Hunter Carlberg didn’t want Broadsheet to write about his bread until he felt it was good enough. Hunter Carlberg, it would seem, has very high standards.
Over a handful of visits to Hunter Bread – a cosy bakery Carlberg and his partner Shannon Malone opened in Bicton at the start of July – I had the chance to taste an assortment of baked goods and was very impressed. Among them: chewy, 24-hour-fermented sourdough, shaped into a variety of loaves ranging from hefty “super longs” to dainty rolls, sold by the piece as well as a party-sized “wheel” containing 36 rolls; a dense, wonderfully filling wholemeal and walnut loaf; and breads baked with spelt and khorasan, some of the alternative wheats Carlberg gets from Wholegrain Milling, a sustainably minded stone-ground flour mill in New South Wales. Carlberg doesn’t get these flours (just) for their taste – following stints working with broadacre grain farmers, he also understands and respects the hard graft that growers go through.
“I kind of figured they [farmers] had the hard job and I had the easy job,” says Carlberg when he’s finally happy to go on record. Although Carlberg’s self-deprecation speaks to his humble, understated nature, the acknowledgement somewhat downplays his achievements. Other than his grain-based pilgrimage through the New South Wales wheat belt, our man also spent three years at legendary Sydney bakery Iggy’s Bread after discovering its breads while washing dishes at a pub run by Sydney chef and former My Kitchen Rules judge, Colin Fassnidge. “In Sydney, everyone kind of talks about other places because it's so competitive. No one had a bad thing to say about Iggy's.”
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While Carlberg brings his flour-whispering skills (and name) to Hunter Bread, he’s only half of the story. A former Aesop store manager and sustainable fashion designer, Malone is a warm, smiley presence at the counter and the sort of person any retail business would want representing them. The decision to set up shop at Bicton Central Shopping Centre – which also recently welcomed Thai eatery Rym Tarng – is especially significant for Malone, who grew up a few streets over.
“We’re a community bread shop and neighbourhood store,” says Malone. “It’d be different if we were just packaging up bread and hiding behind it. But we’re being really vulnerable and putting our whole personality to it as well. We're in an old-school centre where you come for your meat, your vegetables and your bread. This is the dream. This is like a country town centre near Fremantle.”
Personal connections are everywhere in the Hunter Bread story. Each day, Malone bakes a couple of cakes she likes – her chocolate and almond number is glorious and a fine pairing for the bakery’s filter coffee – for sale either later in the day or for the following morning. Malone’s stepfather helped transform the former Brumby’s store into a sparse, stripped-back storefront where flour and timber dominate (many of the wooden bowls, boards and details were dropped off at the shop by Carlberg’s grandmother). The yuzu jam that’s paired with goat’s cheese and slipped into one of those aforementioned buns is made with citrus grown by Carlberg’s dad. Friend and baker-about-town Natasha Brownfield occasionally pops in to lend a hand, but otherwise it’s just Carlberg and Malone running things and listening to guests.
“I think it’s responding to what people want and trying to fit within their routine and what they do,” says Carlberg. “We understand we're probably more expensive than other bread, but we kind of just want to be available and responsive to what people want.”
Malone shares Carlberg’s sentiments about the community, as well as the bread, being their priority, and the value of keeping things low-key.
“When we were discussing signage, we realised there wasn’t any point in having a big sign [above the shop] if the people who were on the ground already noticed us,” she says. “If the bread isn’t good for them, what’s the point of attracting more people? The bread has to speak for itself.”
Shop 14/258 Canning Hwy, Bicton
Thu & Fri 7am–3pm
Sat & Sun 7.30am–3pm