Knead to know: Pophams brings its baked goods to Victoria Park / Food & Drink
Knead to know: Pophams brings its baked goods to Victoria Park

Celebrating the launch of its third branch, Pophams creative director, Lucy McWhirter talks game-changing pastries and championing local artisans and communities.

Celebrating the launch of its third branch, Pophams creative director, Lucy McWhirter talks game-changing pastries and championing local artisans and communities.

Cast your mind back to the mid-2010s – when the London pastry scene didn’t stretch much further than the humble pain au chocolate or almond croissant. That was the cue Pophams founder Ollie Gold needed to shake things up. Having returned to the capital after years catering for Formula 1 around the world, he saw an opportunity to transform a derelict chemist in Islington into a bakery.

And so Pophams and its innovative bakes were born. Joining forces with head chef-to-be Florin Grama, their goal was clear: to honour and master the art of laminated dough, focusing on a few choice offerings. Along with classic patisserie staples, innovative flavour combinations include maple syrup and bacon, marmite and spring onion and strawberry cheesecake. With the help of creative director Lucy McWhirter and their small – but dedicated – team, the space was renovated entirely from the plumbing to the plastering. Taking its name from nearby Popham Road nestled in the back streets of Islington, the bakery opened its doors in autumn 2017.


Any concern that footfall would be minimal vanished almost instantaneously, recalls Lucy. A Sunday Times article heralding their coveted “Bacon and Maple” proved to be a pivotal moment in Pophams’ popularity. “From that moment, every day got busier and busier,” she says.

After its initial success in Islington, Pophams opened a new branch in London Fields in June 2019 – this time with a larger footprint to play with. Collaborating with chef Phil King (whose skill for dough stretched further than just baked goods), they launched a handcrafted pasta menu, transforming the bakery into a cosy restaurant for evening dining.

Fast-forward to April this year and Pophams took on a third site, this time in Victoria Park. Since the pandemic hit, it’s become evident that local communities are being celebrated like never before – something Pophams strives to provide for their local neighbourhoods.

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In its first month at the new site, the bakery has welcomed a host of local regulars who are already on first-name terms with the baristas – and vice versa. Lucy mentions a particularly favoured customer who comes in every morning to sit by the window with a newspaper and a coffee. She exemplifies Victoria Park’s friendly disposition, and the strength of home-grown businesses that operate in these village-like areas.

Pophams’ appeal as a London-born brand is not only evidenced in its bakeries – you’ll recognise the logo as the same font designed for the London Underground by Jonathan Paterson more than a century ago. In fact, design is given as much weight as the bakes here. A former fashion stylist’s studio, the space was reimagined with exquisite attention to detail by architecture and interior design studio Nothing Is Not Nothing. The expansive window – lined with sleek timber – is a striking focal point from both the outside and in, bathing the space in diaphanous light. The pared-back palette is timeless in appearance and serene in atmosphere; the walls effortlessly diffuse shadow and light, finished with Bauwerk Colour limewash paint to give a subtle, textured look.

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A curated selection of interior pieces by artisans are also at home in the considered space. The pendant lights that hang over the counter were imagined by Lucy herself, who commissioned potter Lucia Ocejo to sculpt them out of terracotta. Textile artist Louisa Loakes’ hand-printed ‘Laugh and Hail’ design was used for the cushions on the bench seating. In true Pophams’ style, the bakery has a collection of site-specific tableware made by Kimberly Chan of San San Ceramics. There are cups designed for cortados, flat whites and lattes, pastry plates and milk jugs, all with a matte exterior feel and gloss glazed inners. Kimberly’s Victoria Park creations join the ensemble of ceramics designed for the Islington and London Fields branches by Jess Jos and Skye Corewijn.

“These ceramics were a huge part of our initial success”, says Lucy. Unsurprisingly, there were many enquiries as to where to source this highly-photogenic tableware. The logical conclusion to these questions – and Pophams’ commitment to celebrating local artisans – was realised in Pophams Home.

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Launched during the pandemic, Lucy curated a selection of hand-crafted homeware for an online shop. From hammered glass carafes to textured cups and saucers, embossed greetings cards, linen towels and hand-painted cooking dishes, each piece has been chosen for its high-quality craftmanship and minimalist style. “Keep an eye out for future craft workshops,” says Lucy.

Arguably it’s the distinctive flavour combinations and pastry perfection that have earned Pophams its venerated reputation as a destination for foodies. However, it’s the bakery’s thoughtfully considered aesthetic, assortment of collectable ceramics and enlivening sense of community that has cemented its standing; exemplifying the beating heart of London’s independent businesses. Artisanal croissants and hand-crafted crockery? We’ll see you there.

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