Sweet Williams Bakery
Chantry Park, Ipswich
Click on the pics to enlarge them!
The first of my local visits and chats was with someone I followed by accident on Instagram. I spotted an incredibly beautiful cake that stood out from all the others in terms of artistic design on my home feed and I clicked on it and decided to follow. I did not realise for a couple of months that Sweet Williams Bakery was based in Ipswich until I saw mention of my home town in a subsequent post, then I sent her a message asking exactly where she was based – turns out she is based at Chantry Park, where I go to walk the dog!! She is specifically based in the bowling pavilion building right next to the bowls green. If you go round to the right of the big house when you go into the main entrance of the park and walk up, you will see the little A-board on the left.
Once I realised that’s where she was, it was hands down going to have to be the first place I went for a snack, as I had already been meaning to go in anyway. Serendipity in full force!
During half-term I grabbed the dog and was down there like a shot. It was a beautifully sunny but cool autumn afternoon and Toffee was loving the leaves blowing about, they are her favourite thing in the whole world. I did a lap with her but she decided to run off and jump in a swampy bit much to my dismay and I got muddy trainers luring her out again, but once I had rescued her we headed for some sustenance. It is a beautiful spot to sit and have a coffee and a light bite. I introduced myself and we were chatting for quite a while as a steady flow of customers came and went. They serve through a hatch then there are tables and chairs under cover, so even if it’s raining you’re protected from the elements. They sometimes have sausages cooked ready for peoples' pooches, which I think is really sweet of them. We were talking for quite a while because when you get foodies together they start rabbiting and the conversation goes off on so many tangents, I felt like we barely scratched the surface and obviously Zoe and her mum were also trying to serve people while taking to me!
What really strikes me when I talk to people is just how interesting their journeys are, in my opinion every single person’s life story on the planet is fascinating and people have so much to give and share when you take the time to ask. For example I’m obsessed with Humans of New York – follow that if you like to hear people’s life stories.
Previously a civil servant for nearly two decades, Zoe says she is totally self-trained except for a sugar-work leisure course she took at Suffolk College (now Suffolk New College), back in 2012. I also gained my A’levels at the same college before going to university so it was nice to meet another former student, especially as I am back there again now 19 years later! Zoe has always worked with food on and off throughout her working career both front and back of house, the same as me. I saw pictures of her sugar work, including the wedding bouquet she made for herself and still has – I am not exaggerating when I say it is INSANE!!! My jaw was on the floor at how gobsmackingly awesome it was. It is the most delicate ornamental work of art, but I wasn’t surprised as it was the artistic talent of her cake decorations that caught my eye on Instagram in the first place. She showed me a few other examples of her sugar-work, all were incredible. We have this yet to come on the course – I literally cannot wait I am so ridiculously excited! Whether or not I have the patience, lightness of touch and artistic skill required to make something even slightly as beautiful, remains to be seen….If you follow Sweet Williams Bakery on Instagram or Facebook you will see what I mean about Zoe’s piping skills. I am yet to learn how to pipe, although I do have some shiny new nozzles lined up ready to go.
Zoe was also telling me about the inspiring story of her brother, who decided to totally switch careers from what he had been doing and train as a chef. He contacted Pierre Gagnaire of 3 Michelin starred London restaurant Sketch, writing to him in both French and English to ask if he could come and work for him because he had been following him and admired his work. Pierre replied with a yes! After some time spent in London, he turned his sights to the USA and specifically David Chang of Momofuku (which means lucky peach in Japanese….I did a year of Japanese while at university, I can count to ten and say hello but that’s about it). He asked if he could go and work for him – he also said yes!! This inspires me because the original reason for me choosing to go back to college in the first place was to gain a qualification on the skilled occupation list for entry into countries such as the USA and Australia, as I have friends and family connections in both places. However now that I am over the age threshold to be able to go and work in these countries on a casual work visa, I have to offer a specific skill and be sponsored to work, with a job lined up before I go. I do have a journalism degree which is also on the list, but as well as being a nosey person who likes to chat a lot, I am also a greedy foodie and want to continue to learn about food and do some travelling. And it never hurts to add more strings to your bow, I like to keep my options open as you never know where things will lead!
So now Zoe’s brother is in Toronto, with his own super cool eatery Donna’s – he loves Donna Summer, they only play vinyl and from what I can see on their Instagram they serve amazing food. I want to go there immediately - it’s going on my list of places to visit!!
But I digress - back to Chantry Park. I had a latte and an amazing cheese scone with chive butter. I am a total sucker for a cheese scone; I find it impossible to turn down the opportunity to inhale one if our paths cross. It was fluffy as a cloud on the inside, just perfect with a nice crisp exterior, divine when slightly warm with the chive butter which was also delicious. I am a bit of a softy and let the dog have a tiny bit because she was giving me the sad puppy dog eyes. I also got a Halloween flapjack and Lotus Biscoff blondie which had pumpkin spices to take away and share with my family when I got home, as there is sadly a limit to the amount of baked goods I can reasonably consume alone in one sitting. They are willing participants in my endeavour to snack my way around Suffolk and do not complain when I come home with goodies and this was no exception, we all particularly enjoyed the flapjack. I love anything with oats in and this totally hit the spot. Toffee had to have a bath in the sink when she got back which she was not particularly thrilled about, maybe she will learn not to jump in the swampy bits at the park as a result, but I very much doubt it.
I will be walking the dog a lot more often so I can sample more baked delights and hopefully another cheese scone, plus if you do a lap of the park you’re entitled to eat something delicious as far as I am concerned.
You can join Zoe’s already substantial social media following @sweetwilliamsbakery. As well as being able to visit them up at Chantry Park in person, you can also pre-order afternoon teas, cakes and so much more via Facebook and Instagram, with delivery and collection options available.
Remember - support your local independents, whatever they may be.
Thanks for the chat Zoe!