“What a lovely place to live!” said Elisabeth as I met her at the door, bearing a basket of goodies with my name on it.
At the time I agreed with her. A stone’s throw from the seafront in Penarth, with all its Victorian seaside charm, I really did think it was a lovely place to live. But now I know there’s a problem: it’s not in the catchment area of the One Mile Bakery!
Catchment areas are a hot topic these days, with estate agents quick to point out when desirable properties are in the catchment area of even more desirable schools – but I can see a time coming soon when “in the catchment area of One Mile Bakery” may also feature on property details!
The One Mile Bakery is a ‘subscription only’ service, supplying customers within a one mile radius of its kitchen (hence the name!) with a regular delivery, on foot or by bike, of handmade breads, soups and preserves. All of the products are handmade by founder Elisabeth Mahoney, using stone-ground flour from traditional mills in Wales and the Cotswolds for the breads, and ingredients that are home-grown, foraged or sourced from local producers and markets for the soups and preserves. The catchment area broadly encompasses Pontcanna, Llandaff and Canton, but if you’re not sure whether or not you qualify, you can drop them an email to find out.
As soon as I heard about the One Mile Bakery, I was excited. All too often, someone comes up with a good quality product, but they fail to find an innovative way of marketing or distributing it – and I find it frustrating and upsetting when their product disappears without trace amongst a plethora of other product ideas – some just as good, others just marketed better. Sadly, these days, having a good product just isn’t enough – so, I love it when I see a new local business with a really good idea that gives it the edge and makes it stand out from the crowd.
So, when I had the opportunity to try a very special one-off delivery to Penarth from Elisabeth, I jumped at the chance, and was really hoping that the products would be as good as the idea behind the bakery.
There are a range of different subscription options available, but the delivery that I tried was equivalent to the first delivery in the Bread, Soup & Jam subscription, which is £23.50 for one month, with a 10% discount for 3 months. With this package, you receive one jar of seasonal jam or chutney in the first of the month’s deliveries, with bread and soup, and then in the subsequent 3 weeks you receive bread and soup. The bread will either be a large loaf or two smaller, different loaves, and the soup will be a generous portion for two with garnish.
With each week’s delivery, there’s a typed sheet that details the ingredients of that week’s products, any special instructions around how long the products will keep for and how to serve, highlighting those that have been included in your specific package. The intro on this sheet features a few more personal notes about the week’s goodies – for example, wild garlic for one of the loaves was foraged in Llandaff fields, and the early summer jam featured rhubarb from her allotment and lavender from her garden.
I received one large (extra-large due to the warm weather having an effect on the yeast!) pain de campagne, a rustic French sourdough, which, to my delight, was still warm when it arrived! This was gorgeously soft and ‘spongy’ in the middle, and pleasantly chewy and crisp (if it’s possible to be both!) on the outside, with a generous dusting of flour – that seemed to get everywhere (my only complaint, if I was really pushed for one!) Elisabeth said that the bread could be frozen – but would last for a long time anyway. We tried it on its own with a little butter – delicious when really fresh, in a sandwich – fab for a real doorstep that will challenge even the biggest of mouths, and toasted with jam (more on that later!) All ways were delicious, but I was particularly surprised by how nice it was toasted – it made it lighter somehow – so we kept it out of the freezer and I was still eating it as toast nearly a week after the delivery. Other bread options on the list sounded equally good: a wild pesto loaf, a pecan and cranberry loaf and a cheddar, chilli and coriander house white particularly catching my eye. Different subscription options allow you to choose whether you prefer these ‘treat’ type flavoured breads, or something that’s more of a staple to replace your usual bread purchases.
My soup was a Minestra Verdissima (spring minestrone). I have to admit when Elisabeth mentioned minestrone my heart sank just slightly, as it was a very warm day, and a hearty tomato-based soup wasn’t high on the list of things I fancied to eat. I needn’t have worried – in this case, green was most definitely the colour, with a gorgeous selection of fresh, green vegetables including broad beans, peas and asparagus, in a light, beautifully seasoned broth with some chunky pasta with a good bite to it. This came with a garnish of mint and almond pesto. I did wonder if the pesto was necessary with so many lovely ingredients in the soup, but I tried it with and without, and sure enough it really set the flavour off well. Elisabeth certainly knows her flavour combinations – and she even knows how to make celery (one of my least favourite ingredients when used badly) feel like an integral part of a recipe, rather than – as is all too often the case – a filler!
