When it comes to baked goods, everyone has a preference: hot, cold, sweet, savoury, traditional recipes or experimental flavours. Thankfully, Miss Lilly's Kitchen has you covered on all fronts. Located at the south end of King Street, Newtown — a section of the strip somewhat lacking in decent daytime fare — Miss Lilly's is a bakery that aims to please. And it's doing so via hearty, wholesome pastries.
Following a few successful years as a market stall and wholesale business, Miss Lilly's has expanded into a permanent retail space. Owner and master baker Stuart Masters is treating this new venture as a "cellar door for pies".
After building a career in fine dining, Masters became disenchanted by the culinary shift towards intricacy ("chefs swapping knives for tweezers") and long hours away from family. He wanted to get back to basics. Or, as the bakery's tagline on the window states, "no nonsense cookery". This ethos was inherited from his grandmother, whom Miss Lilly's is named after. "I kind of grew up on her kitchen bench," Masters says. When he was setting up the business, he thought about who he wanted to be like. "She was my food hero," he explains.
This no-nonsense approach is evident in the menu. It's a simple affair of sweet and savoury pies, sausage rolls, toasties and cakes. Flavours rotate regularly and feature a blend of old and new. Masters uses his gran's pastry method but relies on spelt flour — a personal preference — and dabbles in sugar-free and vegan recipes. The kale and feta sausage roll is by far the biggest savoury seller. Customers can pair house-made kombucha with a classic chicken and leek pie (a refined version of gran's recipe) or a sour cherry pie.
The store's design builds on this old-meets-new approach. Faded vintage tiles (a legacy from the space's former life as a grocery), partially-exposed brick walls and a bookshelf filled with well-loved cookbooks merge with modern splashes of yellow paint, retro globe lighting and pale wood.
During our visit, there was a steady flow of customers, lured inside by the intoxicating buttery scent. Some sat in and some took their treats away. One man comes in simply to thank Masters for the "incredible chocolate caramel tart" he had purchased that morning. "That's what I want," Masters admits afterwards. "I want people coming in to say hi even if they don't buy anything. I want people coming in twice a day…. For me, it's all about community."
An inner west local for over two decades, Masters uses produce from the local community in his creations. Fresh produce comes from a Marrickville grocer, soft drinks and juices are by Parker's in Alexandria and the coffee is by Enmore's Black Market Roasters. And for the old favourite beef, ale and mushroom pie, Masters looks to Young Henrys. The end result is a welcoming local bakery filled with reliably tasty treats.
Images: Trent van der Jagt