Brewtown owner Pete Raad’s vision for his sunny, two-level warehouse venue has always involved an upstairs bakery selling a huge selection of full-sized cakes, croissants, cinnamon scrolls, mini cheesecakes, cronuts and sourdough. It’s now a reality – he opened the bakery on the weekend, a happy development for the Newtown business.
It hasn’t always been good news for Raad. In late 2018 a fire broke out in the century-old brick building. While the building survived, the damage was serious enough for Raad to shut down Brewtown for several months. He reopened with a plan for a revamp and then 12 months later Sydney went into lockdown. “It took us a while to recover from the fire. Actually, we were still not quite back to full capacity when covid hit,” he says. “[But covid] was a whole other level of stress.”
But quitting wasn’t an option. “I could have easily thrown in the towel after the fire, considering how long it took to come back. But for me, there’s unfinished business here. There’s so much potential and I have so much passion for it.”
The bakery is part of Raad’s three-phase plan for Brewtown (its full name is now Brewtown Sydney rather than Brewtown Newtown). The first phase was getting the ground-floor restaurant up and running (tick); phase two was to install the bakery (tick); and phase three is a licensed bar.
Raad felt there was unrealised potential in the pretty, sun-dappled upper level where the baking team churns out bread, pastries and cronuts for the restaurant. Last weekend, Raad removed the velvet rope barricade at the bottom of the stairs and welcomed guests to the space. Those alighting would have seen the words “Bakery upstairs. Pastries and treats” on the risers of the beautifully painted stairs, before arriving at a takeaway counter and ordering house-roasted coffee, cronuts, New York-style baked cheesecake, take-home sourdough loaves, or a meal from downstairs.
Near the timber double-doors (once used as an access to winch ambulance supplies to the second level, in the building’s previous life as an ambulance station) punters can sit at the counter and watch an enormous laminating machine roll out and fold smooth lengths of dough that will become croissants and Brewtown’s famous cronuts. (Brewtown was, in a big way, responsible for Sydney's cronut craze. It was one of the first purveyors of the cult croissant-doughnut hybrid that originated in the Big Apple and then swept the harbour city.)
“We have 40 different types of mini cakes and pastries, not including the bread, plus we’ve got full-sized cakes,” Raad says.
Although Newtown has a stack of food options, the inner-west suburb doesn’t have that many bakeries. There’s Saga on Enmore Road, Black Star Pastry near the station, along with an outpost of Bourke Street Bakery (and during lockdown Cafe Paci was doing a limited-run of pastries and limppu, Finnish molasses-glazed sourdough). Otherwise Brickfields in Chippendale is probably the closest place to get a loaf of sourdough – until now.
Although Brewtown is going through its second recovery in as many years, Raad is feeling optimistic. “Once you get past the negativity, you see that this is a time for opportunity. Lockdown gave me the time to think about the way I wanted to implement everything and come up with a strategic plan for the next 12 months and 24 months. I’ve done everything I can, and now is a great time to progress forward.”
6–8 O’Connell Street, Newtown