It wasn't so long ago that good bread barely existed in Canberra, but for Silo, and a few old-style Italian loaves you could safely use as a football without the crust giving way. In the past couple of years, though, the number of bakeries has risen fast, and you'll find bakers working their sourdough cultures and crafting croissant in numerous local centres around the city. We'd love to hear your favourites. Here are some of ours.
Silo Bakery, Kingston
Silo stands out as the best breadmaker in Canberra by a long stretch. New guys have joined the market but none can match baker Leanne Gray's bread for that elusive combo of moisture, crust and flavour. Silo's stirato is a crowd pleaser, a gloriously unstructured stretched loaf, very moist and highly edible – this is the one for buying with a lump of cheese (which you can get in the Silo cheeseroom while you're there), or a pot of rillettes (go on, so easy, make them yourself).
Silo does sourdough that's ideal for toast. The crust is giving, not crunchy, which is the way it should be. And a dense rectangular dark rye bread, which is the one for the gravlax you cured on the weekend. Each Saturday, you'll find an excellent walnut and cranberry rye loaf.
36 Giles Street, Kingston, 02 6260 6060
Autolyse is a recent addition to Canberra baking, opening its swish white-tiled open kitchen in Lonsdale Street earlier this year and succeeding in creating a very French look and feel. The croissant is the thing to grab first; these are probably the best croissant in town, sweet and crisp, buttery but not greasy. Very good indeed.
While you're waiting in the queue, you can watch the bakers carve and weigh lumps of dough from the massive pile sitting on the bench, ready to be made into the dozens and dozens of loaves of sourdough that Autolyse makes every day, selling it through the Supabarn supermarkets and independents like the IGAs. Our only issue we have with Autolyse is the extreme crustiness of the crust. It's the kind of crust that answers back when you tap it and leaves big crumbs all over the bench. But it's a question of taste – this kind of crust has some serious devotees.
Shop 5, 21 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, 02 6262 8819
The new kid on the block is as much about uber-cool cocktails in the dim downstairs bar as it is about bread. But bread and croissant there is, made onsite in a room you can view over your cocktail glass, and sold upstairs to take home, and appearing on the restaurant menu. The spelt sourdough is very good. The white sourdough, too, is an attractive round loaf, spring-back spongy, and both have a pronounced flavour about them, pleasant and robust, the kind of bread that stands up well to a strong local olive oil. The house bread, we're told, is made from organic wheat milled on site. And coolest of all, they come wrapped like a gift in A. Baker paper. Heading the baking team is Ruslan Salbiev.
New Acton Pavilion, Unit 2, 15 Edinburgh Ave, 02 6287 6150
Danny has been making bread for well over 40 years since he apprenticed as a baker on the NSW South Coast. Now, he has his own shop at Narrabundah, unadorned but for a sign warning you to watch your step lest you stumble over the uneven doorstep. None of this is about style; all is about substance. When you head here to buy bread you can see Danny working in the back, pounding piles of dough with a rolling pin, preparing to turn it into his German-style, Italian and grain sourdoughs. You can buy this bread pre-sliced at local supermarkets also, and the grain bread is hard to beat for morning toast or sandwiches. The German-style sourdough has no yeast (the others have a small amount), so it has a longer ferment and a stronger flavour. It's good: crusty, moist inside and bursting in odd directions, but not exploding with air holes. Bread the way it should be.
6 Iluka Street, Narrabundah, 02 6295 7545
Dream Cuisine makes the list not for bread – they don't make bread at this niche patisserie shop – but for its croissant. The croissants are not the light and airy kind; they have, in fact, a certain density. But we rate them because of the ingredients. Where else do you get a croissant made with organic butter and flour? Nowhere, we think, which makes Dream pretty special. The same love for the best ingredients goes into all the pastries here, so don't leave the shop without a macaron – salted caramel is a great standby, but there's always a macaron themed for the time of year (around Father's Day, they sell whisky, beer and bourbon macarons, straight, not mixed). And if you've got people coming for dinner and no time to cook dessert, order a lime tart to takeaway. It's as good as what you'd make at home with the best ingredients.
9/18 Whyalla Street, Fyshwick
Also at the Exhibition Park markets on Saturdays and the bus depot markets in Sundays, 02 6162 2021