If you’ve ever wondered about the source of the mouth-watering scent wafting about as you make your way to Ash Street or the Ivy, it’s most certainly coming from Lorraine’s Patisserie. Beneath a diminutive yellow-and-white awning sits one of Sydney’s top pastry shops, manned daily by veteran pastry chef Lorraine Godsmark and her staff of pâtissiers. After years as head pastry chef at Rockpool and proprietor of Yellow in Potts Point, Merivale group snapped her up, and she’s continued honing her craft under their aegis ever since. The kitchen is bigger than the takeaway-only retail space, with wrap-around windows so you can watch the team create crowd pleasers like Lorrain’s date tart (which she personally bakes), feather-light cheesecake and intensely chocolate brownies.
Bourke Street Bakery outlets dot the city and serve up warm, cushiony soft croissants, saucer-sized cookies and breads like pillowy soft olive-oil loaves straight from the oven. Stacks of baguettes fill the display window of the shop on the bakery’s namesake street in Surry Hills, where the snug outfit sees a line snaking down the street every weekend morning. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag one of the three cosy tables in this hole-in-the-wall for a deftly brewed flat white and a browse through the weekend broadsheets while you work your way through a picture-perfect pear danish.
Not many bakeries can claim to have successfully incorporated watermelon into a cake (paired with rose-scented cream, almond dacquoise, strawberries, pistachios and dried rose petals). Black Star has, and the results need to be tasted to be believed. Step into the unassuming shop front in Newtown for a slice of the signature Strawberry Watermelon Cake to taste the stuff that cake lovers’ dreams are made of. It’s also safe for celiacs as it’s gluten free. They create other baked delights as well (like ninja gingerbread men) but it’s the free-hand decoration, the consistent quality (you’ll never get a dry, crumbling slice of cake here) and the interestingly combined flavours (orange cake and Persian figs, lemon myrtle chiffon, raspberry lychee) of the bakery’s stratified cakes that have people lining up for a single square of spongy layers.
A generations-old sourdough starter is the base for the bread bread that North Sydneysiders are willing to wait for. Sourdough loaves, baguettes in the French tradition, palmiers, brioche, eclairs and a bevvy of other European pastries draw a daily crowd to the bakery starting at 6am. And that’s because St. Honorébakes the lower north shore’s best breads and pastries. Though it occupies personality-less retail space on the ground floor of a corporate building, ignore the bland décor and focus instead on the stuffed ham and cheese sourdough rolls.
The long communal tables and the Thonet-style chairs that line them in this lofty warehouse space are packed with Sydney locals who come far and wide to get their Brasserie organic sourdough fix at the weekend. The corporate branding doesn’t do the high-quality, artisanal product justice, but the number of high-end Sydney restaurants that Brasserie supplies is testament to its unwavering commitment to baking the best breads and sourdough. After a slice of house-baked toast, a cup of coffee and a peek into the baking warehouse through the café windows, grab more of the leavened stuff from the takeaway counter to make sure you’re well stocked at home.
Paddo’s sleek black shop front is the perfect border for the picture window that displays rows of giant Sonoma sourdough miche boules (each scored with a signature S) for all the passersby on Glenmore Road. Sonoma Baking Co is a common sight in Sydney with its naturally fermented, organic sourdough baked in the San Francisco style. It all began in a Bellata bakery with a sourdough starter that brand founder Kerry Connole carried back to Australia after a visit to learn all he could about baking bread in Northern California. The walnut, raisin and fig loaf is densely chewy and perfect for brekky (as are the muesli and morning buns). Sonoma roasts its own coffee in house, so that well-trained baristas can brew smooth cappuccinos and lattes in the brand’s cafes where sandwiches are served on toasted Sonoma bread and sweet Sonoma pastries beckon.
The teal exterior at Penny Four’s bakery reveals a sunny interior of yolk-yellow tiles, exposed copper piping and bric-a-brac in the form of petite penny farthing bicycles. They’ve squeezed in just a few seats, lined along the front window, so Penny Four’s does a very brisk takeaway business and partners with Sydney hot spots like coffee joint Neighbourhood, to get its sought-after pastries to the masses. Bite-sized pastries – like softly tart lemon meringues, addictive sticky buns and perfectly balanced salted macadamia tarts – line the display case, as do airy croissants encased in delicate yet crunchy shells, all created by Penelope Ransley, formerly of Tetsuya’s, Sepia and Iggy’s. If you’re tempted by something less sweet, opt for something off the rotating roster of savoury tarts and quiches that would make a Frenchman weep they’re so good.
Part café, part bakery, Brickfields is without a doubt the best thing Chippendale’s seen since sliced bread. It’s run by baker extraordinaire Simon Cancio and Mecca coffee’s Paul Geshos – you can rest assured knowing that the team behind Brickfields know what they’re doing. Bread options range from seeded ciabatta rolls to 1.3kg loaves of rye and caraway, soy and linseed and white sourdough. And the sweets? They’re on a whole another level. They’ve got Persian love cakes, black sesame and coconut cookies, spiced zucchini and spelt cake and more, which you can either grab in store or order online. If you opt for the former, be sure to pick up a cup of Mecca coffee.