To­day’s spe­cial: cold com­fort in a Zeit­geisty Box

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

Fri­day lunchtimes at

The Doo­dle Bar, 33 Park­gate Road, SW11 4NP: roseprince.co.uk/ the-pocket-bak­ery; the­do­o­dle­bar.com. Co­pi­ous meal with wine or beer,

£15-£20

Al­though the rest of you are more than wel­come to read on if the urge takes, this lat­est in an oc­ca­sional se­ries of re­views mi­cro-tar­geted at pre­cise por­tions of the read­er­ship is aimed at those who are plan­ning to bury a time cap­sule.

Why any­one would wish to pre­serve a mish­mash of items de­signed to cap­ture the spirit of the age, in the be­lief that a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion will dig them up and be il­lu­mi­nated about our times, is be­yond me. Ev­ery facet of hu­man ex­is­tence is now recorded on the in­ter­net, so there must be myr­iad bet­ter uses for your en­er­gies.

Each to his own, how­ever. So if time cap­sules are your bag, and what you’re look­ing to en­cap­su­late is the most im­mac­u­lately on-trend restau­rant in Bri­tain in 2013, buy a pneu­matic drill and head to Bat­tersea, there to be­gin the drain­ing process of in­ter­ring The Pocket Bak­ery.

I, on the other hand, come to praise this ven­ture, not to bury it. There is so much to ad­mire about this weekly pop-up, which ma­te­ri­alises only on Fri­day lunchtimes, that it is hard to know where to start. Con­ven­tion­ally in such chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, we fol­low Julie An­drews’s ad­vice, as im­parted in Do-Re-Mi, and start at the very be­gin­ning, on the com­pelling logic that it is a very good place to start.

The Pocket Bak­ery is the brain­child of my Tele­graph col­league Rose Prince, with her son and fel­low bak­ing mae­stro Jack. The Cap­tain Von Trapp of the oven, Rose has writ­ten in this news­pa­per of how three years ago she in­tro­duced Jack and his younger sis­ter Lara, then 14 and 11 re­spec­tively, to bak­ing as a de­vice to make them earn their pocket money; and how this then be­came a vo­ca­tion for Jack, res­cu­ing him from a trou­bled and ed­u­ca­tion­ally de­mo­ti­vated youth.

Al­ready, The Pocket Bak­ery ticks a trin­ity of sig­nif­i­cant zeit­geisty boxes: the in­tense pres­sure mod­ern ado­les­cence ex­erts on off­spring and par­ents; the na­tional love af­fair with bak­ing; and the popup’s emer­gence as a defin­ing fea­ture of neo-aus­ter­ity cater­ing. Lob in the lo­ca­tion, at the end of a neo-Dick­en­sian cov­ered mar­ket laden with street-food vans, and sur­rounded by ar­chi­tects’ of­fices (in­clud­ing Nor­man Fos­ter’s), and you have the per­fect time cap­sule pack­age. The Pocket Bak­ery pops up in the Doo­dle Bar, a large, funky and su­perbly well ven­ti­lated (a phrase my Enigma ma­chine trans­lates as “take a roll of Ba­co­foil if you are prone to hy­pother­mia”) space, heavy with post-in­dus­trial chic. Planks of wood lined with acous­tic­sen­hanc­ing foam, per­haps lib­er­ated from a dis­used record­ing stu­dio, hang from the ceil­ing along with hur­ri­cane lamps. The walls are of faded brick­work, some lined with black pa­per on which stu­dents from the nearby Royal Col­lege of Art have doo­dled, as they have on the con­crete pil­lars – whence the bar’s name.

It feels like a cross be­tween a glacially cool Man­hat­tan ware­house loft and the set of an al­most­watch­able Guy Ritchie film; and its ap­peal­ing louch­eness was re­in­forced by a sur­pris­ingly ma­ture clien­tèle. “It’s re­lent­lessly trendy,” said my friend, “and yet some of th­ese re­lent­lessly trendy peo­ple are even older than me.” One hat­ted cus­tomer ap­peared to be a Quentin Crisp trib­ute act, un­til he was un­masked as Chris Jag­ger, brother of Mick. Another must surely have been au­di­tion­ing for the Bette Davis part in What­ever Hap­pened to Baby Jane?

Ex­actly what such an un­likely crowd imag­ined it wanted with a win­try in­door pic­nic was at first a mys­tery. Then we got stuck in into the food, ar­rayed on a large ta­ble to the side, farmer’s mar­ket style – and all be­came clear. The soli­tary warm of­fer­ing, a vel­vety, dill-in­fused mush­room soup el­e­gantly served in a poly­styrene cup, was an ideal ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the glo­ri­ous sour­dough bread that im­me­di­ately pro­claimed Jack’s bak­ing skill. The short-head win­ner in an ex­ceed­ingly strong field was a lay­ered, tar­ragony “Pic­nic Pie” of ham, gruyère and egg. “At last,” said my friend, in the sort of awed tone Howard Carter may have used on dis­cov­er­ing Tu­tankhamun’s tomb, “a pie you can en­joy cold.”

Two lat­ticed loaves made from rough puff pas­try, one filled with sausage and sage and the other with pheas­ant and quince, both served with a gutsy ap­ple pickle, had a lux­u­ri­ous, crois­sant-like but­ter­i­ness. A pleated pie, made from olive oil flour, filled with po­tato, goat’s cheese, ri­cotta and radic­chio, and with a lovely rose­mary twang, was im­pos­si­bly light and del­i­cate. The Scotch-eggand-Twiglets pic­nic archetype grew still more dis­tant with a brace of in­tri­cate sal­ads – pear pick­led in cider vine­gar with ched­dar, pearl bar­ley, en­dive and beetroot; and aloo gobi-ish spiced cau­li­flower with cab­bage, roast pep­pers, beans, peas and mint.

All our pud­dings were great, the vic­tor be­ing a mac­a­roony cake of lime and cof­fee. If that combo reads less like a dessert than an emer­gency emetic, it proved to be one of those ac­quired tastes you ac­quire within 0.17 sec­onds, and dream about that night.

It was not un­til we had set­tled up and were bid­ding farewell to Jack, a pre­co­cious tal­ent with a gilded fu­ture, that I re­mem­bered a long­stand­ing and vis­ceral loathing for cold food.

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