We love a carb at Botanic Lab, especially when it's bread shaped - and nobody in London does it better than Gail's.
Gail's was born in 2004 when founders Ran Avidan and Tom Molnar joined forces with artisan breadmaker Gail Stephens to learn everything there was to know about the art of breadmaking. Ran and Tom met in the late 90’s whilst working in the city and bonded over their passion for food and the search for a good loaf. Ran was used to savouring the joys of artisan bread at home in Tel Aviv, and Tom had grown up baking bread with his grandmother in Florida but they were both shocked at how elusive good bread was in the capital.
Their quest led them to Gail Stephens, who was supplying all the top London restaurants with her artisan creations. Tom and Ran knew this bread was too good to be confined to restaurants, the nation deserved to savour the flavour too. "We wanted to reinvent the way the British people think about bread – that you can't beat fresh, handmade bread and from a local neighbourhood bakery."
When the duo decided to launch a sister company of stores, they initially struggled to find a name before asking Gail if they could use hers. "She said: ‘fine, but you had better do a good job.’”
Gail's bake nearly 30 types of bread everyday, baking all day and night with some loaves taking up to 48 hours. Some may find them costly but when you consider the expertise, the quality of ingredients and the process, it feels like money well spent.
Molnar says “I would challenge the notion that our bread is expensive, especially when you think about what goes into it. A loaf costs about the same as a coffee. The difference between the pound-a-loaf and what we do is big. Our loaves are healthier and sustain a craft.”
First there’s the “mother” or “levain” (a starter dough, used in place of yeast) that spawns fresh bread: “Every day, we take a bit of the mother and put that into the new breads, so we basically give birth to a new generation. Then we have to re-feed the mother.”
The company bakery in West Hendon (“the mothership”) is built around its 17 levains, some of which are 20 years old. “Each has a character, a taste profile, and it changes over time.” The mother, he adds, is the company’s equivalent of the Microsoft code: if you took it, you could copy the bread.
Molnar calls the factory 'the university of bread" as the senior bakers teach skills to the newer recruits in order to encourage the tradition to flourish.
“We want people to know it’s a career, that they’ll be an artisan. You know how many kids want to be chefs these days? Look at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. I’d love to make baking a cool thing to do. It’s honest, hard work.”
And the duo's own honest hard work is paying off. Gail's have 35 stores across London and the South East and are continuing to expanding at an impressive rate.
Molnar attributes the success to the quality of the product and the community approach they take to the business. "We are a part of the communities in which we work and we know. We love our customers and what they like and expect from us. We keep focused on our food and our customers and we anchor it all in quality. Our customers know that these things will never change."
Our Botanics Cold Pressed range is now available across all 35 Gail's locations so you can now compliment the best bread in town with London's finest drinks.