Chefs have fuelled Sydney's newfound appetite for pastries, and their spin-off bakeries are here to stay.
The story of Lode Pies begins with a rolling pin and some bruises. The star item at Federico Zanellato's soon-to-open Surry Hills bakery is the pithivier, a French style of pie that's physically tough to make.
"When I was doing all the trials, I cried for months because I couldn't get it right," the award-winning chef says.
He initially attempted it in late 2018 at his Pyrmont restaurant, LuMi Dining. When Zanellato served his first successful pithivier there three months later, the tears might've stopped – but the pain didn't.
He was using a rolling pin to incorporate butter into the dough and it was a "nightmare", Zanellato says. "All my hands were destroyed." Another chef had bruises all over his fingers and palms.
Each pithivier is built from layers of laminated dough, with butter painstakingly folded in between. "It would take forever," he says.
Once Zanellato nailed it, the pithivier became a massive hit at LuMi Dining. "But I've probably destroyed three or four chefs," he jokes. "I think they gave up cooking because of the pie, because of the pithivier."
At Lode Pies, which the chef hopes to open in August, the experience will be bruise-free: the chef has spent $10,000 on a machine that will automatically laminate fridge-temperature dough – no rolling pin needed. It'll hopefully speed up the time-intensive process: at LuMi, the pithivier took three days to make.
During Sydney's first lockdown last year, Zanellato offered a takeaway version at Restaurant Leo in the CBD, which he runs with Karl Firla. It sold out in minutes – and kept on selling. "We just couldn't keep up with the production."
It was the same story at the Saturday markets Vic's Meat ran at its Mascot site during the final stretch of lockdown. "When we go back to normal, the new normal, I want to think of a shop around the concept of a pie," Zanellato thought to himself.
He wasn't the only one to think this – his customers were telling him this, too.
"You should do pies, you should sell them separately, you should do a shop," they told him. He knew they meant it: there were healthy sales to back their affirmation.
Other chefs around Sydney saw a similar demand. When Flavio Carnevale turned his Roman cucina, Marta, in Rushcutters Bay, into a bakery during the first lockdown, his customers told him the same thing – he could never make enough maritozzi (brioche buns), focaccia or other baked Italian goods.
Any extra portions would disappear soon after they were put on display. "You're not going to close," guests told him, indicating that Marta's Roman Bakery had to become a permanent feature.
"So basically we've kept it, every weekend," he says. More than a year on, it's going strong and Carnevale has even extended the bakery's opening hours throughout the week for this current lockdown.
It's a sentiment repeated at the Sixpenny pop-up bakery in Stanmore, which currently has people queueing for at least 30 minutes for sweet treats and led to owner Daniel Puskas looking for a permanent spin-off bakery, too.
Right now, Zanellato is furiously testing recipes for Lode Pies with chef/co-owner Lorenzo Librino, who worked with him at LuMi for nearly two years. The pithivier will headline the menu: its well-scored pastry filled with gently cooked Berkshire pork mince and roasted shiitakes deglazed with red wine.
There are vegetarian versions in the works ("my favourite is silverbeet, ricotta and comte", Zanellato says), as well as interpretations of the French galette des rois dessert. "We have an Aussie version … made with a macadamia frangipane and desert lime jam."
Expect sausage rolls featuring heavily caramelised Berkshire pork mince. "We've been testing it with all the tradies at Lode at the moment," the chef says. "This is the best sausage roll, very different to the one I get from the petrol station!" they tell him. "I hope it is very different to the one at the petrol station, otherwise we're going to close down the shop in a couple of weeks," Zanellato jokes.
There'll also be northern-style cannoli filled with pistachio, hazelnut or rum and vanilla cream. It reminds Zanellato of his upbringing in Padua, in northern Italy, where cannoli was part of his diet. "They were one of my favourites." It's a habit that Sydneysiders will likely take up when Lode opens.
Lode Pies, 487 Crown Street, Surry Hills, lodepies.com
The Sydney bakeries making lockdown a sweeter ordeal
Sourdough, scrolls and slices have helped us cope with the uncertainty of the past 18 months and these Sydney bakeries are part of a new breed making this current lockdown a sweeter ordeal.
Marta's Roman Bakery
When Flavio Carnevale was 19, he delivered pastries to high-powered priests and nuns at the Vatican. Today, at Marta's Roman Bakery, he offers baked goods that evoke memories of that first job. There's airy Roman-style focaccia& and Lariano bread, named after a small town in the region. His maritozzi, featuring brioche buns topped with whipped cream, are extremely popular. "That is the Roman breakfast," he says.
30 McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay, marta.com.au
Try this Sfogliatelle, which reflect Carnevale's southern roots. The mini versions, known as lobstertails, are filled with flavours such as limoncello or pistachio custard.
After the pandemic struck, Isabella Leva and John Laureti ;were stood down from their jobs at Pt Leo Estate on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. Sourdough and sugar became their salvation: they created Pane Dolce, offering bread and pastry boxes online. When they moved back to Sydney, they brought the concept with them. Pastry chef Leva rotates the tart selection every fortnight: recently, the star items were Mr Pistachio, a pistachio financier with nutty mousse and crushed pistachios on top, and a basil-blitzed creme patisserie with fresh raspberries and compote. Leva's mum even helps out with deliveries.
Try this Morning bun rolled in cinnamon sugar.
