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31 August 2005

Gail's ****

There is a theory that no two countries with a McDonald's will go to war with each other, the theory is based on the idea that if everywhere becomes sufficiently homogenised we won't want to bomb the living daylights out of each other.  My own personal take on this is that it is more likely that no two countries who can make decent pain aux raisins will go to war with each other.  If people were busy perfecting the sublime combination of dough, raisins, sugar and a bit of posh custard, they would be far too engrossed (both mentally and physically) to care about bombing the living daylights out of each other.

It is for this reason that I consider a good pain aux raisins to be a very important thing and why I like Gail's so much.  It's a bit tough to describe what Gail's is, as it's more than a baker, more than a coffee shop but not quite a deli.  It's like Starbucks but with good coffee and homemade cakes, or another way to put it is that it's like it's near neighbour Maison Blanc, but not quite as poncy and fewer folderols.   

Gail's is in some how related to Baker & Spice - a very good bakery - in Queen's Park.  My understanding is that whilst a lot of the baked goods at Gail's are made on site, quite a few of the cakes are brought over from the larger Baker & Spice in Queen's Park.  My pain aux raisins was one of the things baked on site.  It was flaky, with a good density of raisins, a lot of butter and not too much sugar.  Unlike my trip to Maison Kayser, it hit the right note. 


Apart from a coffee I didn't have anything else there, but the bread looked excellent and interestingly they sell milk from Daylesford Farm and other well sourced organic products.  They also have a small book section and when I was browsing through the selection one of the bakers came out to talk lovingly about the books.  This is an excellent place for either a take-away cake, some top notch bread or simply a coffee to watch the world of Hampstead drift by.  In some ways, it seems more suited to the culinary heaven that is Marylebone High Street, rather than the increasingly commercial Hampstead High Street.  Nonetheless I hope they do well and if it doesn't work out, I think they should be sent in as crack squads in global peace negotiations, pain aux raisins at the ready.  If they did, peace and serenity would reign.

Gail's, 64 Hampstead High Street, London, NW3 1QH, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7794 5700

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What others think
As far as I can tell, no-one's got there before me.


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