Robin Birley: Owner/Founder
After leaving school, Robin Birley decided against attending university, preferring to gain experience in the world of retail, enrolling in a U.S. Trainee Management course at Grand Union supermarkets, which involved gaining experience in all the stores’ numerous departments. Upon his return to the UK, he opened his own gourmet sandwich bars which service the City, London’s financial district. In 2012, he discovered his true métier when he founded 5 Hertford Street. This, along with Oswald’s, opened in 2018, have become the most keenly sought-after private members clubs in Britain. From his earliest childhood, both at home in Kensington and at Wynyard Hall, his family house in County Durham, no meal brought such pleasure to him as tea, with its profusion of delicately flavoured cakes and biscuits. Having worked for many years at his clubs with Vincent and Eshak, Robin has now decided to share his passion for the very special breads and pâtisseries that have been developed by his team of chefs over nearly two decades. The opening of Birley Bakery is the culmination of this long-held dream.
Vincent Zanardi: Executive Pastry Chef
Vincent Zanardi, our executive pastry chef, was born near Paris, where, for the most part, he was brought up by his grandmother, an excellent home-cook. As a boy he became fascinated with everything to do with the kitchen. Many of his parents’ friends were chefs, and he would watch riveted as they seemed almost magically, to produce delicious dishes from a mere few, simple ingredients. At 15, he was apprenticed at La Maison d’Alsace in Paris, where his supervisor noticed his gift for pâtisserie-making and suggested that he devote himself to this speciality. Vincent went on to chef in many Michelin-starred kitchens in France, before working for Joël Robuchon and coming to London at his behest in 2006, to help open L’ Atelier de Robuchon in Covent Garden, which was soon awarded a Michelin Star. Since 2012 he has been pivotal to the running of the five restaurants housed within Robin’s clubs, and now he has assumed yet another rôle, becoming Robin’s partner in Birley Bakery.
Eshak Belabed: Head Baker
Our head baker, Eshak Belabed, grew up in a small village near Lyon, where he spent many of his after-school hours in the local boulangerie-pâtisserie, which happened to be owned by his best-friend’s parents. He loved being surrounded by the scents of the freshly baked bread and cakes, and came to admire the skills of the bakers and pastry chefs who worked there. These experiences kindled a desire in the young Eshak, to enter the trade himself. After a period of apprenticeship at the bakery, he decided to venture further afield, leaving Lyon for kitchens at Annecy, Vienna and Paris, where he learned the various specialties and complex techniques demanded by his chosen craft. After a spell in the Middle East, he came to London in 2017, joining the team at 5 Hertford Street where he has remained ever since, working closely with Vincent in the creation of new breads and pastries.
Rafael Freitas: Birley Bakery Manager
Our Manager, Rafael Freitas, was born in Brazil. Having taken a degree in marketing, he moved to Rio di Janeiro where he began working in the food industry. After spending four years in that city, he decided to move to London, where he ran a successful bakery for half a decade before accepting the post of Birley Bakery’s Manager.