In a fast world, Edinburgh’s Bakery Andante follows its own steady tempo.
Whether that’s the time it takes to naturally prove their bread, without additives or artificial improvers, or opening their first sit-in venue.
The original Morningside Road venue recently celebrated its 10th birthday, and their new cafe at 49 Broughton Street will be opening in the next few weeks.
That makes for positive news after a challenging year.
“It’s been interesting times, but we’ve survived and our profits will be one or two per cent less than the year before,” says Bakery Andante’s owner, Jon Wood, 54, who was a telecoms manager before committing to his passion.
“Considering how terrible it’s been for other people, I think that's a win”.
At first, they put staff members on furlough, and were down to a “skeleton crew”, but they’ve had to bring everyone back.
There have been other changes. Up until the start of the pandemic, they baked in both premises.
However, as it was difficult to socially distance in the bijoux Morningside branch, production was moved to their four-year-old retail and wholesale branch in Leith.
When restrictions are eased further, they plan to move their pastry chefs back to the original venue, and continue baking bread on the capital’s east side.
Throughout lockdown, Bakery Andante have had regular queues outside both of their shops.
In order to cater to potential new customers, they’ve tweaked the menu to offer more lunch items and patisserie, with bakewell and brownies in the window. They’ve also started a successful delivery service.
“The first Friday of deliveries, we had 50 orders”, says Wood.
However, it took a while for some customers to realise that this wasn’t like Amazon and Deliveroo, and they'd have to wait a couple of days for them to actually make the product.
Their most popular item is their sourdough. Customers can choose from a 2kg covenanter’s (“inspired by the Pentland Hills and a take on the sort of ‘white’ bread our ancestors would have made”), spelt, rye, pumpkin seed or pain de campagne versions. Wood’s original sourdough starter is now 21 years old.
It’s strange to think that a decade ago, many of us didn’t know what sourdough tasted like. Now it’s a staple.
Wood sees a broader demographic of customers than ever before. Many become regulars, once they’ve tasted the bread. Few of them buy just to photograph it, as Bakery Andante is pretty immune to gimmicks.
“We’ve always operated on the basis that quality comes first. If it’s a choice between how it looks and how it tastes, I’ll always go with how it tastes”, he says.
“It’s easy to be Instagrammable. Our baguettes and croissants would probably be twice the size if we just churned them out, but we hold the dough for 24 hours.
"They don’t expand as much as other people’s do, but they taste so much better. Our baguette has flavour and texture - not just the crust but the crumb too”.
In many ways, Andante was part of the vanguard of real bread makers in the capital.
“I would love to be arrogant enough to say yes to that, but I think I was part of the increase”, Wood says.
“At the same time, we had places like The Wee Boulangerie, Breadwinner, then there was Falko. All these people laid the groundwork.
"We have a fantastic scene now, though it’s a shame that some aren’t producing what I’d define as real bread. Nonetheless, there are those who are doing it properly. I think I’m very proud to have been part of the build up”.
Those who have been converted into real bread lovers have helped this bakery weather the pandemic.
The initial panic, when their wholesalers disappeared and farmers' markets closed, as did cafes and restaurants - they supply Alby’s, The Champany Inn and Dine, among many others - has long subsided. Wood’s had worse years. 2017, for example, when the Leith branch opened.
“We’ve definitely had it harder”, he says. “They always say your second site is the hardest one - lots of companies don’t make it past that and we nearly didn’t.
"We opened it quickly and it wasn’t as well thought out as it should have been. We couldn’t find bakers and were having to turn away customers because we couldn’t make the product.
"I also had back surgery, so I was out of commission for about eight weeks. That held us back quite a bit”.
To celebrate weathering that annus horribilis, and reaching their milestone anniversary, Wood has commissioned four illustrations.
These pay tribute to the Morningside shop front, which is part of a tenement that dates from 1881. (According to him, the first resident was a seamstress, while next door’s bank was a bakery).
They’re all graphic and monochrome, and a great tribute to the business.
“They’ll be hanging in the shop, but I have to get them framed first,” he says.
The pictures have been created by four local artists, one of whom, Emily Ellis, is a design student and works in the bakery.
Ellis has also been responsible for the design of some of the tiles in Broughton Street. When it comes to this new cafe, in order to avoid a year like 2017, they’ve thought carefully about what they want to do.
Although they’re still recruiting and the menu is being designed, it’s certain to showcase their bread.
“We hope that there will be good breakfasts, brunches and light lunches, plus coffee and cake for the afternoons”, Wood says.
“It’s a nice open space. It’ll be bright like Morningside with, hopefully, lots of life and energy”.