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Watch tasty bakes being made while enjoying a brew at this new open-plan bakehouse in Inverness

Tristan Aitchison, left, and Fernando Basaldua Bazaldua, directors of XOKO Bakery.

After being made redundant at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Tristan Aitchison and Fernando Basaldua Bazaldua decided to pursue their dream of setting up a bakehouse.

XOKO Bakery, located on Bridge Street in Inverness, opened its doors at the tail end of July after months of preparation, a period that Tristan says was prolonged due to the various lockdowns and ongoing restrictions.

However, the duo’s determination prevailed.

A range of pastries available.

The bakehouse and coffee bar offers expertly crafted artisan sourdoughs, pastries, cakes, chocolates and sandwiches, and is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly.

Everything is made from scratch in the open-plan bakery, so customers can see the work that goes into every bake.

Shaw-ko

The name XOKO, pronounced shaw-ko, comes from the ancient Nahuatl language in Mexico and means “the village where the bitter fruit grows”.

It is thought this is the origin of the word chocolate.

Fernando, who is from Mexico, has always possessed a passion for baking and pastry, working across Latin America and Spain.

Fernando preparing a batch of bread.

The 31-year-old was the head baker for renowned Spanish pastry chef, Oriol Balageur, in Barcelona and in 2017 was part of the team that won Best Panettone in Spain.

As for Tristan, he is a documentary filmmaker from the Black Isle, who produced a multi-award-winning feature film, Sidney & Friends, that screened in over 30 countries and won Best Documentary at Newfest: New York’s LGBTQ International Film Festival.

Tristan, 41, said: “Around the beginning of Covid, both Fernando and I lost our jobs and, after much reflection, decided to pursue our dream of setting up a bakehouse.

The bakehouse and coffee bar offers expertly crafted artisan sourdoughs, pastries, cakes and more.

“The process was very long due to lockdown and the large amount of red tape regarding planning and building warrants, but we began construction in early June and completed it towards the end of July.

“The venue is open-plan with comfortable seating. It’s important to us that you can see the ingredients, love, and passion that go into our products.”

Quality ingredients

Both Tristan and Fernando emphasise that XOKO Bakery is focused on providing top quality comfort food using the finest ingredients.

The directors spent a great deal of time deciding which ones to use to create their products.

Customers can watch the bakers at work while enjoying their food and drinks.

“We have put a lot of effort into sourcing the best ingredients,” Tristan said.

“We spent a long time finding the right butter for our croissants and pastries.

“Fernando and I love coffee and have searched, sampled and enjoyed coffee from all over the world.

“Our coffee originates from groups of smallholders based within the Huila region in the South West of Colombia, where traditional farming methods are still used.

The bakery’s coffee is expertly hand roasted.

“It is expertly hand roasted to bring out notes of chocolate, caramel and cherry. Our Columbian coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified and a Great Taste Award winner.

“We also use quality local ingredients from suppliers in the Highlands and Scotland.”

Future venues

When it comes to the most popular menu items to date, Tristan says their sourdough bread and other baked goods have been a hit.

And with locals enjoying their offering, the pair hope to bring XOKO Bakery to other areas in the future across the Highlands and Moray.

Fernando, left, and Tristan outside XOKO Bakery.

He added: “It’s made from 100% sourdough with 100% organic flour. We bake it fresh each morning and also use it for our breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

“Our ‘Sneckers’ bar has also been a hit – an almond and chocolate sponge loaded with salted caramel and peanuts and covered in Belgian chocolate.

“Fernando and I would love to expand XOKO Bakery.”


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