Baker Mike Russell worked in some of Australia’s best bakeries (Baker D Chirico, Sydney’s Bourke Street Bakery) before opening his own tiny spot, Baker Bleu, in Elsternwick at the beginning of 2017. As demand grew, it became clear that the 60-square-metre shop just wouldn’t cut it.
“We’re really short of space, and we’ve been short of space for a while,’ says Russell.
After a long search, Russell secured a grand new space nearby in Caulfield North. Due to be up and running in May, the new Hawthorn Road shop is a 400-sqare-metre dual-fronted terrace with a warehouse out the back. The space used to be a real estate agency and has beautiful high ceilings and truss beams.
“It’s been a big effort to get everything connected and in the ground,” Russell says. “But it has the right bones.”
At the current Baker Bleu, the smell of freshly baked bread – bagels, baguettes, white and rye loaves – hits you immediately, and you can see all the action of bakers working away out the back. Russell hopes to replicate this feel on a much larger scale at the new spot, where there’ll also be a small range of providore items including olive oil, salt, jam, honey and anchovies, and filter coffee.
Russell is also importing huge ovens from Germany that allow his team to bake more bread at once – meaning a later start time and welcome sleep-ins for Russell and his team (their days will begin at 6am instead of 4am).
There’ll be more time for bread to ferment before baking, too. Currently, dough is fermented for 18 hours, resulting in beautiful caramel-hued crusts favoured by many top restaurants (most notably Attica in Ripponlea, not far from the new bakery), but Russell hopes to push his bread’s depth of flavour even further.
“Better for the product and the baker,” he says.
Baker Bleu will relocate to Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North in May 2019.