With all the Australian cafés around the city, do we really need another one? When the new addition is Bourke Street Bakery, which already has eleven locations in Australia, the answer is yes. Bourke Street Bakery is sure to be a destination spot due to its open-concept kitchen where everything is baked from scratch daily. We talked to founder-chef-baker Paul Allam about the move from Australia, why he edited the menu for NYC, and what sets Bourke Street Bakery apart.
Downtown: What made this the right time to come to New York City?
Paul Allam: We loved NYC and were ready for our next adventure. It helps that people love to eat here too!
Downtown: Why did you decide to edit dishes for an American audience?
PA: So much food from Sydney is international in feel that there’s a lot of crossover. We didn’t realize certain recipes we’ve developed over the years are even “Australian” until we moved here. Recently we started making our dark chocolate honeycomb – it’s a twist on a confection we’d eat after school as kids called Violet Crumble – we made it because we love it, and then when we served it to our American friends they said they’d never tried it before! Sydney and the Australian food scene has shaped us in our focus on produce and ingredients, but our travels around the world have also influenced us as well as the multicultural nature of Australian society, so I’d say we are just being authentic with our approach to food.
Downtown: How has New York inspired the menu?
PA: We will have drip coffee here, which is not typical in Australia being such an espresso culture. We have lived here in NYC now for close to two years setting this up, so we have really gotten to explore the local produce and palette. It comes naturally to evolve the food to the people around you…my kids were eating and making s’mores all the time last winter with their new friends so I’ve made a s’more tart – we hand make the marshmallow and it sits on top of silky chocolate ganache in a lovely personal tart made from sweet pastry.
Downtown: How did you end up in The James Hotel?
PA: When we arrived from Sydney, we were looking all over NYC for the right site. We wanted something special where we could make everything on site. We wanted that immediacy that our customers could see us making everything they bought. It’s a fast, busy city, but when they come and eat our food they can see us making it by hand – milling grains, making cheeses, pulling the sourdough loaves out of the oven…they can smell everything and see the process of laminating and folding the pastry. It’s not only lovely to watch, but it’s wonderful for our bakers as well to have that interaction with the public. So much time and effort goes into what they make, it’s rewarding to see people enjoying it. This particular spot that we settled on in Nomad is actually the same building as The James Hotel but is a separate entrance on 28th Street. It really has something special about it. The building is landmarked for a reason – beyond the street frontage, inside the empty space we fell in love with the lofty high ceilings and industrial beams and there was enough room for us to build a bakery and café. You could feel a bygone era and it just spoke to us.
Downtown: What makes your spot different from other Australian cafes in the city?
PA: Bourke Street Bakery is the first Australian-born bakery café to come to NYC.
Downtown: How will the New York location differ from the Australian ones?
PA: Each location in Australia kind of feels different. We always build and design in conversation with the space and the neighborhood that way every location is very local and feels special. Our NYC location is back to our roots in a way as everything you eat here is being made in the kitchen in front of your eyes. I am back in the kitchen, too, which I love. You can smell the Viennoiserie, pastries, sourdoughs, cakes and cookies, the sauces and spices, we make literally everything we sell. That’s a bit unusual in this type of place in NYC – we make our own marshmallows and confectionary, we even make our own ketchup and cheese. We cure our own fish, we pickle and brine, we churn house butter. We make our own pasta. We are so much more than a bakery café…we have an after hours menu that steps it up a notch where you can have a beautiful duck liver pate with sourdough miche. We have natural wines and craft beers. Another exciting development for us in NYC is we are milling interesting American grains and using that flour in many of the specialty sourdoughs. So I suppose we are very serious in our approach to food but when it comes to service we are friendly, casual, welcoming and unserious – that’s very Australian!
Downtown: What are you most excited for in the city?
PA: I love the energy and vibrancy of NYC. I love the enthusiasm of the people. We have received such a warm welcome. I’m excited to introduce New Yorkers to Bourke Street Bakery food and casual approach – serious food but very relaxed and causal service.
Visit Bourke Street Bakery to pick up fresh loaves of bread, sandwiches, sweet and savory pastries, and especially sausage rolls at 15 E 28th Street.