Next up was a pot of what has got to be one of the most delicious jams I’ve ever tried: strawberry, rhubarb, vanilla and lavender. In the jar, the jam is fairly solid in texture, but it spreads easily onto bread or preferably toast (it was a match made in heaven with the toasted sourdough), and there’s not a hint of a slimy lump of fruit in there. Elisabeth asked beforehand, as she does with all customers, if I had any dietary requirements, allergies or dislikes, and my only specification was no big lumps of strawberry in my jam – thankfully she agreed with me that this is a travesty! The predominant flavour is strawberry, with a hint of sharpness from the rhubarb, beautifully tempered by a delicate vanilla. I find it hard to detect the lavender, but there’s certainly an unusual edge to the flavour. This stuff really is divine, not remotely sickly sweet like so many jams, even the homemade ones, and I’m desperately trying to ration myself as I don’t want the jar to end! Mr W doesn’t normally eat breakfast, but has been swayed several times recently when I’ve told him that some of this jam is on the morning menu.
Finally, my ‘extra’ was some pecorino, olive and herb breadsticks. To look at, these reminded me of the sweet pastries that come in a ‘twist’ shape, with fruit or chocolate chips and crème patissiere – they looked beautiful. They tasted even better: moist, chewy bread with a bite of salty pecorino, flavoursome herbs and wonderfully moist pieces of olive – the fact the olives hadn’t dried out during the baking was the thing that impressed me the most. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that all four of the breadsticks were gone within about 15 minutes of arriving, as they were a huge hit with both Mr W and me!
Everything was presented beautifully too, in compostable packaging. Each item has a small One Mile Bakery branded sticker, handwritten with the name of the product. Once the sticker has been removed, all the packaging can be put in your green bag in your food caddy.
So, not only do I love the idea of the One Mile Bakery, I love the food too. What’s more, I love the story of how it’s all come about. One of the best things about writing this blog is the opportunities I now get to meet and chat to such a diverse range of interesting and passionate people and to hear their stories – and Elisabeth is no exception. She’s always been a passionate home cook – cooking with her mum as a child and then hosting formal dinner parties every weekend for friends as a teen! Despite all this pointing to a career in food, she became an English lecturer and then a journalist before landing her dream job (and mine!) as a restaurant critic – but was still cooking all the time at home, and, like many people, kept being told she should do something with food. After a move to Cardiff and a stressful job here, she went on holiday to Italy, was transfixed by the food culture there and finally decided to leave her job and try the food business. After nearly two years of planning, she’s launched the One Mile Bakery – and this is only the beginning. She’s already got a schedule of classes for those wanting to learn how to make this fantastic produce at home, and there’s even more on the agenda for the coming months!
I know I’m prone to effusiveness at the best of times, but please do believe me when I say I was bowled over (not literally – although I think it could have been done with that whopping pain de campagne!) by the quality of the food we tried. Wonderful, fresh flavours and great textures where you can really taste the difference from mass produced products, where long shelf lives and economy for the producer and the consumer are generally at the forefront. The ingredient lists on the One Mile Bakery products are refreshingly brief – no preservatives, extras or general nasties that have no place in good food!
A subscription would be lovely for any foodie – and the one we tried is, in my view, excellent value. The business idea is also very ecologically sound, due to the use of local ingredients, compostable packaging and the on foot or bike deliveries. The subscriptions are already proving popular as gifts, so if you don’t live within the catchment area, why not treat someone who does – and the invite yourself round so you don’t miss out!
Now, does anyone know if I can rent a PO Box address in the Canton, Llandaff or Pontcanna areas!?
My sample delivery was complimentary. Many thanks to Elisabeth Mahoney of the One Mile Bakery for my samples, for delivering to Penarth for me, and for sharing her story so far with me to help me write this review.