Since its opening last December Dee’s Bakery has enjoyed a strong, regular trade. Every Saturday their bread flies off the shelves – one recent visit for a cup of tea saw several customers being told to come back shortly while they were baking their umpteenth batch. The array is impressive; multi seed, brioche, focaccia, plus the old favourite white and wholemeal. Carbaphobes, look away now. Dee’s team work hard throughout the week to ensure everything is ready for 7am when the bakery opens As you can see, their efforts haven’t gone to waste. (Above: what is to be our next conquest. Why oh why didn’t we purchase a slice?!) We indulged in their sweet treats at the weekend. Cheesecake brownies, banana and walnut bread – deliciously moist with an occasional hit of chunky walnut, lemon cake, muffins, plus they have wheat-free options too which still satisfy a sweet tooth without feeling like you’re missing out on any of the fun stuff. Pay around £2.50 for a generous slice of cake.
That little strip on Ritherdon Road is almost like a Balham sub-culture; far enough from the centre of town to have its own core audience. On our continual quest to find our favourite brunch in Balham, SwishJunction sloped over on a very cold Saturday morning to The French Cafe.
The cafe extends quite far back but retains a cosy feel, and the decor is simple but effective. Everywhere you turn there’s an added detail, from the grand mirrors to the wooden boxes holding napkins and other kitchenware. Almost like an extension of someone’s countryside kitchen, but with posher chairs (no rickety furniture here).
One thing we noted is the adequate amount of space between tables. Cosiness is great (see Lavish Habit; you get a seat where you can but it just works) but this is the sort of place where you want to eat with just your intended company and really stretch out.
The menu is brief, sticking to one side of A4 – always a good sign in our books. A busy menu always feels a little stressful; impossible to choose from and how can you know what the real signature dish is? It was still tricky to choose, but we opted for les oeufs, French-style (well, when in Rome, or, whatever) and good old classic Benedict-style.
Ouefs Francais – that’s soft-boiled eggs on shallot potatoes, bacon lardons and hollandaise sauce – was a great mixture of salty foodstuffs. The yolk was an eye-popping orange hue and we loved the mixture of soft and crispy textures. The portion was modest but enough, although the owner of the dish admitted to food envy when eyeing up the Eggs Benedict ordered. Fat, fluffy muffins lightly toasted (hurrah, no burnt bits vaguely concealed in hollandaise sauce) topped with very crispy bacon (no chewy fatty bits here either), two springy poached eggs that popped and oozed yolk in a very satisfying fashion, mixing with the generous dollop of hollandaise.
You can see by the description our favourite dish, ironically not the French one. We eyed up the English breakfast but figured that would be a pointless exercise. However when served to our neighbours we can report that the portions are generous and they serve HASH BROWNS. Happiness.
The fresh orange juice was zingy without too much acidity and the tea perfectly lovely. Our bill came to around £26 including service; not bad for something that will keep you going until afternoon tea (well we’re only human). All in all a great mid-market option which operated a sleek service, no bustling around or chaotic environment.
Enq: The French Cafe, 16-18 Ritherdon Road, SW17 8QD.
Hands up who’s wanted to sneak under their desk for a nap at work this week? We’ve been so used to the Christmas break and its acceptance of afternoon drinking/grazing that going back to work is difficult enough, let alone having to stick to restrictive new year’s resolutions that are mostly misery-inducing (6am runs, no carbs for a month? No thanks).
We love healthy eating and we love keeping fit but all in moderation, please, which is why we’ve been on the hunt for fun resolutions to keep that don’t require starving yourself. We’re talking low-maintenance, high satisfaction.
Chalk The Sun is a team of two teachers who run a series of writing workshops in the evenings and at weekends at the Balham Bowls Club (that place again. Seriously, they have everything there). Whether you’re a beginner or looking to further your skills, whether it’s a novel or script-writing, there’s a class tailored to it. Buy a batch of five classes and attend a class at anytime – you’re not restricted to certain times. If you don’t want to commit, you can buy a ‘taster’ class for £20. The chilled out surroundings of the BBC make these classes feel more laid back than the chilly atmosphere of a conventional classroom.
If the domestic life is more your thing, the recently-opened Dee’s Bakery features Dee’s Academy, which will offer baking classes and workshops from cupcake decorating to more elaborate cakes that’ll look too good to eat (well, almost), like the one below. Starting on 14th January you can sign up for the ‘covering a cake and modelling’ class to learn tricks like getting your icing smooth, and making models to sit on top (£120, 5 hours). For a kid friendly option, Dee is starting to hold children’s parties (2 hours 30 mins, £25 per child – private studio hire) where kids can learn how to make pizza bases and make decorations for cupcakes. We wish we were kids again!
Sometimes sprucing up your home is as good as moving, which is where the London Property Makeover comes in. They run afternoon sessions most Saturdays in different locations including the BBC and Lavish Habit, which focus on giving your home a new lease of life. You’ll be given tips on colour matching, fabric mixing, lighting and other ideas to help you on your way. A ticket costs £60 and classes run from 1:30pm-4pm.