In The Neighbourhood — Chatsworth Bakehouse, Crystal Palace
Nestled on the corner of Anerley Road in Crystal Palace, Chatsworth Bakehouse’s candy red exterior makes this small but mighty bakery a hard one to miss. Although Sian & Tom only opened its doors in October 2021, their story goes back to March 2020. This bakery is the product of yet another show of resilience, innovation and sheer love of the craft from the hospitality folk hardest hit by the pandemic. We went over to see Sian & Tom on a Wednesday morning, just as the sarnie production line was beginning — music blazing and coffee pouring — ready for the mad opening rush at 12:30pm.
Tell us a little bit about the story behind Chatsworth Bakehouse —where did it all begin?
Sian: The bakehouse was born in response to Tom’s pop-up restaurant closing when the pandemic hit. The announcement came about not going to restaurants and within hours all his bookings cancelled. With loads of fresh produce on order for a week’s trade — we vowed to not let it go to waste.
“I had put focaccia sandwiches on the lunch menu before but this was a whole different thing. I was getting up at 4am to get the bread through the oven in time for deliveries. We decided to give our little venture a name — ‘Chatsworth Bakehouse’ — an ode to the road we live on.”
He packed up the kitchen and set up camp at home. I started to work from home at my day job as Head of Production at a production company, while Tom began cooking up meals for a local soup kitchen with the produce he brought home. Other food items were donated, and then we started using the left over flour to bake bread.
Tom: Not knowing really how to reach anyone locally, we joined a neighbourhood WhatsApp group and offered to bake bread in exchange for donations — a bit like an honesty bakery. We got a few orders and we donated the money to trusted local groups and charities.
Things escalated pretty quickly and we went from 4 loaves to 40 — putting our little domestic oven at home through its paces. I’m definitely a chef first, baker second, despite baking bread for my residencies. I had put focaccia sandwiches on the lunch menu before but this was a whole different thing. I was getting up at 4am to get the bread through the oven in time for deliveries. We decided to give our little venture a name — ‘Chatsworth Bakehouse’ — an ode to the road we live on.
Sian: We went from baking one day a week to three days a week, and being a full honesty bakery raising and donating money locally, to offering a weekly ‘sarnie special’ for profit (effectively Tom’s new job!). Our living room/kitchen had turned into a full scale microbakery with a weekly bake schedule, three delivery drivers and lots of new customers from all over South London. There were stacks of flour everywhere and it became increasingly difficult to live and work in such a small space. We had to decide whether we were going to call it a day or try and find somewhere for the bakehouse to move to more permanently.
You’re tucked away just at the bottom of Crystal Palace Hill. How did you end up there? What’s it like being a part of the neighbourhood?
Sian: I was in the van doing deliveries on my lunch break from my day job, and we stopped in traffic right outside 120A on Anerley Road. I remember seeing it and thinking how cute (and small!) it was. Super tiny but perfectly formed — and it looked empty. I know that road so well — I grew up around there and had no idea how I’d missed it before.
As soon as I got home, I searched out the name on the front of the shop and contacted them online to see if they were still trading. The owners had moved out of London during the pandemic and were looking to reassign their lease. Three weeks later, it was ours. We signed the lease in June 2021, crowdfunded £12k via Kickstarter within 2 days in September (the floor joists had rotted away so we replaced and refurbed the entire space!) and then finally opened properly to the public the first weekend of October 2021.
Tom: We absolutely love the area. It’s on the main road up to the Crystal Palace triangle — lots of locals, a brilliant sense of community and in a great spot to serve surrounding areas too like Penge, Sydenham, South Norwood and Gipsy Hill. We’ve had customers drive weekly from Brockley and Beckenham, and some customers head over to us from North London on the overground as we’re literally a 5 minute walk from Crystal Palace station. Being part of a neighbourhood spot feels pretty special. You become part of a local story — and we’re really proud to be on that strip with other local businesses.
Talk to us about your food philosophy. How do you know what’s going to be on the counter (or in a sandwich…) next?
