When Gail’s opened in Twickenham a few months’ ago, I thought, That’s nice, but have to confess I wasn’t especially excited as I already had favourite places to buy good bread and have a coffee and pastry in the morning. There are a few Gail’s around – there’s one in nearby Richmond and I’d seen others in London but not actually eaten in one. I see from their website there are now 69 branches, mainly in London, Oxford and Brighton and this artisan bakery chain is still run by co-founder Tom Molnar. The first bakery opened in Hampstead in 2005 and they say, ‘Though we’ve grown over the years, our philosophy has remained the same: good food that people love … daily chats with our regular customers’.
I went into the Twickenham branch soon after it opened and I think they were still finding their feet and the operation of getting food and drink wasn’t totally smooth. However, since going back everything has got much better and in fact it has now become my favourite place for a morning coffee and I buy my bread from them regularly. There’s always a welcoming smile and ‘hello’, which contributes to a friendly, relaxing atmosphere.
Inside the bakery it’s beautifully bright and inviting; a really lovely place to sit.
Although I haven’t yet indulged too much, there’s a very tempting display of cakes, pastries and savoury snacks. I bought a seeded small soft roll filled with smoked salmon to take home for lunch one day. And after a stressful computer day on Monday (getting my head round a new computer!) I consoled myself with an afternoon flat white and blueberry muffin which I took down to the nearby Thames in search of a bit of tranquillity as well as sweet comfort. Their cheese straws are just wonderful too. They’re quite big, gorgeously cheesy. I bought one to cut into bite-sized pieces as part of nibbles with an evening drink when my son came round but I think I’d love one all to myself another day!
There’s a great display of bread and I’ve tried a few, though have settled on most often buying the San Francisco sourdough.
There are display cabinets filled with drinks, salads and breakfast pots. They have partners who supply them with cheese, smoked salmon, bacon, which are used in their produce but you can also buy packets of them to take home.
You can buy their house blend coffee, organic flour, jams and preserves. There are bags of biscuits, granola, ketchups, mayonnaise. And if you fancy recreating some of their products at home, there’s the Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook to guide you through the making and baking.
Gail’s is situated in Twickenham’s prettiest street – Church Street. This was always partly pedestrianised in the summer months but has recently become pedestrianised seven days a week from 10am until midnight. This makes it a lively, friendly area to sit to eat or merely walk around.
Sometimes I’ll eat outside if the weather is good but if it’s busy or cool or wet weather, then inside is good too. There’s a definite holiday feel to outside though with the street closed off to traffic and tables spilling from the many restaurants and cafes that line the road.
My usual morning treat is a flat white and plain croissant. The coffee is excellent, really good, and the croissant the best I know of locally – and even far beyond!
Sometimes I prefer to get a takeaway and just a short walk down Bell’s Lane – a matter of seconds rather than minutes – takes me to the lovely Twickenham Riverside, where I can find a bench and sit quietly eating my pastry, sipping my coffee, and watching to river flow, the ducks and geese glide past and the occasional boat.
Gail’s is a brilliant addition to Twickenham’s loveliest street, which buzzes with activity, a sense of community and people coming together to enjoy good food and drink (as well as some fabulous independent small shops).