When ex-Merivale pastry chef Matilda Smith moved from Sydney to Melbourne, there was one form she’d set her sights on mastering.
“I really wanted to learn viennoiserie, or laminated dough, like croissants and Danishes,” she says. It was to be short lived, though. Soon after she started working at Aunty Peg’s the bakery section shut down, leaving her jobless.
Then serendipity struck. Smith’s partner Ben Wilson got talking to the barista across the road from his work. They had a friend, who knew a friend, who was opening a cafe on Bridge Road and wanted to rent out the bakery kitchen out back.
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
Given that her experience was mainly in plated desserts, Smith didn’t feel ready. “A mate of mine told me, ‘Just say yes and figure it out later’,” she says. “So we did.”
Smith got practicing on an old pastry sheeter the couple found on Gumtree and assembled in the lounge room of their one-bedroom Collingwood apartment. That was 18 months ago. Ever since, Penny for Pound has been wholesaling pastries to cafes such as Pillar of Salt, Mr & Mrs Anderson and of course, Mayday – the friend of a friend’s cafe on Bridge Road.
Now Smith and Wilson have unveiled a storefront, which was always part of the plan.
The offering is split into two sections. Pastries such as fruit Danishes and traditional croissants (plain, almond, and ham and cheese) sit in glass cabinets. The fridge holds petit gateaux (which roughly translates to “small cakes”) such as hazelnut and earl-grey orbs, and yuzu tarts with black sesame.
The petite space has marble surfaces, penny-round tiles (fittingly) and only a slim bench to prop your treat on if you want to eat in. Patrons can watch as the team kneads, laminates and rolls its croissants, which take three days to make.
As much as Penny for Pound is steeped in technique and tradition, Smith’s “old but new” ethos has her mixing up recipes too. The proof is in the cruffins; the already popular strawberry-cheesecake croissant; and a fig, honeycomb and orange crème-brulee doughnut that won the judge’s choice award at last month’s Donut Fest.
The name Penny for Pound refers to an old idiom. “We’re in for a penny, in for a pound,” Smith says. “It means to throw everything into it; risk it all to get a good outcome; make something work no matter what you have to put in to it.”
You’re not likely to stumble across the bakery walking down Bridge Road, because the door is on Lord Street. It opens at 8am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (for now), and closes when goods are sold out, which has been around 1pm so far.
“One of our mottos is ‘fresh is best’. We don’t want to have wastage at the end of the day,” Smith says. “When it’s gone, it’s gone. First in best dressed.”
Penny for Pound
410 Bridge Road, Richmond (entry on Lord Street)
(03) 9428 4040
Fri to Sun 8am–until sold out