Derby Road’s had a bit of a spruce up, of late. The pavements have received a good scrub, art galleries are popping up, and a shining haven of sourdough-smelling goodness has appeared smack-bang in the middle of it all.
Tough Mary’s Bakehouse stands out from the crowd. Named after founder Kate’s long family history of tough women called Mary, the bright yellow building calls out to the peckish and the parched alike. Inside, Kate has created a small, yet perfectly formed haven of fresh-bread smells and real-wood tables. A picture frame holding the phrase “Girls Are Strong” is given pride of place on the wall. I like it here.
The bakery is in full view of the customer. There are pillows of fermenting dough in neat little blobs, twists of croissants laid out on baking trays, and a generous dusting of flour about the place. Aside from the usual sweet treats we’re all accustomed to, the bakery whips up fresh focaccias with various toppings that change daily, and homemade soup with a hunk of sourdough to quench any lunchtime hunger pangs.
The counter is laden with the morning’s freshest goods, and it’s all too much for my still-sluggish brain to handle, so I ask Kate to give me and my editorial teammates a selection of her favourite breakfast bites. First up, a classic cinnamon roll (£2.50) with just a splash of cardamom. The attention to detail is strong, with the bun folded, layered, pulled and twisted into a bun so beautiful, it’s almost a shame to bite into it. A testament to the TLC that goes into baking these badgyals.
Next on the table was a pain au chocolat (£1.70). One of my dining companions, who is not one to throw around hyperbole, nor compliment for compliment’s sake, said this was – and I quote – “one of the best croissants I’ve had outside of Paris.” Big. Cheese. The pastry was buttery, almost cake-like in texture, and encased thick slabs of chocolate in its mounds.
The pièce de résistance arrived in the form of a traditional Polish pastry with a twist. The babka (£2.50) is a chocolate-infused pastry, usually baked into a loaf. Our Kate has broken the mould, quite literally, and crafted a mighty-fine looking cupcake out of the pastry. Inside, spirals of hazelnut chocolate wound their way around soft, spongy pastry, before fanning out underneath the glazed top of the bun. It was difficult to share this bogger.
For a breakfast-y dessert, we were presented with a rhubarb and custard doughnut (£2.20) with a distinct lemony twang to the dough, and a creamy custard with sharp rhubarb chunks bursting from the seams. A mighty fine finish.
Tough Mary’s Bakehouse, 74 Derby Road, Nottingham, NG1 5FD
Tough Mary's Bakehouse website