Ox Noonan bakes loaves using only four ingredients: organic flour, filtered water, salt and a leaven that dates back to the 1880s. The result is a sourdough completely free of anything artificial. And now locals can pick up Noonan’s daily bread from his permanent store in South Melbourne.
“All I use are the same ingredients that have been used for thousands of years,” says Noonan, who is a vehement advocate for honesty in food labelling. “I don’t use any dough additives, conditioners or improvers.”
One of Ox’s signature loaves – a double-fermented sourdough – takes 96 hours to ferment. Noonan says the closely guarded recipe has “a high failure rate” and took a lifetime to perfect. The care and effort involved in making bread like this backs up Noonan’s estimate that only 25 to 30 bakers in the country still use these kinds of baking techniques.
Admitting he could save money by switching to an overseas flour supplier, Noonan remains motivated to support Australian farmers and growers. “Part of my bottom line is, if you’re going to have that authentic effort in one aspect of your business, you need to apply it across the whole product range.”
Noonan’s local suppliers include Sultana Girl, based on the NSW side of the Murray, while his olives come from the northern Grampians. Along with sourdough, pies and sausage rolls, customers can also pick up treats like Otway Walnuts’ walnut, blood plum and brandy jam, or a bottle of “living ginger beer” from the Healthy Humans range. A bright silver Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine – another nod to now-uncommon techniques – makes the most of St Ali’s new Manufactum blend.
Noonan designed and completed the fit-out himself with the help of his 16-year-old daughter. Heritage-listed Emerald Hill Terrace has been stripped of its lime green and mission brown to reveal raw brick walls and a dark wooden floor, offset by lighter sections of wall panelling and a blond wood counter. A marble workbench dominates the bakery itself, while a 10-seater bar along the window offers space where visitors can sip their coffee.
Noonan’s daughter also created the intricate black and white mural that decorates the back wall. Its honeycomb and flower motifs are a reminder of Noonan’s previous life as a beekeeper. As a finishing touch, his mother’s antique measuring cups watch over the bakery from a high shelf.
Ox the Baker
356 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne
Mon to Sat 7.30am–3pm