The picture above was taken by Ellen Anne Davies for her review of Gail’s Artisan Bakery, published in March 2017. If you like cinnamon buns and espresso, a read is prescribed.
Every once in a while the world presents you with a perfect combination of elements. It is a bright afternoon in June and the street musicians are performing Summertime. A walk through the park means you get to pet an assortment of friendly dogs. The car engine starts, and it’s your favourite song playing on the radio. Lemon juice on salmon, a red belt over a grey dress, Harry Potter books on a wet weekend, a kiss in the dark, Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde, baconnaise.
There is poetic beauty in those experiences, many of them culinary, most of them personal. Myself, I know of a perfect combination that always works like magic: a cappuccino and an almond croissant from Gail’s. But let me tell you about Gail’s first.
Gail’s bakeries are a network of thirty-eight establishments, most of them in London, one in St Albans, and two in Oxford. The latter are located in Jericho (Little Clarendon) and Summertown (Banbury Road). I have been to both, although tend to frequent the Jericho branch as it is both roomier and much closer to my daily routes than the Summertown one.
Gail’s Artisan Bakery in Jericho doubles as a café and can be found at 21-22 Little Clarendon Street, just opposite the exit from Wellington Square. Opened on February 23rd, 2017 in place of an ice-cream parlour and a barber’s shop, Gail’s has been my spiritual home ever since I discovered it over a breakfast with friends in late March. Everything there, and I do mean everything, is fresh and delicious and of very high quality. There are fluffy blueberry pancakes with crème fraiche, and chocolate pecan brownies — so dense and rich with cocoa that every bite demands to be savoured. There are slices of the sourdough bread that has taste and structure, unlike what I tend to buy as toast-base from supermarkets. The selection of buns, brioches, rolls, scones, cakes, muffins and cookies is arresting: almost too much choice, almost too many kinds of mouth-watering pastries on offer.
In addition to excellent bread and cake, Gail’s serve very, very good coffee. There once was a time when I dropped by Little Clarendon during the rush hour, had to queue for my order, and then got somebody else’s drink. The mistake was amended at once, but the extra five-minute wait for my coffee was not appreciated, as any caffeine-deprived person will tell you. And yet, when I finally got my cup, that beautiful brew with latte art on top, I took a sip and was so very happy — because it was all entirely worth it.
In short, if you have the chance, do come to Little Clarendon for a drink and a bite. The food is lovely and, depending on the time of the day and the week, the space is suitable for coffee dates, lone working on a laptop, brunching in a company, and people-watching. There are seasonal products, such as shortbread bunny biscuits offered around Easter (I cannot wait for the Christmas selection!), and classics, like my beloved almond croissant.
The bakery is open from seven in the morning until seven at night. The most popular pastries tend to disappear before five, but then you get to enjoy a peaceful café for the rest of the evening. Pricewise, Gail’s is on the slightly expensive side, with my usual combination costing £6, although cheaper if bought as takeaway.
Similarly to Pierre Victoire (my favourite Oxford restaurant located further down Little Clarendon; to be reviewed), Gail’s has only ever been a source of delight and gastronomic pleasure. I sincerely recommend this café to any person with a mouth. To paraphrase ‘a great princess’, let us eat cake.
Current album: Saint Etienne, Home Counties
Current book: Luke Pearson, Hilda and the Midnight Giant
Current TV series: Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Series 2 (1990)