Harrods rings the changes: Harrods, London

Emerging from air thick with expensive perfume, shoppers wander into a grand hall to be greeted by the intoxicating scents of freshly-baked loaves and roasted coffee. Welcome to the Harrods Roastery and Bake Hall.

The Hall, designed by David Collins Studios, has been restored to its 1925  shape and size, and mixes original features such as a marble floor and cartouches with modern touches. Led by 27-year-old master baker Lance Gardner, the bakery is the true embodiment of this old meets new motif.

Floor to ceiling shelves stacked with freshly-baked sourdough, rye and baguettes, sausage rolls, babka and brioche make for an impressive sight. Behind a glass wall are retarder provers and a Mono four-deck steam-injected oven that is in constant use – customers are presented with loaves straight from the oven every 30 minutes, and it’s going down a storm.

“There is such a sense of achievement with this project,” beams Gardner, his enthusiasm evident. “Christmas was phenomenal and the customer feedback has been incredible. When a customer says to you ‘wow, this bread is still warm’, it really makes my day. “Normally, you’d have to go to a bakery when it opens to get a warm loaf of bread.”

It’s by no means an easy task. Gardner and his team of nearly 20 bakers (across night, baking, mixing and other shifts) sell 200 to 300 loaves a day, along with other sweet and savoury items. That’s on top of baked goods such as rolls and brioche buns, provided to restaurants across the store.

“Every restaurant in Harrods now takes sourdough bread. For them it was a massive change,” notes Gardner. “People can really enjoy what’s going on and be part of the taste revolution.”

Gardner and the team care for three sourdough starters which were developed over several months. Harrods’ Signature Sourdough is made with three ingredients – flour, water and salt – and nurtured with a blend of wholemeal and white flour from Shipton Mill.

There’s still plenty of room for innovation, though. Just three months after opening there are already new products in the pipeline. Seasonal special chocolate, hazelnut and raisin sourdough is planned for Valentine’s Day and the likes of challah, hot cross buns and spelt loaves are due to join the range later in the year.

Roastery and Bake Hall, Harrods, London

Who: Lance Gardner, Harrods master baker. Having previously worked for French chef and baker Richard Bertinet and Hart’s Bakery, the 27-year-old joined the upmarket department store in June last year.

What: The first phase of a two-year restoration project to transform Harrods’ Food Halls. Further concepts will be added in 2018 and 2019.

Where: Harrods’ flagship store, Brompton Street, Knightsbridge, London

When: The Harrods Roastery and Bake Hall opened on 14 November 2017.

Why: “Customers can see their coffee being roasted, their bread being baked and their pastries coming out of the oven. That’s where you want to be,” says Gardner.

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