Our general food philosophy is based around seasonality. When it comes to deciding on the weekly sandwich, that’s pretty much the only ‘rule’. If it’s a delicious combo and can fit between bread, we’ll do it! One week it could be Mediterranean flavours or classic deli style, and the next week Korean chicken or onion bhajis.
For our rotating sarnie, pizza and pie offerings we like to use the best quality, seasonal fruit and vegetables we can get hold of. Due to customer demands there are a few items on our Saturday table that we can’t take off at the moment, so that makes our decisions a little easier…! The only other thing that we think about is the space — what’s physically possible with one main baker, two ovens and one fridge!
What’s the journey been like being in a bakery team with your other half — from starting off in your flat to moving into a full bakery 18 months later?
I think we can both safely say it’s intense! Less intense now that lockdown is over and we’re out of the flat. We both bring different skills to the business and we have a shared vision on things we like, dislike and want to produce so that definitely makes things easier. Ultimately, we want to make awesome food for locals, bring people together and have some fun. Some days are smooth — others not so much. Sian’s also working another full time job so that’s a spicy added element to add to the party. Starting something in a tiny flat, with limited resources during a pandemic was never going to be easy. When things get heavy we turn the music up and drink more caffeine than we should!
Best sandwich you’ve ever made?
This is a hard one! Here’s a few highlights!
BHAJI BUTTY — Bakehouse bhajis, masala spiced squash, toasted coconut yoghurt, shredded lettuce + coriander chilli relish
TASTY TONNO — Line caught tuna in basil aioli, smashed artichoke with Calabrian chilli, balsamic pickled shallots
ONLY THE BRAVAS — Confit Jersey royals, punchy romesco sauce with Nora peppers + fried almonds, bakehouse vegan alioli, wild rocket + thyme roasted shallots
SARNIEFLETTE — Crispy pancetta lardons, whizzed Reblochon, Grated Comte, Pommes frites with garlic + thyme salt, Bakehouse blonde ale pickles + homemade mustard mayo
KARE PAN CLUB — Roast chicken salad in Golden Curry spiced Kewpie mayo, bakehouse soy mirin pickles, shredded gem, pickled ginger + chilli marinated tomato all wrapped up in Panko crusted focaccia!
Grandma pizza slices. Talk us through them.
It’s basically a rustic, homestyle pizza — similar to Sicilian style, made popular in the states by Italian Nonnas who cooked pan pizza in a domestic oven. We started selling these from our flat on Saturday nights during lockdown (press flat 1 for pizza!) and now it’s a staple on our weekend menu. Toppings rotate every weekend but we always use Wildfarmed pizza flour which helps makes the crust really crispy on the outside and fluffy and airy on the inside. We’re not too sure if ours is strictly a traditional Grandma style but it’s how we do it and it’s pretty good.
We love to celebrate producers, farmers, growers — tell us about some of your suppliers. Who do you love, what do they supply the bakery with and what makes them great?
Wildfarmed. What they are doing has to be integral to the future of food production. The grain is sown onto live soil with undisturbed, deep root systems. This provides all the natural ecological benefits of rewilding whilst providing a crop to sell on to bakeries while the farmers are guaranteed a fixed price per kilo regardless. On top of all that, the quality of the flour is amazing and is essential to the flavour of our focaccia and pizza!
There’s also Gipsy Hill Brewery. Not a supplier as such, but they keep us pretty lubricated! We’re usually down at Borough every week too – you’ll find us hunting about at Brindisa for goodies or Turnips for veg.
We’re coming to Chatsworth Bakehouse for a sandwich and a coffee — what else should we check out in Crystal Palace whilst we’re in the neighbourhood?
Go for a pint in The Douglas Fir, pick up a record at Mozart cafe, visit Haynes Lane market for some vintage finds, grab a coffee at Four Boroughs and of course — go and see the dinosaurs!
Sian & Tom’s Pantry
(5 items that are always in your pantry or on your kitchen shelves)
- Golden Curry Block
- Curve Coffee
- Maldon Salt
- Lap Gan Ma Chilli Crisp
- Albacore in a jar (in olive oil pls!)
- Plum Tomatoes
- Golden Curry Block