The pop-up bakery taking Southwold by storm

Bread on display at The Box, Southwold.

Bread on display at The Box, Southwold. - Credit: Archant

Chef and bakery John Spillings is doing things a bit differently.

The Box, Southwold

The Box, Southwold - Credit: Archant

John Spillings makes amazing bread. Fact. The chef, who comes from a Michelin background and set up The Penny Bun Bakehouse in Lowestoft, has supplied his baked goods to Raymond Blanc for The Chelsea Flower Show and cooked for Richard Branson on Necker Island.

And now he’s bringing his loaves, savouries, cakes and pastries to Southwold in a truly unique little retail outlet – The Box.

Formerly belonging to the town’s railway museum (which has since moved locations) the small shop became vacant last summer and John’s friend George Bennett instantly saw the potential.

“George came up with the idea of a pop-up shop,” says John. “I had a think about it and eventually took it on because the owner wanted someone independent in there and said the rent wouldn’t be very much. He asked if I’d take it on for the summer. That was last July!”

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Despite being busy baking orders for local pubs and restaurants, plus Halesworth farmers’ market, John decided to keep the The Box on. “I said to George, ‘why don’t we do the shop together?’ we could open it one day a week, and we went from there.”

John’s been amazed at the response to the pop-up bakery, which opens on Saturday’s in the town, and is filled on Sunday by patissiere Rosa Farine, who joined the concept at the beginning of February.

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“It’s a bit of fun really,” laughs John, “and it’s working. We started with the idea to do a few loaves of bread and a couple of other bits, keeping it really simple.”

But, John being John, he just couldn’t help but really go to town. “We’ve ended up with about 20 or 30 different things every week. So some loaves and savoury bits and bobs, and favourites we might change the flavours of. Croissants might be filled with almonds, or apple butter, or rhubarb and almonds. Last week I did cappuccino custard-filled brioche buns with chocolate on top.

“We’ve had spelt pastry sausage rolls with onion seeds, squash and leeks in them. We’ve got a smoker and I’ve done 24 hour smoked pork buns. We dry cure the pork for three days, then smoke it, make a smoked stock from the bones and use that to make a sauce. And I’ve got a lady who works for me who makes incredible authentic curry puffs.”

That’s not to mention the Seven Seeds of Rye bread (inspired by the Queen song), olive and rosemary swirls with pesto, and swirls filled with salt beef, produced using meat from John’s brother’s farm.

And something you probably won’t find anywhere else in Suffolk is John’s take on a French Bostock. “You take a slice of brioche, toast it, lightly soak it in syrup and top it with berries, almond paste and plums then bake it. It’s almost like eggy bread. The bread’s soft in the middle and caramelised on the outside and a bit cakey from the almond paste!”

John’s own brand of ice lollies, Lickety Ices, will be available from The Box in good weather. And there’s Nespresso coffee, a range of teas, freshly squeezed orange juice and locally pressed apple juice to wash down all those cakes too.

Despite having only a few bench stools inside, John’s managed to host bread classes in The Box (watch this space for more of those this year) and, being a keen musician, has squeezed live music events into the diminutive space as well!

John is at The Box from 8am to about 2pm on Saturdays.

“We’re trying to keep it relatively simple, and at affordable prices. We want to sell out every week. People are really like it and have got behind it. We’ve got such a good local following, which we’re really grateful for.!

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