actually a little deflating. But it’s the texture of firm silk that has you forgiving these shortcomings as it is really nicely made.
The crème brulée cookie may be a one-way ticket to diabetes central, but what a ride. It’s so soft and just baked beneath that you’re forced to handle it nimbly, as if it were scalding hot. Breaking it open, the crème brulée is just set with the sugar shell snapping neatly and is really a 360 showcase of what sugar can be, in the right hands.
Bake Street change some of its menu with relative frequency and it’s always a genuine delight to see what they come up with or on occasion, bring back. It may take a journey and a half to get there, but it’s entirely worth it. Particularly if, like me, finding a good chicken sandwich is crucial in negotiating your way through this wretched world.