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Oven baked bread at Totti's Bondi
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Sydney restaurants that bake the best bread

All rise for the chefs that really get it right

By David Matthews
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It’s straightforward enough to serve Iggy’s sourdough rolls or slices of Brickfields rye and call it a day (and hey, no one would think about complaining), but restaurants that bake their own bread bring a little something extra to the table. Not only is it a gesture of goodwill and hospitality, it sets the tone, and in some cases, can become a reason to visit in itself. These here are the Sydney restaurants where breaking bread – crisp crust, soft crumb and all – makes the meal just that little bit more memorable, whichever way you happen to cut it.

Can't get enough bread? Grab another loaf at one of Sydney's best bakeries

The breadwinners are...

An overhead shot of bread and butter on a plate on a wooden table
Photograph: David Matthews

1. Café Paci

Restaurants European Newtown

Potato molasses bread with whipped brown-butter butter
What is it about Pasi Petänen’s potato and molasses bread that makes it so damn alluring? Is it the way the Finnish chef combines a regular starter with a rye starter to add complexity? Is it the way he folds through-boiled, riced potato to lighten it? How he takes a festive Finnish bread as inspiration but twists it into a savoury opener with just a hint of caraway and a sticky-sweet molasses glaze? It could be any of these things, but that’d leave out the butter situation, where brown butter gets whipped back into regular butter for serious depth and nutty complexity. Nothing is as it seems at Café Paci, and it’s all the better for it.

Focaccia cut in half, photographed at eye level
Photograph: Supplied

2. Ode

Bars Wine bars Bondi

Focaccia
Ben Abiad's focaccia at Ode proves that when it comes to breadmaking, experience tells. Abiad honed his skills at Brickfields and brings them to bear on Ode's focaccia, itself a take on the Brickfields ciabatta. In his hands, Demeter Farm Mill flour, olive oil, fresh yeast and Murray River pink salt come together in a moist, fluffy loaf that seeps olive oil with a salty crust that snaps like crackling. The result? The best focaccia in town. 

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Oven baked bread at Totti's Bondi
Photograph: Anna Kucera

3. Totti's

Restaurants Italian Bondi

Wood-fired bread
Totti's bread is the stuff of Mediterranean fever dreams, a fat round of pizza-like dough that puffs up and blisters in the wood oven made all the better by a drizzle of olive oil and a scatter of salt flakes. And be it at the Bondi original or at the more snack-focused Bar Totti's in the CBD, you can count on two things: that bread being the centrepiece for a table laden with new-wave Italo-style antipasti, and scorched fingers all the way.

A loaf of bread on the bench at Arthur
Photograph: Supplied

4. Arthur

Restaurants Modern Australian Surry Hills

Sourdough with cultured butter
Attention to detail is everywhere at Arthur, from the brass and marble finishes, to the careful pacing of the tasting menu, right down to the sourdough. Chef-owner Tristan Rosier makes his dough with a mix
of organic Provenance wholewheat, baker’s and khorasin flours; it's given depth with malt powder, sweetened with honey, and seasoned astutely with Tasman sea salt. The result is a loaf with a dark crust, good chew and a light crumb served with butter cultured with kefir grains.

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Bread and butter at Ester, Chippendale
Photograph: Anna Kucera

5. Ester Restaurant and Bar

Restaurants Chippendale

Potato bread, sourdough bread and sourdough ice cream
The only question at Ester is which bread? There are the potato rolls, steaming hot and dark-crusted, to be spread heavily with kefir-cultured cream, dashi jelly and orbs of salmon roe. There’s the wood-fired sourdough, deep brown and made sweet and rounded with malt, that Mat Linsday has quietly perfected. Then, of course, there’s the leftover sourdough ice cream, a cool scoop of toasty comfort given crunch with a crumble of breadcrumbs. Which bread? The only right answer here is all of them.

A cook turns logs of wood in the fire oven at Firedoor
Photograph: Anna Kucera

6. Firedoor

Restaurants Australian Surry Hills

Sprouted rye bread
A collaboration with Shady Wasef at Pioik Bakery in Pyrmont, Lennox Hastie’s bread is made with a blend of rye, wholewheat and unbleached stoneground flour on a starter kicked off on rhubarb, pear and apple juice. The loaves are baked in the cooling furnaces, gaining a distinct char and a fine crust, and are served with butter churned from cultured Pyengana cream smoked over plum wood and sprouted rye grains crisped over coals. Distinct, and distinctly delicious.

