Pavement Whispers: Bella & Tortie is opening a new canelé-slinging kitchen in Stafford

Pavement Whispers: Bella & Tortie is opening a new canelé-slinging kitchen in Stafford

The closure of Bella & Tortie’s Grange bakery was a blow to lovers of the concept’s finely crafted cakes and unheralded pastry items. If you count yourself amongst this fanbase, you might want to sit down for this bit of news. Bella & Tortie is coming back, but it won’t be a walk-in shop like before. From a grungy dark kitchen in Stafford, Bella & Tortie will pump out a range of celebration cakes, canelés and cookies – all of which will be available to order online and collect. It’s going to be a game changer for anyone looking to mark an occasion (or devour baked goods without judgement). Here’s what we know …

In the months leading up to Bella & Tortie’s closure in December last year, owner Suzi Unwin was working somewhere between 90 to 100 hours per week. Sometimes she would start her day at the Grange-based bakery at 2:30 am, or would return to the store at 9:00 pm after a full day of trade to get a jump on baking for the following day. Suzi never planned on pulling this many hours, but difficulty finding suitably skilled staff to help in the kitchen, coupled with rising ingredient and packaging costs, meant Bella & Tortie, as it was then configured, required lots of hands-on attention. “I would literally come home for six hours – and that includes sleep,” Suzi tells us. “I think because we did so much there – we made all our own pastry, we did savouries, we did cakes and we did cookies – the range was so diverse. I physically could not work any more hours to cover that.” As one might guess, it was an unsustainable workload. Soon, the lopsided work-life balance began to take its toll on Suzi and her enthusiasm for the concept (though the quality of the bakery’s output never wavered), building until the decision was made to shutter Bella & Tortie for good. When the bakery closed, resurrecting Bella & Tortie elsewhere was the furthest thing from Suzi’s mind, but the vocal outpouring of support (and sadness) from fans of her canelés, cakes and confections left a lingering seed of doubt in Suzi’s mind. “When I saw the crowds on that first week after I announced [the closure], I think my heart just sunk,” admits Suzi. “I was like, ‘Have made a huge mistake?'” Taking time to rest and recover was essential, but as the weeks progressed and we entered a new year, Suzi’s thoughts gradually turned back to baking and in what way, if any, could Bella & Tortie make a comeback in a more sustainable manner. In late May or early June, roughly six months after its closure, Bella & Tortie will return – but not as it was before.

In January, Suzi began the process of location scouting and ideation. Stumbling upon a curiosity piquing vacancy on – a brick-encased semi-subterranean space at the rear of newly refurbished shopping strip Stafford Central (home to King of the Wings and Oh Boy Bok Choy) – cogs began to turn and soon Suzi had an idea of how Bella & Tortie 2.0 could operate. That the site was largely unsuitable for a conventional retail space was a huge selling point for Suzi, who was intent on doing away with nighttime work and only taking on a workload that she could comfortably manage herself. To do this, Bella & Tortie would have to change format. Once operational, Bella & Tortie won’t resemble a polished patisserie or even a conventional bakery – it will be a lot more grungy and underground, with no display cabinet housing ogle-worthy treats. “I guess I would describe it as a dark kitchen – a kitchen without a shopfront,” says Suzi of Bella & Tortie’s new iteration. “The online shop will come back to life and everything that’s available will be bought through that. Whether that’s a whole cake, bags of cookies, jars of chutney and salsa – what is available will only be through that online shop.”

Guests will only be able to pre-order via Bella & Tortie’s website, with all orders collected from the new location. The offering will shift, too, with Suzi opting to apply focus to style celebration cakes (available in a range of sizes and heights) in addition to a pared-back range of Bella & Tortie sweets. “At this stage the whole cake menu is currently at about 28 flavours,” says Suzi. “Just cakes you can select and they’re ready to go – that includes whole lemon meringue tarts, whole banoffees, cheesecakes and Russian honey cakes.” Beyond cakes and tarts, customers will be able to order Suzi’s famed canelés, cookies and dessert boxes, the contents of which will change monthly and showcase some old Bella & Tortie favourites (we’re talking crullers, cookies, mini cakes and tarts). Those picking up an order will be able to browse a small retail shelf loaded with bags of cookies, rocky road, chutneys and preserves, hampers, cake toppers, cards and candles, while frozen sausage rolls may also be available to order. When discussing long-term plans of the space, Suzi is eager to add a bake-at-home boxed range of goodies and will also look to host cooking classes in the new space further down the line.

Bella & Tortie 2.0 will open in Stafford in late May or early June – keep your eyes peeled for updates in the coming weeks.

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