Featuring the bakeries, butchers, delis, grocers, fishmongers, bottle shops and more that take Sydney's food culture to another level, Broadsheet Sydney Food is out now.
With Christmas fast approaching, we've taken just one section of the book to present some of the hands-down best sweet experiences it's possible to have in this town. From Insta-famous cakes to gelato, chocolate and some of the best Portuguese tarts in the Southern hemisphere, these are the places that create Sydney's sweetest treats.
Flour and Stone
Owner and baker Nadine Ingram has a magical way with butter, cream and sugar and isn’t afraid to gently encourage old classics into new territory. Her lamington, for instance, is soaked in luscious panna cotta to give it slight wobble and real spoonability, and it’s stuffed with dark berry compote. It’s coated in rich dark chocolate and fluffy coconut shavings and comes in individual or family sizes. Cue cult following. Éclairs, so often mistreated at suburban bakeries, are sublime, piped with silky salted caramel pastry cream and topped with shiny chocolate ganache and hazelnut praline. Flour and Stone’s small counter heaves with lemon dream cakes, black sesame chiffons and lemon drizzles alongside smaller items such as caramelised canelés, huge meringues, fine apple tarts and iced gingerbread cookies. It’s best to call 48 hours in advance to order cakes big enough to serve 10 to 20, and if it’s something custom you’re after, Ingram and her team are known to be flexible and endlessly creative. 53 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo / 8068 8818 / Mo–Fr 7am–4pm, Sa 8am–4pm. Carriageworks Farmers Market / Sa 8am–1pm. Orange Grove Market / Sa 8am–1pm.
Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie
Textbook’s cabinet offers a painter’s palette of sweet eye candy. Its pastries and cakes look a little too perfect to be true, with not a crumb or dollop of icing out of place. We think the apple crumble is one of the best you’ll find, with its glossy green dome a clever blend of poached cinnamon apple and apple-custard mousse on a base of Speculoos (spiced biscuit) crumble. Pastry chef John Ralley’s Jaffa cake is a sophisticated take on the classic dessert, incorporating biscuit with milk-chocolate mousse and sponge spiked with mandarin. His lemon meringue is enlivened by a raspberry compote. The Viennoiserie selection of croissants and pain au chocolat is more traditional, though no less delicious. 274 Botany Road, Alexandria / 9699 6156 / Tu–Fr 7am–3pm, Sa 7am–4pm, Su 7am–2pm.
Haymarket Thai Sweets Stall
Inside Thai restaurant Thanon Khaosan in Haymarket you’ll spot this colourful stall on wheels piled with coconut jellies, puddings and banana-leaf packages. The stall is famous in the Thai community not just for the quality of its sweets, but for its incredible spread; the variety of cakes can be bewildering at first. If in doubt, reach for the banana fritters, sticky rice parcels or fried pandan crepes. If you’re feeling game, try the deep-fried Thai doughnuts with mung bean paste.
413 Pitt Street, Haymarket / Su–We 11am–11pm, Th–Sa 11am–3pm.
Ciccone & Sons
Fresh, handmade gelato is the name of the game here, a strategy, some may be surprised to learn, not necessarily used by those trading in the gaudy, colourful piles found elsewhere. Owners Mark Megahey and Sean O’Brien have deliberately gone with a box freezer from which they scoop top down. Leaving the gelato covered ensures it stays fresh longer, and helps avoid the need for chemical stablisers. Everything they can, they make from scratch; no pre-made bases, no paste flavouring from cans. Just fresh Jersey milk, whole nuts, fresh fruit and chocolate. Traditional flavours such as vanilla or honeycomb mix with weekly specials such as mascarpone panna cotta, tiramisu, buttermilk, crème brûlée (with a dulce de leche base) or flavours based on Pepe Saya products. Take-home boxes are no sweat at all. 195 Regent Street, Redfern / We¬–Sa 1pm–9pm, Su 1pm–6pm.
