Feature – Bread & Milk
A recent article in The Guardian, entitled “Why is Brighton so obsessed with coffee?”, took a look at some of our best independent coffee shops, name-checking Trafalgar Street as “the very centre of Brighton and Hove’s booming coffee culture”.
One of my favourite places is on this very stretch. Bread & Milk has been open for two years and is, for me, a perfect example of what makes an independent survive in a seriously competitive market.
First off, you can’t miss it: the bright red canopy with its appealing font grabs your attention from the next street over. Inside, it’s stylishly decked out, with an industrial edge softened by low lighting and a wooden countertop and benches. Branded tote bags hang on the walls. Outdoor tables are snapped up quickly, all year round. Staff are efficient and friendly, calling out greetings as regulars pop in for their daily caffeine fix (it goes without saying that I find their coffee very good indeed).
With no kitchen on site, food options are limited. Yet what’s on offer – gorgeous cakes, filling breakfast baps, toasted sandwiches, flatbreads, and salads – are made with the best-quality local ingredients. Everything is either homemade or bought in from local firms: bread and croissants come from The Home Cakery (who deliver fresh bread to the café seven days a week); sausages from a proper old-school butcher, Principal Meats in the Open Market; cakes are baked by owner and former chef Rupert Davidson in a converted garage at the family home in Saltdean.
Rupert was also, for many years, head of development at Benugo – a hugely-successful restaurant and café chain – and knows a thing or two about what makes this kind of business work.
“There are two key things to Bread & Milk’s success, obviously aside from delivering great food and coffee,” he says. “One, the people we employ. I think a lot of places in Brighton suffer from having not-great service, so we try to get – and keep – great people. And second is knowing every week, to the penny, how we’re doing. My staff know the figures as well, which is probably more important for them to know than for us.”
Bread & Milk is becoming renowned for its delicious cakes, something Rupert really wants to build on.
“We’re currently on the hunt for a new, bigger premises that will incorporate an open bakery, so customers can see what’s being made,” he says. “Also, while we want to expand, we’ve no plans to branch out into London or anything. Bread & Milk will remain unique to this town.”
Earlier this year, Bread & Milk opened its first in-house branch at the offices of the Pensions Regulator on Trafalgar Street, an area of the business Rupert also hopes to roll out further.
As if this wasn’t enough to keep Rupert and his wife, Jenny, busy, their next big project is the opening of a pizzeria on London Road. “I’m sick and tired of the Pizza Expresses of this world. Their product is OK, but they’re not places you can just nip to with the kids – you’re looking at a bill in the region of £70 for four pizzas and drinks,” he said. “With our place, Fatto a Mano (meaning “handmade”), think a wood-fired oven at the heart of the restaurant, beautiful, freshly-made traditional Neapolitan pizzas, diners sitting either at tables or at the bar. Kids under 10 will eat free.
“I’ve done a lot of research, spent a lot of time in Naples, and I think this concept has a lot of opportunity to succeed and to become a brand. I haven’t shared these plans with many people, but I’m pretty confident that it will come good. We’re just in the final planning stages and I’m absolutely itching to get in there and get started!”
Bread & Milk, 82 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4EB
Words by Suzanne Rose
Originally printed in the Brighton & Hove Independent Friday 21st November