What goes well with memoirs and manga? Excellent cake and fresh-brewed green tea, according to Dulcet Cafe, which became the on-site eatery for Books Kinokuniya in April. Since taking over Black Star Pastry's vacated spot, Vivienne Li's venue has served a rainbow-vibrant range of chiffon and 20-layer crepe cakes. The chef spent around five months perfecting her shokupan recipe and the pillowy Japanese bread is available here in classic, matcha-marbled or chocolate-sweetened varieties. Although the shop is closed during lockdown, its range is available online.
The Galeries (inside Books Kinokuniya), 500 George Street, Sydney, dulcetcakessweets.com.au
Try this Crepe cake, available in dizzying flavours, including peach oolong, yuzu osmanthus, and Musang King – a type of durian so prized it was once the subject of a famous heist.
Tokyo Lamington has reinvented the classic lamington. Photo: Nikki To
Eddie Stewart (Black Star Pastry) and Min Chai (N2 Extreme Gelato) look at the classic lamington and see endless ways to reinvent it. Thai milk tea, black forest, Neapolitan, pandan and yuzu meringue? The iconic coconut-dusted cake has been reconfigured into those very flavours at their Newtown shop since its April opening. At their previous pop-up shop, they even had a Vietnamese curry version. The fairy bread flavour slathered with popcorn buttercream and encrusted in hundreds and thousands is immensely popular, but don't overlook the black sesame canelés, and special lockdown bake sale specials such as coffee eclairs and lap chung sausage focaccia and an upcoming (post-lockdown) night-time sake bar menu.
277 Australia Street, Newtown, tokyolamington.com
Try this Bestselling OG lamington, dusted in roasted coconut, dipped in Belgian chocolate and sweetened with raspberry jam.
Ben Lai spent his uni breaks at Quay (prepping snow eggs) and Copenhagen's Noma (where he foraged pineapple weed), but his greatest culinary education took place at home, when he baked – and ate – thousands of croissant experiments, day after day, month after month. Last July, the software engineer began selling his baked goods as Home Croissanterie on Instagram. Order by sliding into his DMs: try a bun sweetened with four kinds of Meltdown Artisan chocolate and a salt-flaked pastry with crisp potato slices twirled through its floral folds.
Try this Cardamom pastry shaped from croissant offcuts and rolled in cardamom sugar, in tribute to Copenhagen's Hart Bageri.
Humble Bakery is brought to you by Elvis Abrahanowicz, Ben Milgate and Joseph Valore, the people behind the beloved Sydney eateries (Porteno, Bodega) surrounding this bakehouse. This venue has earned a following for its finger buns, focaccia and excellent sandwiches, but it definitely benefits from its sister restaurants. The Basque cheesecake is courtesy of Bodega and the sandwich showcasing Porteno's famously great Brussels sprouts was a genius addition.
50 Holt Street, Surry Hills, humblesydney.com
Try this Caramel-crisp Brussels sprouts sandwich, backed with a strong kick of romesco sauce.
Anu Haran and Laura Gonzalez at Flour Shop in Turramurra. Photo: Renee Nowytarger
The samosa pies highlight the Indian heritage of owner Anu Haran – as do the peppery ginger cakes, inspired by something she tried in Goa. Being inclusive is important to her: for Ramadan, her team offered a custard tart with spiced dates, and laksa cookies appeared during Lunar New Year. Her waste-minimising creations include banana bread and butter pudding and lemon scrolls made with excess neighbourhood fruit.
16 Princes Street, Turramurra, flourshop.com.au
Try this Cinnamon scrolls, which might be Sydney's best.
Good Ways Deli
Two weeks after opening in May, Good Ways Deli landed on Good Food's list of Sydney's best new sandwiches. Its salad sanga (featuring mushroom paté, sprouts, mayo, beetroot, carrots and Maffra cheese jammed between wattleseed ciabatta slices) scored the honour. Australian staples and native ingredients reign at this venue by Jordan McKenzie (Cornersmith) and Tom Pye (Coffee Supreme): expect lamingtons sweetened with not-so-typical rhubarb jam, wattleseed baked into brownies and sandwiches powered by kangaroo saucisson.
20 Cooper Street, Redfern, goodwaysdeli.com.au
Try this Salad sandwich, of course.
At Stix Marrickville, pastry chef Daria Nechiporenko caramelises fruit in vanilla and white miso for her apple crumble croissants. She also presents lockdown-friendly celebration cakes (like a banana brulee creation) in quarter sizes that feed two instead of 16. But the hero pastry here is her Russian honey cake, layered with honey biscuits and dulce de leche. It's a two-day process that requires two people to complete.
20 Chapel Street, Marrickville, stix.com.au
Try this Individual honey cakes, available in limited portions during lockdown. You can buy a full-sized version online, too.
All Purpose Bakery
You can credit Dougal Muffet for the noteworthy loaves and pastries that will feature at AP Bakery when it opens, the new venture for Mat Lindsay (Ester) and Russell Beard (Reuben Hills). Muffet previously produced baguettes and ciabatta at Restaurant Leo in the CBD ("he's an amazing baker," says Federico Zanellato, his former boss) and he's currently working with the Australian Grains Genebank, his wheat-farmer parents and sustainable growers to highlight lesser-known grains worth turning into dough. Building issues have delayed the opening, but the bakery is due later this year. In the meantime, find its country loaves, hazelnut praline bomboloni and oven-fresh goods at Reuben Hills and Paramount Coffee Project on weekends.
32 Burton Street, Darlinghurst, apbakery.com.au
Try this Buttermilk croissants, bolstered with freshly milled rye.