The Riverbank Lane’s already got a barber and a hairdresser, a bookshop, bar, cafe, clothing store and more. Now, its well-rounded offering is complete as artisan bakery Rudi’s Bakehouse makes a home in the Hamilton Central arcade.
Set to open officially on August 25, it’ll be the first permanent venue for owners Fern and Stefan Kelly-Zander, who relocated to Kirikiriroa after two successful summers hosting bakery pop-ups in Whangamatā. One was in an old cinema foyer, the other in a caravan they named Celeste.
The pair had moved to Fern’s mum’s bach in the Coromandel town as a stopgap after leaving their life in the United Kingdom mid-pandemic. For Fern, New Zealand was a homecoming, and for Brazil-raised Stefan and the pair’s two young boys, it was a fresh start.
The couple’s pre-pandemic careers weren’t obvious precursors to baking bread. Fern worked in textile innovation, while Stefan was a photographer. He’d completed a breadmaking course at East London’s iconic E5 Bakehouse, and so, when their careers looked less viable in New Zealand, they drew on Stefan’s passion and started a micro-bakery in the bach’s basement.
For the past two-and-a-bit years, Stefan has rolled dough, while Fern runs the business to keep the dough rolling in.
The initial days were a flurry of learning curves. Running such a small operation, they soon learnt that they couldn’t commit to the 20-kilogram butter sheet minimum order to make laminated pastries. So, Stefan rolled out blocks of butter by hand. “I used to have to clear out the whole kitchen to roll it out with a rolling pin, and I’d start running out of bench,” he tells Broadsheet. “By the end of it I’d be starting to sweat and so was like ‘this is ridiculous’ and bought a dough sheeter.”
In their new Hamilton bakery, they’re able to bake on-site. The space, flanked by Found Store and Browsers Bookshop has a humble, takeaway-sized shop area, with a spacious kitchen out back. The royal blue of their logo coats one wall, and simple concrete floors and plywood counters offer a minimalist feel.
Setting up shop in the laneway has offered a supportive community of owner-operators. “I’ve heard a few times from people that they can’t wait to smell the bread baking in the morning,” says Stefan.
The shelves of bread include dense sprouted rye, focaccia and their “original sourdough”, made using a combination of white, wholemeal and rye flour. The rye’s used for sandwiches, while slices of sourdough are bookends for grilled cheese fillings such as chives, cheese and French mustard, alongside portobello mushrooms and New Zealand black truffle oil.
Pastries are both sweet and savoury, including cinnamon swirls and pain au ham and cheese, alongside Scandi-inspired bakes such as The Nordic Knot (a sourdough twisted bun with custard, blueberries and spices) and The Copenhagen (a knotted croissant pastry with almond frangipane, apricot jam, icing and slivered almonds). For coffee, they’re using Eightthirty.
While the initial plan was to scale by running a central bakery alongside localised branches, priorities have now shifted. “The sense of community with having something small-scale is fulfilling our needs,” says Fern. “Seeing the joy it brings people is a very special thing.”
Rudi’s Bakehouse opens on August 25. On that day and August 26, it will be open from 8:30am to 1:30pm or until sold out.
The Riverbank Lane
298 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central
Tue to Fri 7:30am-2pm