In The Neighbourhood — Layla, Portobello Road
Since opening just a year ago, Layla has become Portobello Road’s neighbourhood bakery — the place to pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough or to enjoy a slice of banana tahini loaf and a seasonal danish with a great cup of coffee. It’s also become a spot for pop-ups, bringing friends from across the food industry to the area for supper clubs & events. We sat down with founder Tessa Faulkner to chat about what it’s been like during their first year in the neighbourhood.
Tell us a little bit about the story behind Layla — where did it all begin?
Layla was an idea developed in lockdown. I used to visit a number of glorious artisan bakeries in East London and was astonished that my local area was lacking. Our neighbourhood is well known for its tight knit community and rich culture, and I was confident that a new bakery, where all the food is made on site right behind the counter, using the best ingredients we can find, would go down well. That first lockdown in the Spring of 2020 was the kick I needed to make my idea a reality.
“We’re led heavily by the seasons: it’s been exciting to revisit ingredients and old favourites as we go into our second year. The return of the hot cross bun marked our first year of trading, which felt like a big achievement.”
You’re nestled at the end of Portobello Road in Notting Hill. What’s your first year in the neighbourhood been like?
Unreal. We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve had from from our neighbours, many of whom have now become good friends. We sit alongside some great businesses on Portobello and Golborne Road but it’s also a very residential area and we’re lucky to have extensive outside space which is a magnet for locals who like to drink their coffee in the morning sun.
Talk to us about your food philosophy. How do you know what’s going to be on the counter next?
It’s a combination of things. We’re led heavily by the seasons: it’s been exciting to revisit ingredients and old favourites as we go into our second year. The return of the hot cross bun marked our first year of trading, which felt like a big achievement. We’re lead often by what’s been foraged on the weekend by the team, whether it be wild garlic, meadowsweet or elderflower. Suggestions are brought to the table from our team of bakers, and of course inspiration taken from trips to other bakeries and restaurants across the country and beyond.
We love to celebrate producers, farmers, growers — tell us about one of your suppliers. Who do you love, what do they supply the bakery with and what makes them great?
We’re fortunate to work with a number of very special suppliers. Wildfarmed provide us with flour. They are pioneers of bringing regenerative food into the mainstream. They put soil health first, and pay farmers properly, growing tasty, highly nutritious food, in a way that improves the environment. They’re a community of farmers, bakers, growers, chefs and cooks that all share unbelievable passion and drive for what they’re doing and it really is a joy to work with them.
Your pastry offering changes with the seasons — do you have a favourite season at the bakery, or do you wait for that one ingredient to come into season?
There’s the excitement that Spring is around the corner when the first of the forced rhubarb arrives. Then we move in quick succession into wild garlic and then onto asparagus. I enjoy these three stages. However, Autumn is up there. Plums, apples and pears. Chai lattes and cinnamon babkas.
You also host pizza nights in the summer and you’ve hosted so many great pop-ups and collabs, including Poon’s, Papo’s Bagels, Pinch. What sparked the idea for these? Have you had any that were particularly special or memorable?
It felt slightly mad that we were shutting the doors at 3.30 each day and the space had so much potential for an evening use. I met the majority of our pop up chefs as customers at the bakery, most of whom live locally. It seemed like a good idea to partner with local talent and actually most of our events started in this way. Our first collaboration was with Thomas Straker, one I won’t forget. We had 65 covers on our first night. It was manic but insane. To give context, we have 12 covers in the bakery on a day to day basis…
We’re coming to Layla for a pastry and a coffee — what else should we check out on Portobello Road whilst we’re in the neighbourhood?
I highly recommend a Friday trip to coincide with market day. The streets are lined with antique sellers and the covered market under the Westway houses some of the best vintage clothes I’ve picked up in the city. You’ve got to make a visit to Liberté Chérie, zero waste grocery store – their hazelnuts are phenomenal. Opposite you have the Cloth Shop which will lure you in with their beautiful window displays. Further up the Portobello road I’d stop into Tada and Toy who make really lovely jewellery and then finally Flax, a beautiful linen clothing company.
(5 items that are always in your pantry or on your kitchen shelves)