Bourke Street Bakery is a Sydney classic. Almost 10 years old, it firmly maintains its position as one of the best patisseries and bakeries in Sydney, even with the post-Zumbo wave of patisseries that opened up all over town. But if you’re looking for macarons, you won’t find them here – Bourke Street keeps it simple. It knows what it does well, and just keeps doing it.
This was only my second time there – as much as I love it, the epic trek from Sydney’s north-west to the south-east is something I try to avoid. But I realised, if this blog is going to be anything more than suburban cafes and my own kitchen, I need to get off my butt and just drive.
My first experience with Bourke Street was about 4 years ago when a friend of ours worked there as one of the sourdough bakers. He was more a friend of Matt’s than mine, but I happily went along in the hope of complimentary baked goods. And he certainly delivered – we were treated to plates of croissants, sandwiches and tarts. I still remember the poached chicken sandwich as one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten – but the real revelation was the raspberry brûlée tart. While Matt and our friend were busily catching up, I was having a very intimate moment with this tart. One of those moments that splits your life into two parts: before I ate this, and after.
A “brûlée tart” is a genius concept: silky creme brûlée held in a tart shell instead of a silly non-edible ramekin. Glass-like toffee on top, with a burst of raspberry sauce right in the middle. And OMG the pastry – really dark, dense and crisp yet so buttery and delicate at the same time. I flicked through Bourke Street Bakery’s cook book and contemplated the idea of trying to replicate the pastry myself, but I realised it wasn’t even worth trying – there was no way that by simply following a recipe, a pastry so perfect could be made by my own clumsy hand. This was the work of a master.
I talk about this tart a lot. But I didn’t have it again until a couple years later at my kitchen tea (where it outshone my banoffee pie). And I was very excited to introduce it to my young, pastry-loving brunch companion.
There is a Bourke Street in Alexandria, but Bourke Street Bakery is not on it. Which is very confusing. We made a few wrong turns but finally got there and at 11am on a Saturday the place was packed.
As you walk in, to your left there is a wall of bread. Golden brown, crusty, flour-dusted, brown paper wrapped, glorious bread. Is there anything more beautiful? I react to scenes like this in the same way I react to libraries filled from ceiling to floor with books. I want to live there forever. I went a bit crazy with the photos.
WARNING: What follows can only be described as bread porn. Scrolling down may result in an irresistible desire to indulge your darkest carb temptations.
I adopted a potato and rosemary sourdough and gave it a home.
The brûlée tart is no longer raspberry but ginger, which I was a little apprehensive about but of course we bought one anyway. With prices better than the factory-produced stuff you’ll find at franchise cafes, my approach was “LET’S PIG OUT”. We ordered the tart, as well as a pie, a sandwich and a quiche. And then we ordered another tart.
Tunisian lamb and eggplant pie, with north african spices ($5)
Guys, I’m moving to Tunisia. I know I use a lot of superlatives on this blog, and I’ve already used about 10 in this post alone, but hand-on-heart this is the BEST PIE THAT I’VE EVER EATEN. The pastry was so light and so brown (I love when carbs are brown) and my guess is that it’s harissa that makes this pie so deliciously “Tunisian”. I’m recently discovering that harissa is amazing – Matt and I are currently obsessed with Yumi’s Toppers Hommus with “Fiery Tunisian Harissa”. It is the best supermarket dip on the market. Next food mission: make harissa paste and rub it on everything.
Okay, coming back to the bakery now.
Braised pork sandwich with shredded cabbage, carrot and crispy pancetta, with chilli mayo on (I think) toasted soy and linseed sourdough ($8)
Not as good as the poached chicken memory, but I rate this sanger for its bold, double-pork filling (braised pork+pancetta).
Zucchini, tomato and capsicum quiche ($4.50)
Not very exciting. Let’s move on.
Ginger brûlée tart ($5)
To say I hyped this up for my brunch-buddy is an understatement. “Are you ready for this? I hope so. Because your life isn’t going to be the same. You will love this. There is no doubt. You are going to go nuts over this. It’s amazing. It’s the best thing I’ve put into my mouth. Okay. This is it. Take a bite – and thank me later.“
She loved it. I…… just liked it. Not near as good as the raspberry, and I’m just not really a fan of ginger. It tasted like a gingerbread cookie. Dear Bourke Street, can you please bring back the raspberry tart?? PUHLLLEEEEAASSSEEEEE???
By this point we’re pretty full. But not that full… just enough room left for one more treat
Passionfruit meringue tart ($5.5) – too good looking not to try. It was lovely but I wished it was a classic lemon-meringue. Lemon pie is my favourite – I love the tartness of the lemon balanced with the sugary meringue. Passionfruit is not quite the same.
And all that for under $30 for two. I seriously doubt there is a better value, higher quality bakery in Sydney. Bourke Street Bakery, I love you, and I will see you soon – next time, after hours.
(I don’t know this man, but he must have noticed my camera and kindly posed for the photo. Thanks dude.)