I meet a lot of people working on Bitten, lots of chefs, restaurateurs, new business owners. The ones I love meeting the most, are the ones with genuine passion for what they’re doing. The kind of passion that radiates out of them and immerses you in their dream.
Kate Hamblin is one of those people. A baker by trade, with stints at E5 Bakehouse, Moro, and bakeries in Scandinavia and the US, Kate was literally bursting at the seams to get baking when I met her and partner Hugo Thurston yesterday morning.
Originally from West Berkshire, Kate has family connections to Sweden which have influenced her baking and style. Hugo is a local Oxonion and runs front of house after a career featuring Chiang Mai, Browns, Pierre Victoire, Branca, and Petit Blanc, Moro and Morito, plus a stint training as an actor.
I’d be failing you if I didn’t point out that Hugo is also brother to Ru Thurston from Oli’s Thai and Arbequina. Yeah, serious food pedigree going on here folks. And where will you find Hamblin Bread? On Iffley Road, next to Bannister’s Cafe a few doors down from Magdalen Arms, adding to the foodie mecca that radiates out from Magdalen Road.
Offering & Style
The first thing to point out is that this is a bakery, not a cafe. It has minimal seating and will eventually serve some food, but it’s a bakery first and foremost. From opening tomorrow at 8am, Kate and Hugo will be selling a range of freshly baked sourdough bread – a country loaf, a seeded loaf, a sprouted rye, a Danish-style compact rye, some buns, and a Scandinavian style loaf that’s baked biiiiig. Like 1.8kg big, then sold by the whole or half.
Coffee will be filter coffee, and possibly self-service, with James Gourmet Coffee supplying initially. Once they’re up and running, the pair are planning to serve sandwiches, cookies, filled rolls and pizza. Hugo has curated a list of natural wines, beers and cider to sell too, alongside the bread and a selection of homemade jams and marmalade. The concept with the drinks marries with that of the bread, keeping things natural and additive free with a rotating range of four reds, four whites and two fizzy.
Working with just flour, salt and water means you need great ingredients. Kate has personally and carefully selected her list of producers, including the best stoneground British flours and unrefined salt, plus an on-site water filtration system. Kate will also be working with ancient grains from John Letts who also supplies TOAD gin.
I could go into a lot more detail here on the bread, but it’s a brief preview, so I’ll save it for a later review. What I will say is that Kate sent me home with a loaf of her first batch made on site, still warm and smelling amazing. It took me less than 1 minute after getting home to slice off a big hunk of bread and slather it with butter, and it was flipping amazing. Possibly the softest sourdough I’ve eaten – and yes I know I should have probably waited for the bread to cool thoroughly before cutting it but it was TOTALLY worth it. I challenge you not to!
Opening hours will be 8am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday, with events and baking classes taking place during some evenings and weekends – stay tuned for more detail on these.
Hamblin Bread, 247 Iffley Road, Oxford OX4 1SJ
Tel: 01865 243545