Wild Life Bakery, Brunswick East: Toast of the town

From the oven at Wild Life Bakery. Photo: Bec Dickinson

From the oven at Wild Life Bakery. Photo: Bec Dickinson

Huw Murdoch is a bread head. A loaf of casalinga was his first love (age 10, Babka, Fitzroy) but sourdough (age 31, Tartine, San Francisco) is what really got him fired up.

Murdoch loved the loaf so much he ended his six-year stint at Market Lane Coffee and started his own gig, Wild Life Bakery, in a former mechanic’s.

He’s still good buds with the MLC crew and says: “I’m probably biased, but I think it’s the best coffee in Melbourne!” Guess which beans he uses?

Murdoch nabbed MLC’s architect, too, Sarah Trotter – a mate, who’s done an open, minimalist fitout with understated style. The best bit? It’s big. There’s room for pushers (a hit with parent groups) and space for dogs to rehydrate out front after a romp in the off-lead park across the road.

Despite Murdoch’s passion for baking, he decided to stay a barista/front-of-house guy, and team up with Brad Tobin (ex-Woodfrog Bakery).

Gazpacho. Add a cheese toastie and dunk! ⠀

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“We didn’t want a super holey, open loaf because we wanted to do toasties,” Murdoch says, “and we wanted a much darker bake than a lot of bakeries are prepared to do.” The house sourdough is a top result: a moist, cakey interior with an almost nutty, black-brown crust.

The menu is a tight list of all-brunch options, and not an eggs-ben in sight. “Our menu is different from a lot of brunch cafes,” Murdoch says.

“Every other cafe does eggs on toast and I thought that was a bit boring.”

The toasties rock, maybe filled with caramelised onion and Comte, a mild French alpine cheese used in fondue and known as “a good melter”. A spread of Saint David Dairy’s cultured butter on the outside gives the bread its golden glow.

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Fermentation also informs the menu (it is called “Wild Life”, after all) appearing in a zippy miso-sesame dressing in the spelt and brown rice bowl and kimchi toastie, the new cult sanga in town. It’s a fat, rollicking ride of thick-cut brioche, sharp cheddar and kimchi, a mild brew fermented with miso, instead of shrimp paste and fish sauce, to keep it vegetarian. “The people who order it are a bit obsessed,” says Murdoch, as are fans of the ham-and-cheese croissant.

Murdoch is vego and meat is a newish menu item here, all of it free-range and ethically sourced from Andrew McConnell’s flash Meatsmith butchery. “Turns out people like eating ham!” laughs Murdoch, who was surprised at the H&C croissant runout.

You can add braised free-range lamb shoulder to the shakshuka if you like, a fiery dish of slow-cooked runny yolkers with spicy capsicum.

Kids, dogs, solo with wifi for company – if you’re looking for a brunch hang, this one’s a good ’un.

The house blend

Short macchiato, made with Market Lane Coffee Seasonal Espresso, a sweet, balanced brew that pairs well with, or without, milk.

Must-have dish

Toasted sandwich with kimchi and cheddar; the new cult sanga in town.

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