When I travel, I often find myself heading off the beaten tourist path to discover an unusual food item. These are often found in the local neighborhoods, not necessarily around the city’s landmarks or notable attractions.
While researching my trip to Sydney, I read on an online discussion board about a little bakery famous for its strawberry-watermelon cake. I love watermelon and couldn’t imagine what a cake made out of watermelon would be like, so I had to see for myself.
I caught the train from the Central Business District a few stops to a nearby neighborhood called Newtown. It looked like an older neighborhood with a bohemian flair (translation: tie-dye flags) but you can see signs of hipster discovery, like the fancy new wine bars and cafes.
Nearby Train Stop
Luckily, my destination wasn’t too far from the station, so I only had to walk across the street to discovery Black Star Pastry, a tiny but popular bakery that only has banquette seating by the window and mostly crate-like box seating outside. Opened by Chef Christopher Thé, he has a large Asian clientele, or at least that’s what it seemed while I was there.
Side note: Black Star has become so popular it opened a second more larger location in the Rosebery neighborhood. But if you’re traveling by train like I was, the original Newtown location is more convenient to find by foot.
I actually was a bit hungry so decided to start with a late lunch of meat pie made of lamb shank braised in red wine. You probably know (or if you don’t I’m telling you now) that Australians love their meat pies, which to me reminds me of chicken pot pie. But here, they make several different versions of meat pies, but the most popular is a filling of meat and peas.
Black Star’s lamb meat pie (AUS$8 or $7.40) had a fantastically flakey crust, and the tender lamb meat inside was simply delicious. There might not have been much filling, but it was an enjoyable and satisfying lunch.
Once I was done with my quick lunch, it was time to try the signature strawberry-watermelon cake. I got it with a soy latte. (I forgot how much the slice of cake was, but the cake and soy latte together was AUS$11.50 or $10.60.)
The cake is so gorgeous and refine, it belies the simple funky surroundings of Black Star. This cake could be from any fancy hotel restaurant, with a beautiful red gel topping over fresh strawberries with a sprinkling of edible flowers. It’s a layered cake with the center being an actual slice of fresh watermelon.
There was something about the slight sweetness of the watermelon mixing with the cake that just worked. And the soy latte was nicely blended with a creamy foam that was a perfect match to the cake’s stark beauty.
During my week in Sydney, I’d been hammered by tropical showers or overcast clouds. But that afternoon as I sat outside Black Star with my slice of cake and soy latte, the rain stopped and the sun came out briefly and a welcome breeze blew away the days of humidity.
At that moment, I felt lucky to be able to travel and discover these simple experiences. While some might think it odd that I’d take the time to go to a neighborhood in a foreign country to do nothing more than eat a piece of cake, I’d say to them, you can have your Sydney Opera House. Just give me the pleasure of a relaxing moment with a special treat and I can call my trip a success.
Black Star Pastry, 277 Australia St., Newtown, Sydney, NSW. +61(02)9557-8656. Open daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cash only. blackstarpastry.com.au
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