When investigating anything these days, I Google the “best …” and trawl through the first few search results. In this case, my search phrase was “best bakery Sydney” and the top article was a comprehensive Time Out review on Sydney’s best bakeries. The very first listing was Black Star Pastry, with the following description, “You can buy restaurant-quality pastries for less than a tenner here. Owned and run by Christopher Thé (former pastry chef at Woollahra fine diner Claude’s), Black Star offers everything from bread to macarons to ginger ninjas (gingerbread men clad in choc ninja costumes)”. Clearly worth checking out.
My mission was to find a birthday cake for my sister. Newtown would most definitely not have been the first place I would have looked, although when I trawled through the list of other bakeries including Bourke Street Bakery, Sonoma, Adriano Zumbo and Glick’s, I realised it’s the only one I have consistently heard of and had never before visited. Getting here was actually a nightmare. Off King Street on Australia St and next to Oscillate Wildly, I thought it would be pretty easy to find. I wanted to park as close as possible in case the cake was gigantic but with one-way streets in all the wrong directions and Newtown traffic madness, I had to do a few laps until I got anywhere near it.
Newtown has a pretty specific vibe, and walking in I can feel that I have come to the right place. Having spoken with Keita over the phone, Black Star’s knowledgeable floor manager, I am relieved they have anything at all to feed 8 people with same-day pickup. Apparently the hippie crowd (my word not hers) are very specific about ingredients, and as there is “no point” in using animal gelatine, so they don’t. We chat as she potters about and wraps up my lunch, a Mushroom and Cheese Toastie with sage. She tells me it’s not agar-agar used, which is seaweed based, but a plant-based gelatine which produces a finer, less glutinous jelly and gelling agent effect which the bakers find preferable anyway. I’m completely sold.
Keita encourages me to try Maria’s Bloody Beetroot Cake, a chocolatey cyclindrical cake covered in beetroot icing, sprinkled with rose petals and what appears to me to be dried blueberries, although I’m so overwhelmed by the sight of it I forget to ask. Maria is apparently Black Star’s first year apprentice and I am impressed with her design. She then casually mentions it’s vegan. Amazing. I am not, as you may already know, vegan, but dairy isn’t my favourite and anything vegan is welcome provided it doesn’t sacrifice the flavours. In this case, it definitely does not.
Amongst the Frangipane Tart, Orange and Almond Cake with Persian Fig, Chocolate Eclairs, Brownies, Pistachio Macarons and countless other goodies being replenished by the chefs out the back as I stand and watch with my jaw dragging suspiciously near the floor, I think I fall a little bit in love with everything in the room. But especially the Pavlova, which is what I have come here for. It has a meringue base, includes sponge, marshmallow and passionfruit jelly pieces with cream and summer fruits atop, and I am totally smitten. A really great reminder of why I avoid bakeries like a muffin top plague, Black Star is the kind of place you dream about when on a deserted island, or a diet, which is far from my mind as I leave with a small beetroot cake, a large pavlova, a warm sandwich and a big, sugar anticipating, animal-friendly grin.