For many Aussie businesses, the transition to life in lockdown meant rethinking the bricks-and-mortar model.
But for Mike and Mia Russell, owners of Baker Bleu – one of Melbourne’s absolute best bakeries – maintaining a physical presence meant more stability for their rapidly growing business. So, last year, they secured a site for their second shopfront (their first is in Caulfield North). And a few weeks ago, they finally opened it in Prahran’s Hawksburn Village, with the addition of ex-Carlton Wine Room head chef John Paul Twomey, who’s heading up product and recipe development.
“With all the ups and downs, we needed a bit of consistency,” says Mike. “Because every time a lockdown happens, we change our business all over again.”
That’s not the only reason, though. “The other detail is that we ran out of space in Caulfield, so we’ve moved all our pastry production to Hawksburn,” he says.
The always-impressive range of breads – which includes sourdough loaves, dinner rolls, bagels, challah and more – will continue to be baked at the original shop. Meanwhile, the team at the new shop will do all the dough work for the bakery’s signature croissants, pains au chocolat and escargot, as well as specials like apple turnovers and cinnamon twists.
However, Mike is sure to point out that classic croissants will be baked at each location to ensure freshness. “I think that’s a super important detail,” he says.
While you wait to enter the Malvern Road bakery, take a peek inside through a tiny bagel-shaped window. But once you’re inside, the pastry production is on full display – plus there’s a digital menu that shows what’s available and what’s sold out. Very high tech. “Baking is a very old art form, but we try and embrace as much technology as possible,” says Mike.
That ethos also extends to the fit-out, designed by IF Architecture (Attica, Cutler & Co, Etta). “A lot of bakeries use natural materials like wood because the tones match the bread,” says Mike. But here there’s barely any wood in sight. Instead, the bread display is all shiny steel (“when these dark, crusted bread loaves are sitting on clean, futuristic shelves, they come to life”), while grab-and-go items such as granola and cold drinks sit on a sleek marble countertop. Touches of cobalt and yellow brighten up the otherwise monochrome space.
Bread is undoubtedly the main event, but there’s also a well-rounded retail offering. “When you come to us, you’re gonna be able to buy a chopping block, a bread knife from Deglon in France, a butter log,” says Mike. “We’re selling Tom Sarafian’s hummus, olives, anchovies – anything sort of bread-related, we’ll have it.”
Today, the Baker Bleu team announced the next stage of its expansion: a Sydney bakery slated to open in Double Bay, next to Neil Perry’s new restaurant Margaret, in 2022.
Baker Bleu Hawksburn Village
3/546 Malvern Road, Prahran
Mon to Sun 8am–5pm (or sold out)