The Swallow Bakery in Kingston - On the Tea Shop Trail
PUBLISHED: 15:55 03 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:58 03 October 2014
Bringing a new meaning to the term ‘café culture’, The Swallow Bakery at Kingston’s Rose Theatre is the perfect place for a bit of celeb-spotting...
Need to know:
The Swallow Bakery, Rose Theatre, 24-26 High Street, Kingston KT1 1HL. Box office: 0208 174 0090. Open Monday to Friday, 10am until late, and on Saturdays from 11am to late (5pm on non-show days). For more information, see rosetheatrekingston.org
Located on the ground floor of Kingston’s Rose Theatre, The Swallow Bakery has been providing the perfect spot for pastries and people-watching since January 2013.
The theatre is in a good position close to the river and attracts a stellar cast of actors and celebrities to its varied productions, meaning that the café is a good place for spotting well-known names. Legendary Rolling Stones rocker Bill Wyman was due to be there on the week I visited. The managing director of the café, Oli Thomas, opened his first bakery in 2007 in Chichester and a second two years later in Cheltenham. He also runs a mobile unit at festivals ranging from Glastonbury to Ascot.
With each bakery, Oli aims to create something bespoke and unique, and the main inspiration for The Rose came from the open and airy brick-bonded coffee shops of Melbourne. The café has 20 tables and can seat approximately 90 people. All the furniture has been recycled from pieces of the set in various Rose productions. I spotted one throne-style chair – fit for a king or queen. It is also the venue for a variety of local events including knitting, hat making workshops and lunchtime concerts including Jazz First Tuesdays.
All the cakes are made using locally sourced ingredients where possible and created using traditional recipes. The most popular cakes are apparently the red velvet cake (£4.25), carrot cake (£4.05) and chocolate devil’s cake (£3.95). I chose carrot cake – a generous moist indulgence – while a lady on the next table tucked into a slice of the chocolate devil’s cake. We had a good chat about the benefits of cream, ice cream or clotted cream as an accompaniment! A pot of loose leaf tea is a reasonable £2.10; an Americano is £2.30; and a cappuccino is £2.50.
On the menu…
Offering a range of seasonal salads, baguettes, paninis and toasted sandwiches, the most popular choice for lunch, we’re informed, is the Swallow Club Sandwich (£8.95) – comprising warm chicken breast and oak-smoked bacon with beef tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and luxury mayonnaise served with lightly salted skinny fries.
A blackboard advertises specials such as herb and lemon chicken breast with asparagus, radish and watercress salad drizzled with herb oil (£7.50). For children, you can find a special ‘Little People’s Menu’ offering fishfingers and skinny fries with peas (£4.90) and chicken strips with skinny fries (£6.50), among others.
On the day I visited, there was an International Youth Arts Festival with various activities and special shows. There was a lively atmosphere and a good crowd in the café enjoying a bite to eat before taking in an event or performance. Coming up, there is also an exciting autumn season with a range of drama, comedy, music and family shows – and I’m already planning a return trip to see their production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe this Christmas. Theatre-goer or not though, there is much to recommend this bustling, cultural hub.
Louise Johncox’s parents, Peter and Frankie, ran Peter’s tea shop in Weybridge from 1958 until 2000 when they retired. Louise has written a book about her parents’ tea shop, The Baker’s Daughter, which is out now in all good bookshops (see louisejohncox.com/index.htm)