Picture this: you’re tearing apart a hot-from-the-oven croissant. You’re covered in an explosion of buttery pastry flakes, and everything is pastel. It's a Wes Anderson/Sofia Coppola/Carrie Bradshaw-in-her-Paris-era fever dream. Also, the croissant is stuffed with almond frangipane and poached pear. Is this heaven? No, you’re in Surry Hills. This is Lode.
Inside this millennial-pink accented cave of wonders (designed by Larissa Leigh Interiors)
there are nine products to choose from. That might sound like a small selection but when
you’re facing down some of the most perfect looking pastry work this side of France, it can
be completely paralysing. Is it ridiculous to get one of each? Probably, and the sheer
amount of butter might leave you comatose, but there are worse ways to go. It might just be best to get some for now and some for later, if only to strike envy into those who spy you carrying the domed takeaway container (also millennial pink).
After a successful patisserie collab with Surry Hills restaurant Arthur and a pastry pop-up
through LuMi during the 2021 lockdown, and the popularity of the Pithivier (a welcome but
somewhat unexpected course in the Italian x Japanese fusion degustation menu at LuMi)
Federico Librino (Ormeggio, LuMi, Restaurant LeO, ELE) and LuMi sous chef Lorenzo
Librino’s bakery opened in November of 2021 to immediate success.
Zanellato and Librino claim they were caught unawares by the instant popularity of Lode, watching the 700 or so painstakingly made pastries sell out in under two hours, with a line of waiting customers snaking down Crown Street. And while the lines have calmed down somewhat since then, we’d still recommend getting there early.
In case you missed it, lamination in pastry is created by folding cold butter into pastry, rolling it out and repeating the process. The more you do it, the more layers appear during baking. Magic. At Lode, they use a Zanolli dough sheeter – a time (and back) saving device that rolls the pastry wafer thin without tears or imperfections – and the proof, in this case, is in the pudding. The chocolate croissant has such precise lamination you could count the layers. The Mr Peanut is a perfect squiggle of croissant pastry cut longways and filled with peanut frangipane, caramelised banana and dark chocolate and covered in sugar.
The seasonal tart (mandarin presently) is made from a sturdy base of the same ridiculously perfect pastry, with a mandarin jam, macadamia frangipane and mandarin crème pâtissière so thick you could use it as a duvet. Finished with juicy mandarin segments and delicately placed lemon thyme, it is a thing of beauty. This could all be too much; too sweet, too cloying. It’s not. The bitterness from the jam and the freshness of the fruit balance out the richness of crème pâtissière and butter-dense pastry. Each mouthful a joy. Even though it feels like it might kill you, it’s impossible not to finish this whole goddamn glorious beautiful tart.
While the sweets might get much of the glory, the Lode chicken pie is the low-key MVP. The pastry is flaky, yet structurally sound, in part due to the thoughtful preparation of the contents. Often, a chicken and leek pie is overly creamy or too much like a stew – containing one lone mushroom, the essence of leek and some overcooked chicken. Not here. The chicken is tender and succulent, the leek is soft and present, and some pieces are all-the-way caramelised for that bitter element Lode is so good at. There’s caraway seeds in the mix too which give the pie that signature aniseed aromatic element and serves as a reminder that these boys understand flavour in a way that is pretty astounding.
The prices are up there, sure. But this is not a tuckshop sausage roll nor a servo pie. Not
only are the items wildly labour intensive, the ingredients are all topshelf – organic flours and
nuts, European butter and sustainable meat from Emilio’s Butchery in Rozelle (with the
exception of the Wagyu which comes via David Blackmore). If you eat in, the cutlery is
Laguiole (in a colour palette that is a continuation of the pastel fantasy) and the plates are
matte ceramic from Eclipse, made in Portugal. The coffee is served in a Huskee cup. Eco-friendly, these reusable coffee cups are made from recycled bean husks (hence the name)
which is all well and good, but some coffee snobs may prefer a ceramic option for the gently
brewed single origin coffee from 5 Senses.
So, it would seem that the things you require to make perfect, most photogenic pastries are
as follows – artistry, inventiveness, patience, vision and hard work, which Zanellato and
Librino obviously have in spades. A lot of R&D has gone into perfecting the thoughtfully
small menu, and while your doctor might not put this in the "every day" category, the goods at Lode are well worth tomorrow's salad.