New bakers opens off Shambles to bring ‘Real Bread’ to the people

Star baker – Al Kippax inside the Bluebird Bakery shop on Little Shambles, York. Photograph: Richard McDougall
11 Sep 2015 @ 7.40 pm
| Business, Food & drink

Cut through from the market to Shambles in future, and you’ll be assailed by the glorious smell of fresh bread.

This week Little Shambles became home to the Bluebird Bakery. And anyone who pauses to look at the treats piled high in its window will have to possess willpower of steel not to pop in and buy something delicious.

When we called in the window display included Earl Grey teacakes (75p each); chorizo rolls (£1.50), and ham and cheese brioche, complete with the glossiest of glazes (£1.50).

A large savoury Danish, with cheese, pastrami and red onion (£2.50) would make for a hearty lunch. And then there are the tray bakes (£1.50-£1.80); award-winning brownies and salted caramel shortbread to die for.

And we haven’t even mentioned the bread…

Three ingredients

The rolls in the jar are made with half sourdough, half bread flour
The rolls in the jar are made with half sourdough, half bread flour

“All our bread meets the criteria of the Real Bread Campaign,” says Al Kippax, the owner of Bluebird Bakery.

To be a part of that campaign bakers must promise to use local flours, preferably organic – which Bluebird does – and not use any additives.

On sale when we called round were white cobs (£1.80), three types of Rye bread (£2.50) and sourdough loaves (small £2, large £3.50).

Al said:

For example, for our sourdough we use three ingredients – flour, salt and water, and that’s it. There’s nothing else in there.

Whereas if you go and look at a similar loaf in a supermarket, they call it sourdough but they put a little bit of sourdough culture in it. The rest of it is a load of chemicals and flour improvers and things like that.

People who are used only to supermarket bread are in for a big treat for the tastebuds when they buy some of the proper stuff, says Al.

And it’s healthier too.

I don’t want people to eat sliced white bread. It’s not particularly good for you.

Our white bread is a lot better for you than what you’d get in a supermarket.

But ideally I think the best bread for you is something like a wholemeal sourdough.

It has a lot more nutrition. The sourdough process with a long fermentation that we use brings out a lot more of the goodness and vitamins from the wheat itself.

Self taught baker

The shop A-board and some Earl Grey teacakes
The shop A-board and some Earl Grey teacakes

Al was a chef in London before his move north. He got a job in Meltons Too with the original intention of opening a café.

But seeing the proliferation of cafés in the city he hit on the idea of opening a bakery instead: “I realised there was only one, the Haxby Baker, at the time, who was doing the types of bread I was used to eating down in London.”

He went on a short baking course and taught himself. Six months later, in November 2011, he was ready to trade.

But it was tough – baking at his home kitchen at night and selling the bread on his stall during the day.

“I’d get to bed about 4 or 5 in the morning, I’d have about three hours sleep then I’d get up and go and sell it in the market.”

He did that for about a year before finding premises on Micklegate. More recently he took a unit at Talbot Yard, the artisan food hub in Malton – a Malton shop is to follow later this month.

New chapter

Some of the tempting treats in the Bluebird window
Some of the tempting treats in the Bluebird window

The Little Shambles shop is in a more central location than his Micklegate one, and will capitalise on the customer base Bluebird built up on its market stall nearby.

It is very close to another artisan baker, Via Veccia on Shambles. Was he worried about them being neighbours?

It was the first thing we thought of when we considered taking on the shop.

Our bread is very different. We’ve been on the market a long time, and that’s not affected their trade.

The shop on Little Shambles
The shop on Little Shambles

Opening the Little Shambles shop marks a new chapter in a story that has seen him batch baking at home to making a thousand loaves a week.

Bluebird Bakery now employs several people and supplies ten organisations wholesale, including Fossgate Social, Sotano and City Screen.

So what next, Al?

We’ve got the capacity to do more things, take on more wholesale — potentially take on another shop, I don’t know. We’ll see how these two go for now.

Things have changed so much in the last year that I need to stand back and catch my breath.