Fourteen years after opening its first bakery on a quiet corner in Sydney’s Surry Hills, Bourke Street Bakery has taken up residence among the bright lights of New York City. It opened on May 4 in Manhattan’s Nomad (“north of Madison Square”) neighbourhood and immediately had queues wiggling down the street.
Punters had been waiting a while – the bakery was slated to open in January, but the launch was delayed because of a gas issue.
Paul Allam, who co-founded the chain with fellow baker David McGuinness in 2004, headed stateside almost two years ago with his wife Jessica Grynberg to launch the New York City venture. They’ve been living in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighbourhood with their three children.
New York’s Bourke Street Bakery sticks closely to the formula that has been such a success at its 11 Sydney outlets. It’s got one of Sydney’s star products, the ginger brûlée tart, as well as loaves of sourdough and those amazing pork and fennel sausage rolls. But there are also a few American additions, including a lime, meringue and coconut tart inspired by key lime pie, a classic Floridian dessert.
“Another new product we’re making here called Maple Bacon Danish is a hit, along with a cinnamon bun and a sticky peanut butter and jam bunny roll,” Allam tells Broadsheet. “[New Yorkers] adore avocado toast, which we make on a new sprouted sourdough, [they] see it as a quintessential Aussie food … we didn’t realise it was considered Australian cuisine until we moved here.”
He says the blueberry and ricotta muffins have also been well received, and that the iced coffee and cold brew have been going off. But he reckons Americans’ love of bread doesn’t quite match ours.
“Many people here are scared of bread and want to buy half or a quarter of a loaf – or not at all – so there’s an interesting conversation around getting them to try the sourdough,” Allam says. “In Sydney people are very comfortable buying and eating our sourdough and slicing or ripping it up themselves. At the same time, New Yorkers really enjoy the sweets and are open to trying new things so that’s really fun.”
While the lines around the block can in part be attributed to Americans seeking out the next new thing (and Australian establishments have a loyal following in New York), Allam says the huge Aussie expat population probably has something to do with it as well.
“We didn’t know before we moved here that there are thousands of Australians living in NYC and many of them have lived in Surry Hills over the years,” he says. “We’re nearly 15 years old – that’s a lot of share houses in that special suburb. I suppose Bourke Street Bakery opening in NYC means there’s a little bit of homecoming to them here … I think they started telling their friends and word got out.”
Bourke Street in Sydney is known for brewing a decent cup of coffee, but the New York outpost will have more of a focus on the American-preferred cold-drip brew.
“We’ve lived here now for close to two years setting this up, so we’ve really gotten to explore the local produce and palette,” says Allam. “It comes naturally to evolve the food to the people around you. My kids were eating and making s’mores all the time last winter with their NY friends, so I’ve made a s’more tart. We handmake the marshmallow and it sits on top of silky chocolate ganache in a lovely personal tart made from sweet pastry.”
The venue is a 2000-square-foot space on East 28th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. All the production and bakery takes place on-site and the dining area seats 50.
“I’ve been coming to NYC for about a decade now, I just love it from a fun adventure, culture and people point of view. It truly is a living city,” Allam told Broadsheet in November.
“[I’m] excited about walking to work at 4am with the Empire State Building in the foreground and Flatiron at my back ... it’s the little things for me,” he says.
Bourke Street Bakery New York is now open at 15 East 28th Street, New York.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 21. Menu items may have changed since publication.