Rising reputation as Tonbridge bakery wins three national awards

Rising reputation as Tonbridge bakery wins three national awards
GOLDEN TOUCH: Clare Barton, Bakehouse at 124's owner and head baker

Bakehouse at 124 took home the accolades out of more than 600 entries from across the country in the UK’s leading competition for bakers.

It was the only bakery in Kent to be recognised at the ceremony, which celebrates the art and skill of bread-making.

Bakehouse at 124 took the gold for its blackberry, goats’ cheese and fennel seed sourdough, silver for the sea salt and rosemary focaccia, and bronze for its raspberry brioche.

Clare Barton, owner and head baker said: “We are thrilled to win these awards. We are passionate about making real bread and work very hard to produce high quality baked goods, so to receive recognition for this is just fantastic.”

“As a small independent business we use local produce wherever possible, and our winning breads reflect that.

“For example, the raspberry brioche contains fresh raspberries from Hugh Lowe farms [in Mereworth], the rosemary used in the focaccia is grown in our own herb garden, and the sourdough contains blackberries that we have foraged from the local countryside.”

Now in its third year of trading, the Bakehouse at 124 is set in an iconic Grade Two listed Tudor building with an open plan bakery and café.

Manager Liz Reid said what sets the shop apart from its rivals is ‘we make everything from scratch on site, in an open plan bakery, and we’re as local as local can be’.

“We actively encourage our customers to watch the bakers in action, mixing the ingredients and shaping the dough,” she said.

“We use traditional methods – we’re old-fashioned, it’s all done by hand including the weighing, not pressing buttons on machines.

“We have groups of children coming from schools and they love watching the bakers in action.”

She has really enjoyed being based on the High Street. “We’re doing really well, we have a queue out of the door on Saturday mornings and business is booming.

“The people here like to know that they are buying good quality produce. It’s like going back 50 years to when you had the butchers and the bakers and the fishmongers – and we have that here in Tonbridge.

“People are a lot more educated about the products they want to buy and they really care about that.”

The Bakehouse at 124, which also offers pizzas on Saturday nights, recently provided catering at the Deeds and Words festival at the EM Forster theatre.

It runs courses in sourdough and pizza making – and will be offering classes in Italian breads next year including focaccia, ciabatta and breadsticks. For more details, visit their Facebook and twitter feeds @bakehouse124

Liz looks back on the Tiptree Awards fondly – and not just because of their success. “The ceremony was quite fun. We went up to Westminster Hall in London and we took all the breads up with us on the train. We made a lot of friends on the way – we were smelling very nice!”

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