Every time I visit All Are Welcome’s original Northcote bakery, there’s a queue up the street. You’ve got to get there relatively early – its sourdough loaves; pork-and-fennel sausage rolls; and cheese-and-oregano pastries are all usually snapped up by midday.
It’s welcome news, then, that the popular bakery has expanded, opening a second shop just up the road in Thornbury.
Co-owners Mark Free, Aaron Maxwell (both also behind Everyday Coffee) and Boris Portnoy have known for a while that All Are Welcome had outgrown its Northcote, which launched in 2017. And while the menu at the Thornbury spot – which opened in February, closed due to coronavirus, then reopened in May – is similar to Northcote, it isn’t a mirror image of the original.
Instead, the two rely on each other and work in tandem.
“[The Northcote] bakery cannot be without this bakery,” says Portnoy. “They work to one schedule.”
At 3am every morning, bakers arrive for work at the Northcote shop. At 4am, pastry production kicks off in Thornbury. By 6am, production for the day is complete and the All Are Welcome delivery truck shuttles bread from Northcote to Thornbury, and pastries in the other direction.
Breads include classic sourdough loaves; baguettes; a light linseed rye; and a seeded boule (a round, flattish loaf) peppered with pumpkin, poppy, sesame and sunflower seeds.
There are also croissants made with French butter, including a ham and cheddar version, a cinnamon-spiced one with almond cream, and a pain au chocolat made with dark Belgian chocolate.
Croissant dough is also used for the khachapuri pastries (inspired by the traditional Georgian cheese-filled breads), which are filled with a mix of mozzarella, feta and oregano. A kouign-amann (pronounced “queen a-mahn”), a layered pastry that originated in Brittany in France, is gently spiced with cardamom.
Larger cakes are available to pre-order. A flourless salted-chocolate cake is made with buffalo milk curd from Shaw River, giving it a soft, fudgy texture. The Medovnik, an elaborate 10-layer honey cake that originated in 19th century Russia, is made with Tasmanian leatherwood honey. And the Fächertorte is an Austrian-Jewish cake with a base of ground poppy seeds, layered with thinly sliced apples, jam and walnut puree.
“I grew up with a lot of poppy-seed cakes in the Soviet Union,” says Portnoy, who believes the driving force behind the menu is a mix of his upbringing and his team’s interest in exploring “the lesser-known canons” of pastry beyond Western European cultures.
“I have an interest in making cheese, so we’ll think, ‘Okay, let’s start with cream cheese’ – because that’s a baby step to making cheese – and develop a product with that,” he says.
The result of that cheese-inquisitiveness is a Basque cheesecake, cooked at high heat so its surface becomes cracked and bronzed, while its centre remains wobbly, setting to just-right smoothness and gooiness.
As at the Northcote site, which is a former Christian reading room, remnants of the original tenants are preserved here.
“With all our venues, if there’s texture or bones to the original space we try and expose that history to acknowledge what was there before,” says Free. “You can’t buy that kind of texture. If it’s there, you’ve got to incorporate it.”
Weathered signage on the shop’s facade – “Home Made: Pies, Pasties, Sausage Rolls, Rice & Curry” – reveals its past life as High Street Bakers and Confectioners, and some original fittings, including some old tiling on one wall, are still in place.
And while Thornbury as a location – just up the road from Northcote – might seem like an oddly small move, Portnoy says All Are Welcome’s expansion is happening at a deliberately slow pace.
“That’s why on the side of the van it says ‘daily devotion’,” he says. “It’s about paying attention to small things all the time, rather than in big strokes.”
In light of Melbourne's stage-four lockdown, All Are Welcome Thornbury and Northcote remain open for takeaway and delivery to surrounding suburbs.
All Are Welcome Thornbury
887 High Street, Thornbury