Providing expats and savvy shoppers with authentic goods for years, here’s the best European specialty stores around town.
French expat Sabine Bourdin set up Ninou, a French patisserie in Rosebery, in response to her yearning for the boulangeries of her home country. “Our croissants and baguettes are made with French flour from the Grand Mills of Paris and French butter sheets,” she says. “They remind me of the family breakfasts I used to have at home or after school with my grandparents. They always used to buy me a buttery croissant on the way back from school.”
Buttery croissants are in abundance at Ninou, as are pistachio macarons with plump raspberry filling, lime panna cotta tarts, and crème brûlée orange. A standout is the signature Ninou cake with layers of single-origin dark-chocolate mousse, salted-caramel cremeux, almond dacquoise and caramel butter. For the savoury-inclined there’s baguettes with generous fillings including Emmental cheese and cured ham. You can even watch the patissiers and bakers at work around a large, square island table.
Angelo Portelli claims to have introduced ricotta cannoli to Sydney shortly after migrating in 1949. Now it’s not uncommon for his family to sell up to 5000 a week of the Italian sweets at this Leichhardt shop.
Other traditional southern-Italian treats on offer include rum baba (a fluffy, rum-soaked pastry), pastiera (Neapolitan cheesecake), sfogliatelle (a flaky, triangular pastry with cinnamon and lemon-infused ricotta) and nacatole (a traditional pastry from the Aeolian Islands, where Portelli grew up).
The continental cake at Mezzapica has been the same since the shop opened its doors in 1952 and has become a must-have among the local Italian families. “Second and third generation Italian families will come in and get a continental cake for their functions,” says manager Andre Portelli. “It has become a staple.”
Copernicus Cafe & Delicatessen
For a Polish take on the traditional European breakfast spread, Marek Strzemkowski’s sourdough rye comes sliced with a platter of locally produced cured meats and cheeses.
Along with his wife Maria, Strzemkowski was among the first to bring Polish food to Sydney 20 years ago – and the first to bring traditional doughnuts. The pączki, Polish deep-fried dough balls, are a specialty. The Polish eat them any time of the day, so there’s no need for an excuse.
Maria makes all the cakes herself. Her favourite is szarlotka, a spiced cake with a shortbread upper layer filled with stewed apples. And the most common is the sernik, a cheesecake made with a fermented but un-aged soft white cheese. There’s also homemade pierogi (cheese or meat dumplings) to eat later for lunch.
LP’s Quality Meats
If you’re seeking fresh cold-cuts and meats, this restaurant from Luke Powell – former head chef at Tetsuya’s and Mary’s in Newtown – offers a selection of meats, smoked using local woods and served with LP’s condiments, include the Sausage de Jour (daily snag), smoked beef short rib and smoked chicken with a paprika and dill rub. Mortadella (finely ground pork sausage) is as popular here in Chippendale as it is in its home city of Bologna, Italy. You can also add house-made bread, pickles, radishes and mash and gravy.
“Between everything – the restaurant, retail and wholesale – we probably sell about 25kg of the Mortadella a week,” says Powell. “We make all the cured meats, sausages and boudins ourselves, and while the list of cured meats can vary, the mortadella is always available.”
Athena Cake Shop
Athena has been selling Greek pastries, biscuits and cakes from this Marrickville shopfront for more than 50 years. There’s the famous baklava, biscuits (some gluten-free) and chocolates, but owner Christos Ahtytis says the most popular sweet by far is the traditional Greek custard pie, galaktoboureko.
“We sell hundreds of trays of them every week,” says Ahtytis, whose father-in law opened the shop in 1974, before handing it down to him in 1981 . It’s Ahtytis’ favourite, too. “I don’t know how many I would eat,” he says. “I lose count.”
There’s also a savoury offering, the most popular being the handmade spanakopita (spinach pastries). “We use the rolling pin [and do them] one by one,” Ahtytis says. “It’s the authentic Greek taste that keeps our customers happy.”
This article is presented in partnership with Holden Astra – 2016 European Car of the Year.