August 08, 2016
At 1 Zenoria Street in East Dulwich, a short walk from our office in Nunhead, husband and wife team Sharmin and Fergus Jackson have built a bake house to satisfy even the most discerning bread lover. If the smell of freshly baked bread can symbolise home, then Brick House Bakery has enough warmth to make every visitor feel a welcome part of this family run café. Over a cup of Square Mile coffee and a slice of freshly baked sourdough, we talk San Francisco, family and slow fermentation.
Sharmin and Fergus are former advertising executives who, after getting married, moved to California where Fergus studied at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Moving back to London, the pair launched Brick House Bakery in Peckham in 2012, beginning as a wholesale unit before opening the café we sit and enjoy today.
Now, Brick House Bakery has six types of bread: the Peckham Rye, Country White, Multigrain, Raisin & Walnut, the Shackleton and the Sourdough Baguette. They have held the title of the Real Bread Campaign’s London Loaf and have picked up several awards, including best baguette at the World Bread Awards.
“We had this idea of starting a family business,’ Fergus tells me. ‘We thought we’d come back from working in San Francisco and build something small before developing a business plan. We moved to San Francisco at a stage where we were doing well in our careers, but weren’t happy. Baking became a passion and when I saw the course in San Francisco it all fell into place. We didn’t have kids and thought it was time for an adventure. Now we’re back in London and Ludo was 7 months old when we opened the café.”
“It just kind of happened”, Sharmin adds. “I don’t think people have been surprised that we work together. We imagined having a family business and having time together, but it’s a bit different. When we opened we were changing nappies on the phone to the bank. Although we are similar in our outlook and our vision, at work we operate in a different way. We have different things going on. I do all the financial side of things and Fergus focuses on the baking. At one point Fergus was literally doing everything himself: getting up early to bake, doing the deliveries. That’s why it’s so nice to go on holiday. You remember all the things you liked to do together!”
Brick House Bakery specialises in San Francisco style slow fermentation sourdough breads, made using traditional methods and just a few simple ingredients; flour, water, sea salt and naturally occurring yeast. Made over 2 days, 6 days a week, all the sourdoughs are hand-made, baked on stone and use organic flour and other wholesome ingredients including nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruit.
Like Alice Made This, Brick House Bakery is built on the need for precision, refinery, honesty and a respect for process. Their baking methods are scientific, with everything from temperature to humidity affecting the batch. With so many factors affecting the bread, they, like our British factories, have become experts in their field with complete dedication to their craft.
“Bakers are different to the rest of the food world,” Fergus continues. “We have a shared craft, angst and determination to get it right. Our business is built completely on consistency and quality.”
With the bakery now also running classes, their bread stocked and served in Neal’s Yard Dairy, Franklin’s Farm Shop, La Fromagerie, Duck Soup and Frank’s to name a few, Sharmin tells me how they are putting their heads together “to figure out what’s leading where.” Wherever the bread trail may take them, we know that it will be built on openness and excellence, with family at the centre.