Ollie Gold, the croissant lover revolutionising London’s pastry scene
Pophams Bakery is a pastry and coffee shop made for the Instagram age, everything it creates is both delicious and photogenic.
The lime cheesecake muffins are topped with fresh blueberries. Customers take photos of the blood orange and dark chocolate custards. On the bread counter, loaves of crusty sour-dough baguettes shine like aged mahogany.
“Instagram has been massive for us!” says Ollie. “It sounds bizarre to say, but I don’t know what people did before. We haven’t spent one penny on PR or marketing since we opened.”
Ollie started Pophams in 2017 with his girlfriend Lucy as the creative mastermind, just off Islington’s main shopping street.
“I wanted to see how happy the customers are, and I wanted that interaction directly myself”
It was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Ollie. “From a young age of working in hospitality, I always wanted to start my own business,” he says. “I loved working in the industry and I loved seeing the effect it had on people. I wanted to see how happy the customers are, and I wanted that interaction directly myself.”
Ollie believed he could bring something fresh and new to the pastry scene. “I’ve always been a bit obsessed with croissant pastry,” says Ollie. “It was a realisation that the London scene to me was quite boring. I think people still feel like they need to conform to traditional French styles”.
Their creativity has struck a chord, Time Out magazine calls Pophams “a must visit” in a cover story. The Evening Standard lavished praise on Pophams’ maple bacon croissant – “the year’s best”.
“We’ve won awards on the way,” says a delighted Ollie. “We won the The Young British Foodie (YBFs) awards , which is pretty big for us. It’s for the future stars of the food and drink industry in the UK.”
“We want to be known for quality, not quantity”
Customers adore Pophams, with many lines selling out before 10am. And the popularity is giving Ollie some serious commercial decisions to make. How should he capitalise on the demand?
“We’ve been offered so many commercial contracts, which we’ve turned down,” he reveals. “We want to be known for quality, not quantity, and not just ship hundreds of pastries around London. We don’t want to rush.”
His current strategy is to look at a second site somewhere in London, and keep the Pophams brand under close control. “I wouldn’t like our pastries to be stocked in other cafes, in ways that I disagree with,” he says.
The prospect of future growth means Ollie needs the commercial side of the bakery to be rock solid. He chose Tide for his business bank account, in part for the strong customer service offering.
“If I ask a question it gets answered. You’re not on hold for a long time when you need to speak to someone. I’ve asked a lot of questions in the past year, and just having that instant answer is important.”
The intuitive interface and tools of the Tide app means Ollie can streamline admin, saving huge amounts of time. “Making payments is easy. I probably spend a few hours a week sorting out the invoices and getting it ready for the accountant. No more than that.”
In this profession every hour matters. Pophams is a round-the-clock endeavour. The bakers arrive at 2am.
“We get quite a few drunken people coming here, begging for the 5am bacon and maple croissant. And we have to tell them, ‘They’re not out of the oven yet!’”
Naturally, the best way to understand the popularity of Pophams is to pay a visit. You’ll be joining a discerning clientele, Nigella Lawson is just one of the many celebrity chefs to publicly admit their addiction to Pophams pastries. “A guilty pleasure?” she was asked, “I don’t feel guilty about pleasure” was her response. A perfect, and entirely deserved, compliment for Ollie, Lucy, and their talented team of baristas and bakers.
Discover the full menu and opening hours on Pophams’ website.