Black Star Pastry
Black Star’s watermelon cake is, allegedly, the most Instagrammed cake in the entire world. Impressive as it may be, there’s more to this bakery than that single item. Like the orange cake with Persian figs. And Japanese Black Forest cake with layers of hojicha sponge, confit ume plums, matcha moss and dark-chocolate bark. Vegan chocolate cupcakes decorated with hand-piped flowers, and frangipane tarts filled with seasonal fruit will lure even those “Oh, no dessert for me” types. 277 Australia Street, Newtown / 9557 8656 / Th¬–Sa 7am–5.30pm, Su–Wed 7am–5pm. Other locations: Rosebery, CBD.
Sweet Belem Cake Boutique
On a single weekend day, Sweet Belem will sell between 600 and 1000 flaky Portuguese custard tarts. People cross town to get them while they’re warm in the middle, but there are many other delicious options here too, such as bola de Berlim, Portuguese doughnuts filled with a traditional egg custard, and buttery brioche croissants. We recommend the Portuguese Napkin, a square of sponge cake folded in half and filled with custard.
35b New Canterbury Road, Petersham / 9572 6685 / We–Sa 8.30am–5pm, Su 9am–4pm.
Al Afrah opened in Punchbowl in 1982 as one of only a few Lebanese sweet shops in Sydney. Now there are plenty, but this one is still a marvel. There’s pistachio-dusted baklawa; semolina cakes; sweet cheese dumplings; cream-stuffed Turkish delight; and date-filled shortbread biscuits, all delicately arranged in spectacular abundance. The most loved sweet is Al Afra’s znood, deep-fried to order. Its outer layer is hot, crisp and dripping with syrup while inside there’s ashtar, a Lebanese-style clotted cream.
751 Punchbowl Road, Punchbowl / 9708 2774 / Mo–Su 9am–10pm.
Kakawa doesn’t have the flamboyance of Sydney’s other dessert shops. Instead it has finesse and offers pure quality. The bon bons balance creative flavours (calamansi lime, caramelised olive, tonka bean) with impeccable technique. Ice-cream sandwiches have an intense chocolate flavour while maintaining strong hints of their buddy flavours (from matcha and caramelised black sesame, to raspberry or simple honeycomb). Kakawa’s pure couverture chocolate range has all the regional inflections and floral complexities good chocolate should.
147 William Street, Darlinghurst / 9331 8818 / Mo–Fr 8.30am–6.30pm, Sa 9am–4.30pm.
22 Kensington Street, Chippendale / 9211 1673 / Mo–Sa 10am–6.30pm, Su 11am–5pm.
This is the home of the odd mix of innovation, prettiness and reverence for old-school American comfort food that chef Andy Bowdy has become known for. You’ll find Paris-Brests almost overflowing with pecan-pie filling and caramel cream; intensely boozy banana cream pies; and a pineapple and coconut tart with palm-sugar-glazed pineapple, salted coconut cream and coconut praline. The pastry cabinet also houses mini versions of the decadent, meringue-capped cake towers that catapulted Bowdy to Instagram stardom.
178 Enmore Road, Enmore / 9550 6386 / We–Su 8am–4pm.
Since opening this Italian patisserie in 2002, husband and wife Vincenzo and Cristina Tamborrino have gone from strength to strength. Whole ricotta cakes and towering croquembouche are in high demand, as are their soft Nutella doughnuts, custard brioche buns and flaky sfogliatelle filled with whipped ricotta. For a real indulgence, try their custard baba – a speciality of Naples. As far as sweet Italian biscuits go, consider this ground zero.
73–75 Great North Road, Five Dock / 9712 1461 / Mo–Sa 6.30am–5.30pm, Su 7am–12pm.
There are 15 flavours at this old-school gelateria; roughly 10 classics and five rotating styles that depend on both the season and owner Franco Riservato’s fancy. Take the espresso sorbet made for his mum, who misses the icy granitas of southern Italy, or try the dense, almost pulpy banana; chocolate that tastes like childhood; and a velvety panna cotta splashed with burnt-caramel syrup, all of which are creamy and authentic representations of their core ingredients.
281 Marrickville Road, Marrickville / Tu–Th 2pm–10pm, Fr 2pm–11pm, Sa 12pm–11pm, Su 12pm–10pm.