Bakehouse in Tonbridge
PUBLISHED: 15:38 04 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:38 04 July 2015
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Tonbridge's second-oldest building has been given a new lease of life as an artisan bakery and tea shop
When she was a little girl on family holidays in Cornwall, Clare Barton dreamed of owning a tea shop by the sea.
Tonbridge lacks a coastline, but it does have a river and a castle and, just a stone’s throw from both, Clare has achieved at least half of her ambition by transforming Tonbridge’s second-oldest building into an artisan bakery and tea shop.
Known to many locals as the ‘Moss Bros building’, those with longer memories will recall its days as Aplin’s Tudor Tea Rooms in the 1950s, before it became Cobleigh outfitters. In the 15th century, it was the White Hart Inn, so the traditions of food and hospitality are woven into its fabric.
Now The Bakehouse at 124 is going back to its roots and embracing the principles of artisan baking, thanks to Clare’s training at The School of Artisan Food in Worksop, set up to bring back traditional food skills.
When she finished her training in 2013, Clare wanted to find premises where she could share her new artisanal bakery skills back in her native Kent. Born in Hildenborough, where her parents still live, and now living in The Slade, Clare had always felt that north Tonbridge lacked anywhere to have a nice cuppa.
“I had been looking for some time and had been aware for a number of years that this end of Tonbridge is not well served at all. This really struck home when I moved to my new place and there was nowhere close where I could go and have a cup of tea once I’d packed up my removals van.”
Transforming a Grade II listed building into the place it is today has not been easy, but Clare has had great support from Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s planning department, from her business partner Dr Jerome Booth and his company New Sparta – and from the townspeople.
The Bakehouse has been enlarged by a third via a sympathetic extension at the back of the building, where you’ll find the open-plan bakery and pâtisserie area and on the first floor the toilets and a small second kitchen area. There is also a useful huge enabled toilet on the ground floor.
Walk into The Bakehouse now and you will be see a long counter where you can buy your loaves of plain white, light or dark rye sour dough bread, cakes and buns to take away. Or order your cuppa and choice of food (there are savouries too, including soups and ploughman’s) to eat in upstairs or down, where there is also a rear terrace.
Clare has brought back the Kentish Huffkin, having found a recipe in a history book and modernised it slightly, as well as Kentish spiced apple buns and Bath buns.
Clare is the sole baker at the moment, as only 10 or 11 bakers a year graduate from the School of Artisan Food, but she hopes some of the school’s students who will do work placements with her might stay on.
In the meantime, service will be key (most of her staff of 10 live so close by that they can walk to walk) and, by the same principle, Clare will source everything as locally as possible – apart from the flour; British flour isn’t strong enough to make sour dough so it needs to be French, which she sources from a mill in Oxfordshire.
But her milk, cream and butter is from Hinxden Farm Dairy in Staplehurst, cheese from Hall Place Dairy in Leigh and Iden Manor Farm in Staplehurst, plus seasonal soft fruit and top fruit from local orchards for the pâtisserie, cakes and jams.
“It’s been a long journey, but it’s so exciting now we are finally here,” beams Clare. n
The Bakehouse at 124, 124 High Street, Tonbridge TN9 1AS
Open: Mon-Sat, 8am to 5pm