Review: GAIL’s Bakery, Guildford
People of Guildford pull out you stretchiest pants - Gail's has arrived and you're going to love it. Delicious artisan breads, cakes and pastries baked fresh every day.
GAIL’s is the artisan bakery that’s taking Britain by storm! Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration – but only a little one. Seriously? Have you tried their cinnamon buns?
So who is Gail, you might ask? She’s Gail Mejia, a baker who in the 1990s gathered up some of her best baker buddies to form a business called The Bread Factory, baking traditional loaves for London’s top restaurants. A few years later Gail meets Tom Molnar, an American living in London who can’t find decent sourdough, and they join forces.
Fast forward a decade or so later, and Tom has an idea to bring these traditional artisan loaves to neighbourhood cafés, and in 2005 along with another business partner, he opens the first GAIL’s Bakery in Hampstead. A year or so later, GAIL’s opened in Notting Hill. And the rest – as they say – is history.
There are now more than 65 bakeries in neighbourhoods in and around London, Oxford, Brighton and now Surrey – bringing top quality artisan bread to the masses.
The Guildford GAIL’s is in the Tunsgate Quarter, with an entrance opening onto Tunsgate and outdoor seating looking down toward the Tunsgate Arch. There’s also an entrance from the first floor of the shopping centre. Parking is pretty handy – there are several car parks within a few minutes walk including the Tunsgate Quarter and the Castle Car Park. If you fancy a longer walk there’s also the Milbrook car park on Milbrook Road, near the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
In the first instance, it’s the divine smell of baked goodies that will get your attention. Follow the waft of freshly baking bread and – breathe deep – you’ll be met with more artisan loaves, pastries, cakes, buns, quiches and rolls than you can shake a stick at.
It’s a big space dominated by a long L-shaped counter laden with baked delights, and with plenty of well-spaced tables for dining in. The bakery had opened only the day before I visited and it was still buzzing. People were queuing to buy take-away cakes and bread, and also to order lunch, coffees and cake to eat in. I was impressed by how smoothly everything ran – the supply of fresh baked goodies, pastries and filled bread rolls was seamless.
The interiors are simple and stylish. Metro tiles line the walls behind the counters, giving a slight retro feel, and the lighting and signage are modern and a little bit industrial which sits well with the polished concrete pillars and walls. Tables and chairs are simple bistro style.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Let’s get one thing straight. GAIL’s bread is a long way from the spongy, sliced white stuff you find in a supermarket – and when you smack eyes on the merchandise, you’ll be hard pressed to choose something.
I went for lunch with my family – the OH and teenager daughter happily obliged in helping me sampling a few of the delights. We ordered a range of savoury and sweet goodies from the display counter, which we shared. There’s also a cooked brunch and lunch menu that includes things like avocado salsa or sautéed mushrooms on sourdough, toasties, and soup and sourdough.
Our selection included an egg soufflé roll, spinach and feta roll, and smoked salmon on a poppy seed bun. And for the sweet stuff we sampled the pecan and cinnamon crumble, pistachio and rose cake, chocolate brownie fudge, a granola bar, the cherry and chocolate scone and of course, a cinnamon bun. I can genuinely say there was nothing I didn’t like. And, I’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite. The chocolate brownie finger was rich, smooth and decadent, the cinnamon bun soft and almost caramel-like on the inside with a gorgeous sugary coating on the outside. And the pecan and cinnamon crumble was just that, a lovely sweet and crumbly cake. I washed mine down with a flat white, but my daughter went for an iced chocolate.
Vegans are well looked after – with plenty of options on the menu including a vegan hot cocoa.
KID-FRIENDLY? Hell yeah! This is a place that was practically made for kids with a bountiful selection of pastries, cakes, slices and cookies. In fact they’ll be hard pressed to choose just one!
OUT & ABOUT
The Tunsgate Quarter is a fab shopping centre so there’s plenty of brilliant shops to while away a some time including Loaf, Oka, The White Company and Seasalt and Bobbi Brown. But you’re also just off Guildford High Street and all that has to offer. Or if you’re after something more cultural, you’ll find Guildford Castle just across the street at the top end of Tunsgate.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Well, who doesn’t like cakes? Seriously though, if you’re after quality handmade artisan bread, sourdough, ciabatta or baguettes – GAIL’s is your spot. It’s also a great place to stop off for lunch if you’re shopping in Guildford.
Not for: Carb avoiders.
The damage: Loaves range in price from £1.90 to £6 for the Danish Spelt Sourdough. Most hover around the £3 mark. Sweet and savoury goodies in the display counter range from £2.50-£4.