An inconspicuous garage door opens out of a big, bare looking building across the way from the railway line. A grim place, you’d think, but then — what is it that smells so good?
There are two odd chairs just outside the garage door. What is this strange set-up? Some kind of post-apocalyptic restaurant? The answer is somewhat revealed: there lies, just inside the unexpected hole in the wall, a table which is spread across the width of the door area. It is laden with breads, muffins, scones and rustic fruit tarts.
Behind the table is an open plan kitchen. And in the kitchen are two men dressed in blue-black aprons. But then, if this was a restaurant, surely there would be a sign? Not necessarily a shop sign but at least a menu of some kind? Surely there’d be some pedestrians, passers by? Some foot traffic?
Yet here these guys are, in the middle of nowhere with splatterings of flour on their aprons, a telltale sign that they have just finished an early morning shift. I sit down on one of the chairs but there’s not even a breezy blackboard marking out the day’s offerings. ‘So, what do you make, I mean, what can I order?’ I ask.
‘Well, there’s this health bread and this rye bread and these berry tarts I made…’
‘Okay, do you have tea?’
‘Yes.’ Pause. ‘What tea would you like?’
‘What tea do you have?’
I follow his eyes to find three boxes perched neatly in a row on top of what looks like an electricity box. The box is high up on a blank canvas of a wall. And as he tries to read the labels from afar, I’m losing all perspective and rising into a bit of a cloudy state of mind. I’m baffled by this sense of timeless unhurriedness. This sense of ease, of no-marketing-required.
The mysterious place is a bakery, it turns out. It’s existed for some time now. Orders have been delivered by bicycle to date. Now the owners have decided to open up the wall and invite the early morning sun in. And whoever purchances to find themselves in the backstreets of this neighbourhood.
‘What is this place called?’ I ask the chef in the peak cap.
‘It’s called the Good Bakery,’ he replies, rolling pin in hand. ‘Sometimes a fantastic bakery, always a good bakery.’
I’m forgetting about the tea and so is the man in the cap. He’s answering more questions and saying ‘ohhhh, how I love making puff pastry’ as he finishes off a butternut pie. We are both in agreement that pastry is all wrong when butter, flour and eggs are taken out of the equation.
Next thing I’m inside the kitchen checking out the starter dough. The baker is stretching it out into a thin sheet. He’s showing me the ‘skin’ and the action of the gluten and explaining the texture. That characteristic sour yeasty smell is drifting out of the sweet, snug warmth of the dough. These chefs well know the joys that come from baking.
Suddenly I am handed a large chunk of freshly baked bread. It’s topped with a pile of pale yellow butter. What a gift. But then, I thought it was only my father who put this much butter on his bread!
‘You think this is too much butter?’ asks the proprietor. ‘It is nothing but cream with a little salt! You must eat it.’
I bite into the crispy stuff with its ladles of soft yellow. ‘Homemade, fresh from the farmer as it came from the cow.’ The lightest butter I’ve ever tasted. It really is like cream. Nothing like the heavy butter from a supermarket.
I look around: coffee mugs snuggle up to measuring scales. Baking tins are stacked on shelves. The pies are just out of the oven. This is a place where things are ready when they’re ready. Where you’ll see not a clock on the wall.
Several people have popped by in the meantime including Shaun, an artist and Directed Pressure Point Technique practitioner who works above the bakery. And Nic, the carpenter from next door who still seems bowled over by his next door neighbours’ bread.
I pick up a farm loaf and wave goodbye to one of the proprietors who is getting his hands dirty again. He is merrily picking up litter off the railway line.
The ‘sometimes fantastic, always good’ bakers Mitchell Penning and Martin Mossmer are pictured above. You’ll find The Good Food Bakery at 12 Milner Road just across the road from the railway line crossing to the right. You can contact them on 074 174 5554 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re open from 6.30 until 3.30 pm.
PS. The plaasbrood was fabulous with cheese, tomato and salad leaves. But it was even better toasted with butter and Verlaque’s Burnt Orange Seville preserve for breakfast. Martin has since advised that yes, The Good Bakery does sell their homemade butter (!)