Load up on bread, bread and more bread at Gails, a bakery and cafe that makes sandwiches, cakes and loaves of bread that are so good you’ll swear allegiance to carbs in no time.
Gails has other locations, including one in Hampstead and a summertime spot at the Serpentine Gallery, but their Notting Hill venue is the place to be if you want to have more of a leisurely lunch. There’s plenty of seating (including a separate area downstairs) and the floor to ceiling windows are watching people stride up and down Portobello Road. Whilst there’s not really that much in the way of decor, the different sandwiches, muffins and pastries lining the counter are plenty eye-catching.
This is a relaxed kind of place, where you can disappear for an hour or so with a book or a laptop, and no one really bats an eye if your toddler explores around the tables. Thanks to its location, you can expect plenty of tourists in for a bit of refuelling after exploring the market, but there seem to be a lot of locals as well who either stop in for a coffee or to get their daily bread loaf. There’s a school nearby, so expect crowds for morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up, but the rest of the time feels very laid back.
There’s a really large variety of food here, all of it which is baked and prepared in the downstairs kitchen. Whilst Gails doesn’t have an official menu, as the offerings change on a daily basis, you can expect several varieties of sandwiches on offer including a rustic chicken and aubergine and a meaty salami sandwich, served on a baguette with a tangy mustard. Quiches include a moist, sugary sweetcorn and there are a variety of salads as well. The quail’s egg salad is made with brown rice, peas and chickpeas, and although the rice is hearty the salad is still quite light since it’s not swamped in dressing. Breads, of course, are available too if you don’t feel like bothering with the sandwich filling: recommended are the sourdough mixed through with walnuts and the challah, an eggy bread with a flaky crust.
As far as pastries go, the chocolate fondant is fantastically rich, with a gooey centre, whilst the pecan pie slice is thick, sticky and packed with nuts. The brownie is appropriately fudgy and stodgy, whilst the black and white cookie (made with dark chocolate flavoured dough and white chocolate chips) is an original alternative to the traditional chocolate chip.
Muffins are on offer as well, including a sugar and dairy free muffin - very moist in texture, without the usual bitter aftertaste that most sugar-free products have. The winner, however, has to be the bran muffin. Instead of the usual dry, crumbly version, Gails bran muffin is incredibly moist and flavourful, almost as if it’s been mixed with dates or figs. It almost tastes as if it shouldn’t be healthy at all.
More along the lines of coffee and tea than beer and cocktails. The coffee and tea is all fair trade though (including the decaffeinated coffee) and fresh squeezed orange juice is available as well. Free tap water is also on offer, from a glass jug near the counter, which is a nice touch.
The Last Word
With a vast array of bread that smells, looks and tastes as fresh as possible, Gails will no doubt turn any carb-phobic Londoner into a bread fan.