It is rare these days to eat a slice of bread with nothing else – primarily because most bread is bland, flavourless and lacking in texture. Not so a walnut loaf from the Hungry Guest which can be greedily consumed slice after slice. Their other breads are equally delicious.
Rosemary Moon (local cook/writer, fount of knowledge on Sussex food) suggested that I go and see The Hungry Guest, a new bakery in Chichester with a shop in Petworth.
The bakery is based in two large industrial units just outside Chichester. It is huge, white and clean, and brings to mind a laboratory – especially after you put the obligatory white coat on. They have been running for only a couple of months, so there is definitely room to grow, but it’s an exciting space.
Troels Bendix is the Danish born master baker and Managing Director and we sat down to a table along with three loaves of bread, one solitary croissant and a slice of bakewell tart. No butter, no jam, no messing. We eased into conversation with a slice of West Sussex White – described as an everyday white loaf, it looks as good as it tastes. There is a satisfying chew, with a yummy crust and a slight hint of sourdough. It also makes exceptional toast (especially when slathered with wild mushrooms and garlic!). Then we had a slice of the brown which has a mix of flours and is equally delicious. The croissant was ripped up and split between us – it was the only one available.
Each loaf has four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and in some slow dough recipes, a small bit of yeast. Naturally, the flour is excellent quality with much of it organic and stoneground from Shipton Mill. However the key difference to most other bread out there is time. Every batch of bread has its own recipe and is hand crafted from scratch. The loaves are then left to slowly and naturally ferment, generally overnight, until ready to be baked on the stone sole of the mighty oven.
It’s an age old process, and remarkably simple which is why it is so frustrating that there are not many decent bakeries like The Hungry Guest. It’s amazing that you can’t get good bread – most supermarket bread is full of improvers, preservatives, enhancers, chemical leavening and E-numbers. It’s unsurprising that medical evidence is pilling up showing that modern industrial baking methods may be behind today’s extraordinary rise in digestive illness such as gluten intolerance and coeliac disease.
The Hungry Guest has 27 different loaves – and I can’t wait to try them all. They have a shop in Petworth, but I would love to be delivering it locally. If you want fantastic bread delivered to you – let me know, and tell anyone else who might be interested. We are trying to establish a network of fantastic artisinal produce – but we need a critical mass to make it work. GET IN TOUCH