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A loaf of sourdough bread on a cutting board with a knife
Photograph: Supplied/Melvin Haxaire-Christophe

7. Continental Deli Bar Bistro Newtown

Restaurants Newtown

Sourdough
A tin of sardines in oil, an oversized wedge of Basque blue cheese or a platter of top-shelf charcuterie is only improved by good bread and nobody knows it better than the pros at Continental. Made on a mix of rye, wholemeal and baker’s flour, the sourdough is deliberately dense and deliberately cut extra-thick to stand up to all the richness coming out from behind the counter. Add seasonal Australian olive oil and a canned cocktail or two and it’s a combination to write home about – when you’re done eating, that is.

A slice of bread on a set table at Sixpenny
Photograph: Supplied

8. Sixpenny

Restaurants Modern Australian Stanmore

Sourdough and leftover-sourdough sourdough with mascarpone butter
Take a seat at Sixpenny, enjoy the flurry of snacks that open the meal, break the bread, and spread it with sweet mascarpone butter that comes concealed under a dainty butter cloche. Nice bread, you’ll think, and it is – classically sour with a thick crust. But that’s just the start of it. Another slice comes out after a few more courses, this one made with the toasted crumbs of yesterday’s loaf blitzed up with coffee grounds and sweetened with golden syrup. Smart, waste-conscious, and memorable as all get out.

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An overhead shot of Danielle Alvarez kneading dough on a marble board
Photograph: Supplied/Merivale

9. Fred's

Restaurants European Paddington

Fougasse
In a city of so many sourdoughs, classic yeasted breads can fall by the wayside. Not so at Fred's, where Danielle Alvarez keeps it straight and simple with good ingredients, handled well and proved quickly. The dough, which combines baker's flour with organic white flour, is shaped and scored before being slid into the ironbark-fuelled wood oven and served hot and steamy with sweet house-churned butter and a dish of olive oil for good measure. Some choose butter, some choose oil, but those who know best always do both.

The flatbread at Nomad
Photograph: Supplied

10. Nomad Up the Road

Restaurants Surry Hills

Flatbread with za’atar and toum
When Nomad temporarily relocated up the road in Surry Hills without the wood oven, it seemed the flatbread would be decommissioned, too. Turns out adaptation can have delicious results. Taking the same focaccia dough, they prove it hard to develop air pockets, then fry it on the plancha in enough oil to turn it deeply crisp and dark golden, with a centre that stays soft and fluffy. Garlic oil, a dredging of za'atar heavy on Aleppo pepper, and garlicky toum for swiping seal it.

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Bread rolls on a plate with butter
Photograph: Supplied/Nikki To

11. Automata

Restaurants Chippendale

Bread rolls with chicken-and-anchovy butter
Clayton Wells veers away from the sourdough trend towards something whiter and fluffier, with soft mini rolls baked together in a loaf tin. They come out hot, ready to be pulled apart and spread with flavoured butter, at times whipped together with yoghurt and Pecora Dairy sheep’s curd, but most often mixed with sticky reduced chicken stock and anchovy for an ultra-lush, deeply savoury bread course that’s as much of a draw as the rest of the menu.

Focaccia shot from overhead on a plate wiht olive oil at Wyno x Bodega
Photograph: David Matthews

12. Wyno x Bodega

Restaurants Spanish Surry Hills

Focaccia
The focaccia that spans the menu at Wyno x Bodega and neighbouring Porteño hits all the spots good focaccia should: it’s fluffy without being dry, just the right amount of crusty, and it does as good a job cleaning up the dregs of a spiced pork sausage with pear cider sauce on the Bodega side as it does dabbing up roasted meat juices at Porteño. Look out for the Argentinian focaccia special at Porteño, too. Dark, handsome, and shot through with grapes and rosemary, it's most often served with wicked-good chicken-liver parfait. Yes, please.

Still craving carbs?

Pasta at Peppe's Bondi
Pasta at Peppe's Bondi
Photograph: Katje Ford

The 19 best places for pasta in Sydney

Restaurants Italian

Let’s be real – Sydney’s Italian restaurant game is seriously strong on all fronts, but when the hour calls for carbs, these are the spots that turn flour, eggs and water into small miracles.  

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