Christopher Thé opened Black Star Pastry in 2008 on Australia Street in Newtown. Its name, inspired by the Radiohead song from the 1995 album The Bends, was a tribute to the suburb’s then-alternative culture. Thirteen years and one very famous strawberry-watermelon cake later, Black Star is a phenomenon, with four stores in Sydney and another down in Melbourne (Thé sold out of the business in 2019). Now, that original Newtown store is on the move.
“Newtown is incredibly important to us and we wanted to stay as close to our roots as possible,” Josef Murray, Black Star’s general manager tells Broadsheet. The original space was small and creatively upcycled: wooden planks were formed into tables, customers sat on old church pews and the walls were exposed brick. It was popular, but tucked down a backstreet lacking in foot traffic. Not so with the new premises, which is right around the corner on King Street, in the thick of the action.
“The new store has given us an opportunity to design something that is fit for purpose,” Murray says. “It’ll be a more comfortable and atmospheric experience for guests enjoying their morning coffee and croissant, or even sitting for lunch – before ‘that cake’, BSP was best known for its pies, which it still makes today.” (We recommend the lamb shank and red wine number.)
Designed by Studio MKZ (Black Star at The Galeries, Marble), the new fit-out is reminiscent of a Parisian patisserie. A tiled marble entry, high ceilings and bright white walls give the space a sense of theatre, and customers can watch the staff finish the cakes at the exposed pastry counter. Eat-in diners can perch at a long marble tabletop next to the bay windows that overlook buzzing King Street. And in a design flourish that pays tribute to the craft of baking, wooden rolling pins frame the counter.
Menu-wise, the new store isn’t reinventing the wheel: the famously aromatic strawberry-watermelon cake (which the New York Times described as “Australia’s most-Instagrammed dessert”) is there, and so is the black-sesame and yuzu cake, an alchemical construction of sesame butter cake, creamy coconut mousse and yuzu (that most delicious and fragrant of Asian citrus fruits).
“Interestingly, Newtown locals have a taste for [the] pistachio lemon zen [cake] – we sell a [disproportionately] high number compared with other stores,” says Murray. Imagine pistachio ganache, lemon curd, white-chocolate mousse and a crunchy pistachio dacquoise, and it’s easy to see why it’s such a big hit.
Black Star Pastry
Shop 1/325 King Street, Newtown
(02) 9557 8656