Huw Murdoch’s mum first took him to Fitzroy bakery and institution Babka when he was 10 years old.
“I’ve been eating bread like it’s a main food group pretty much my whole life,” Murdoch says. “When I was at university, everyone was buying Helga’s for their Vegemite toast, but I would go to Babka and get proper bread.”
So it’s fitting Murdoch has opened his own sanctum devoted to the stuff, Wild Life Bakery, in Brunswick East.
“I was using the Tartine book like everyone else,” he says, referring to the cookbook of the famous San Francisco baker. “I really enjoyed the making, the process, and I liked the bread more than any of the bread that I could get here in Melbourne.”
After six years with Market Lane, he travelled to America a few times and met with renowned bakers including Richard Hart (Noma, Tartine) and Josey Baker (Josey Baker Bread, The Mill), inspiring him to open his own shop.
“I always wanted to do … a retail bakery, where people would come just to get their bread, and it would be a real part of the neighbourhood,” he says.
But the cavernous space he found – an old mechanic warehouse on Albert Street – warranted a cafe addition as well. Hearth Studio’s Sarah Trotter has applied her signature aesthetic to the industrial interior, which features striking circular windows that allow customers to observe the bread-making process.
“Most of the recipes are ones I make at home, which is one of the main reasons it’s all vegetarian,” Murdoch says. “Very few people have noticed, and we have way more people asking if the food is vegan than if the food can have meat [added].”
Toasties are one of the heroes here, and the line-up includes fillings of caramelised onion and comté; broadbean, pea and manchego; and house-made kimchi and cheddar grilled between day-old bread.
The name Wild Life Bakery refers to Murdoch’s naturally fermented bread and ingredients such as kimchi, which have “another wild life thing going on” he says.
Murdoch’s rustic loaves are fermented for 24 hours, and he and head baker Brad Tobin (ex-Wood Frog Bakery) are experimenting with different Australian-grown heirloom wheat varietals. Along with a staple white, seeded and fruit loaves, there’s an oat porridge sourdough inspired by Tartine’s original. Galettes are topped with seasonal fruit and croissants are made with cultured butter from Fitzroy’s St David’s Dairy.
Alongside Market Lane coffee, Mörk hot chocolate and Assembly tea, there’s a small selection of wine and beer that fits with the Wild Life ethos.
“The wine is minimal intervention, and the first beer I ordered was a saison from La Sirene, because while it’s not really wild fermentation – their wild saison is a bit out there – this one is in that style.”
Wild Life Bakery
90 Albert Street, Brunswick East
(03) 8060 0547
Tue to Sun 7.30am–3pm