An eclectic mix of late 18th century development and sharp gentrification, The Rocks is the perfect place to absorb the cultural fibres of Sydney. And what better way to become immersed in the local culture than with a sample of its generous bakery and patisserie offering?
The Rocks may still be a mecca for tourists, but with a high concentration of fine grain creativity, this historic part of Sydney is no longer off-limits to locals. Today, its famous cobblestones regularly come alive for a gamut of cultural events, including The Smooth Festival of Chocolate and the Friday night markets – a hive of music, coffee, food and art.
For the rest of the time, however, it’s still home to some of the city’s best pastry chefs and bakers putting their best foot forward in their own businesses, bars, bistros and hotels.
With French-born master patissier Jean Michel Raynaud at its helm, La Renaissance Patisserie and Café is a stalwart of the district’s dining scene.
The patisserie and café has prided itself on serving up exquisite gateaux and pastries, all made in-house every day since it was just a small shopfront on Sydney’s North Shore back in the ‘70s. Fittingly, La Renaissance opened in The Rocks on Bastille Day in 1992, and has been a must-visit for Francophiles searching for authentic sweets ever since.
From mouth-watering macarons and decadent chocolate desserts to traditional mille-feuille and almond croissants, there’s plenty on offer. There’s also a selection of savouries and coffee from The Little Marionette.
“We have a wonderful mix of locals and tourists visiting us. The tourists fluctuate seasonally but we love our daily customers who work in The Rocks and our returning clientele who appreciate the effort that goes into proper French patisserie,” Jean says.
As for what to order, with the weather warming up, Jean says he’ll happily serve up a Monet cake (white chocolate bavaroise, lychee jelly, raspberries and coconut base), “because it’s hard to beat a classic”; in the courtyard.
Our pick: Zulu cake (chocolate mousse with a salted chocolate caramel centre, crispy pearls and tempered chocolate)
Nestled among shops opposite the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Baker’s Oven looks like a quaint café from the road. But once inside, its offering is surprisingly impressive.
Owned and manned by the Kriketos family, the bakery-café is best known for its pies and has become a popular alternative to the upmarket cafés and restaurants that have flooded the district in recent years. The family’s well-honed cake and slice recipes are a favourite with on-the-go tourists and local business people, who pick up a cup of locally blended Arabica coffee while they’re there.
Surrounded by original brick walls, back-in-the-day photographs and a vintage fireplace, The Baker’s Oven gives a nostalgic nod to its history. And, with natural light shining in from the rooftop windows, it’s a bakery with plenty of ambiance.
Our pick: Apple strudel
With a range of all-day dining and à la carte options, combined with some of the city’s best harbour views, The Shangri-La has the bakery and patisserie offering you’d expect from a luxury five-star hotel. But since punk pastry princess Anna Polyvoiu joined as the hotel’s executive pastry chef, the menu has taken a colourful turn.
A range of innovative macaron flavours, chocolate bonbons and high-end desserts are now available in the hotel’s restaurant, Café Mix, while the breakfast buffet now features homemade granola bars and freshly baked almond croissants.
“Back in the day hotel’s were a place of theatre and luxury. We want to bring back the excitement to hotel dining – but with a lot more fun and creativity,” Anna says.
Her graffiti-inspired take on the classic carrot cake, made famous from her appearance on Masterchef has also been sold in pop-up stalls in the hotel’s lobby, while more unorthodox flavour combinations – such as a beetroot, goat’s cheese and burnt honey – are celebrated in regular dessert degustations, held in the hotel’s own pastry kitchen with a little help from her friends in the industry, such as LuxBite.
Our pick: High tea for two (chocolate cakes, macarons, bavarois and brownies)
Pubs and bars are a way of life in The Rocks, and bistro-type food can be found in just about all of them. But at Ananas, guests always leave room for dessert.
Sitting proudly in the heart of the district, Ananas is an award-winning French restaurant with a glamorous and flirtatious personality.
Yves Scherrer, the man behind the highly popular “Snickers revolution” – a creative take on the popular chocolate bar – developed an outstanding pastry and dessert offering for the venue before recently leaving to spend more time with his young family. Now there’s a new pastry chef in the driving seat who promises to celebrate Ananas’ love for seasonal produce and refined takes on French classics.
Our pick: éclair of the week