A1 Bakery was jokingly (??) referred to by a friend back in high school as The Bakery Made By Jesus, though I’ve never found out why. And whenever I asked him for the reason, he merely replied insistently that it’s because it’s made by Jesus, and no amount of wheedling could get a better answer out of him. Four years later, I’ve finally found the time for a visit to the Sydney Road bakery myself, which will hopefully solve the mystery.
It may call itself a bakery, but don’t let the name fool you. In what seems to be the norm amongst Middle Eastern bakeries, it also doubles as an ethnic grocer. What results is a multi-cultural melting pot of people from all walks of life, here for some shopping and a bite to eat. You’d be just as likely to sit across from a group of hungry tradies as you are an old Asian grandmother with her grandson, or a trio of giggling girls skipping school.
The humble doors open out into a cavernous hall is half bakery, half grocer, half cafe, and half eating area. So once you’re done buying your weekly supply of flatbread and falafel mix, you can sit down to enjoy a cheese pie and a cup of too-strong Turkish coffee. And don’t forget to pick up a huge jar of home-pickled radishes on your way out for just $3.
|Spinach and Cheese Triangle ($4)|
The food comes quickly, and the first thing to arrive was the Spinach and Cheese Triangle ($4). Chunks of feta and a tangle of fresh spinach tumbled out as the bread was pulled apart. I absolutely loved the combination of the slightly wilted greens and sharp yet creamy feta, all wrapped up in a casing that is fluffy and not at all doughy, and still slightly crispy from its stay in the wood-fire oven.
|Cheese Pie ($3.5)|
The Cheese Pie ($3.5) was a pillow of soft bread, its insides lined with salty haloumi cheese that still retained some of its satisfying squeakiness. Cheese and bread anything is bound to be good and this was no exception, though to me it stood out a lot less than the spinach and cheese triangle.
We also shared some Falafel ($6), which had the option of being served as part of a platter, or in a wrap. The slightly flattened balls were uniform in shape and golden in colour, and each had a crispy shell that encased a smooth, green chickpea mix that was gently flavoured with spices. They were impressively well-drained, and along with the flat bread, vegetables, pickles, and nutty tahini sauce, made for a light and nourishing meal that was just what my moody stomach needed.
The Baklava ($1ea) at A1 is life-changing. I would usually say that I’m not a fan of Middle Eastern sweets, baklava especially, as I’ve always thought them to be much too sweet and lacking in dimension. But I’ve come to realise that’s like saying you don’t like dumplings because all you’ve had was mystery mince wrapped in gluggy pastry from the food court. This morsel was absolutely perfect; the layers of filo pastry were thin and brittle like old parchment, rustling as I bit into it. Wrapped in the little parcel was a center of chopped nuts that released a burst of syrup as it melted in the mouth, leaving a lingering, but not overpowering sweetness that allowed the subtle nuances of the dessert to be appreciated. I can honestly say I’ve hardly had a better dessert.
By the time we walked out, feeling that sense of light fullness that can only come from eating an honest, wholesome meal, I still didn’t know why my friend insisted on calling A1 the bakery made by Jesus. But if he’s referring to how wonderful, lovable, and in the baklava’s case, life-changing it is, then I have every inclination to agree with him.
Rating: 14/20 – class A1.