As a kid Mike Russell was known as “Blue”, thanks to his strawberry-blonde hair. He revived the name – albeit in French – for his bakery, which opened at the beginning of 2017.
Baker Bleu quickly gained a reputation for shaping some of the best loaves in Melbourne. It makes sense: before this, Russell worked at Melbourne’s Baker D Chirico and Sydney’s Iggy’s and Bourke Street Bakery. The three spots are considered among the best bakeries in the country.
Russell and his team work exclusively with sourdough. Bagels, baguettes, white and rye loaves are fermented for at least 18 hours, resulting in beautiful caramel-hued crusts favoured by many top restaurants – most notably Attica. Rotating specials feature ancient grains such as spelt, purple wheat and kamut. Freestanding racks hold the day’s offerings, which empty quickly as locals duck in and out to collect their daily bread. There’s also a small range of providore items including olive oil, salt, jam, honey and anchovies, and filter coffee.
This new, 400-square-metre site replaced the original Elsternwick premises in 2019. The larger space allows even for more time for the bread to ferment before baking. Russell hopes to keep pushing beyond 18 hours, for even more depth of flavour.