The Glenwood Bakery has established itself as the artisanal-bread baseline against which all other bakeries in Durban are measured, says Eat Out critic Shirley Berko.
Slow-fermented hearth-baked bread is freshly prepared before dawn every morning, and usually sold out before noon. But, as any reverent local knows, there’s more to The Glenwood Bakery than just that.
Simple breakfasts of soft-poached eggs, served with caramelised baby tomatoes on one of the breads, such as the coveted rosemary potato loaf, are representative of what chef and owner Adam Robinson, does well: simple, unpretentious food, with each ingredient honoured to perfection. Robinson has an almost constructivist approach to cooking: nothing is served that shouldn’t be on the plate. There’s no superfluous garnish, just the perfect slice of bread and the perfect free-range egg. No more, no less.
The Glenwood Bakery is open for pizza dinners every Monday and Tuesday, with pizzas ranging from about R60 to R70. Prices are extremely reasonable. The pizza menu is a single page of a few options, including antipasto, that changes each week depending on availability of seasonal ingredients. House-made ice creams are usually on the pudding list, with a rotating range of flavours.
Bring your own; otherwise, sip on freshly pressed juices and coffee.
Food preparation takes precedence over promptness, so if you are popping in in the morning, enjoy the free WiFi or the paper while you wait. If it’s the evening, bring a bottle of wine and some friends for a chat as your pizza bakes for dinner.
The bakery is abuzz with chatter, redolent with warm smells wafting from the oven, and occasionally punctuated by the hissing of the coffee machine or grinder. It’s cosy and comfortable.
If you are after a specific loaf, be sure to pre-order. The bakery can make anything from soda bread to challah.
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Chef Adam Robinson has become synonymous with artisanal bread. Working from a very limited space in the back of the Glenwood bakery, and starting from 3.30am, Adam and his team prepare breads made from locally milled, unbleached stone ground flour and their aged mother starter.
What started out as just a bakery, one that served coffee and simple but beautifully prepared poached eggs and a few small items for breakfast, has expanded to much more to meet increasing demand. And it's not hard to see why.
Between 10am and 3pm you can snack on gourmet sandwiches, filled to bursting with fresh ingredients like Midlands cheeses, roast tomatoes, aubergine, cold chicken, hard cheeses, served on rye, ciabatta or rosemary and potato bread.
In summer, there's ice cream, made at the Bakery. From the simple and creamy vanilla, freckled with the pod seeds, to chocolate malt, salted caramel or a grapefruit sorbet.
Two nights a week the bakery opens in the evenings for pizza and burgers. The pizza bases are all baked in the same oven that the bread is made in, and the topping combinations are both uncomplicated and heady. Ranging from a basic margherita – which is worth ordering because simple is what Adam does best – to gourmet, such as artichokes, anchovies, parmesan and fresh basil and rocket. The prices are very reasonable, with very few items ever over R70.
Coffees are brewed from beans sourced from the city’s micro-roasteries, and teas are loose leaf. Juices are freshly squeezed.
Orders are placed at the counter and waiters serve the food. The setup is efficient.
It’s a casual affair, with a few tables inside, including a long communal table, and stools and tables propped up against the bakery window. There are tables and chairs arranged on the sidewalk outside and it’s a relaxing, continental pavement café ambience.
The pizza evenings are on Monday and Tuesday nights and patrons are encouraged to bring their own tipple, whether it is wine or vodka. There is no corkage charged.
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Chef and owner Adam Robinson has worked in critically acclaimed restaurants in France, London and the Midlands since 1991. His bakery is renowned for the incredibly delicious breads he bakes. From baguettes, corn flour, homemade sourdough, batard, and ciabatta to English mill bread, it’s all fantastic. The menu is smallish, but the quality and combination of ingredients used certainly makes up that. Standouts include the burgers – like the ciabatta roll with homemade beef burger patty, lavished with onion marmalade and aioli, truly sublime. Also worth shouting about is the Mediterranean flat bread wrap with slow roasted lamb, hummus, tzatziki and rocket. Finally, a crisp pizza base with interesting toppings like chorizo and sautéed potato is quickly polished. Prices are very reasonable. Note that they’re also known for their homemade ice creams – we tried the salted caramel and believe me, it will have you licking your spoon. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Adam runs dinner specials.
A simple drinks list holds fresh juices and coffees. The venue is not licensed, but Adam encourages his patrons to bring their own wine, with no corkage fee charged.
Staff members are friendly, informed and well trained. This is a self-service joint, to a degree – have a look at the menu on the black boards, place your order and the waiters will bring the food to the table.
It’s a small space, seating ten inside the bakery, and with counters and bar stools set up against the two long windows. There’s also a couple of tables set up on the sidewalk. The atmosphere is very laid-back.
Get there early for the early week dinner service, as it fills up really quickly.
Adam Robinson hung up his chef whites to pursue his love affair with bread – and he’s really committed: he personally makes it daily. Breakfast is a simple pastry affair, although on weekends the repertoire includes eggs Benedict and eggs royale.
Uncomplicated lunch offerings showcase artisan breads and change according to mood and season. You could stumble upon ciabatta topped with goat’s cheese, roasted tomato, olives and rocket; a baguette with coppa ham, avo and butter lettuce, or a hot dog with a twist – a boudin blanc sausage on a mini ciabatta). And then there’s Adam’s range of ice cream made the old-fashioned way in flavours from choc mint to ruby grapefruit sorbet. Monday is pizza night, when you can choose from a margherita, veg or meat option and load it up with your own selection of extra toppings.
Daytime dining means great coffee (with beans from neighbouring roasteries), homemade ice tea, freshly squeezed juices and Spanish hot chocolate. They are not licenced, but on Monday nights you can bring along your own wine and glasses.
Despite a small staff complement, service is fast and personal. The open-plan interior means that diners can watch their food and drinks being made to order. A handwritten docket is placed on the table with a note asking you to settle up at the till.
Double-volume windows bathe the rustic bakery in natural light, and counters set up along these windows offer a vantage point from which to view the neighbourhood. Alternatively, pull up a chair at the central communal table and peruse the wall-mounted chalkboard menus. It’s a working bakery, so expect shelves of bread and bags of stoneground flour lying on pallets on the floor. Forage in the bookshelf for recipe books to read or board games to play.
Bread sells out fast, but you can make a prior reservation to ensure you don’t go home empty-handed.
(Tracy Gielink, July 2014)