We try not to play favourites when it comes to Melbourne venues, but it’s hard not to love Austro.
This is South Melbourne’s brand new Austro-Hungarian bakehouse and cafe. You can literally smell it from down the street—the wafting scent of spiced apple strudel, warm rye bread and dark cherries. “We’ve had people literally follow their nose in,” says co-owner Sally Roxon.
Sally started Austro with her partner Christian Gattermy. They’re the brains behind Hapsburg Empire in Albert Park and Yarraville’s old favourite, Hausfrau Bakery. The concept? Eastern European baked goods, tweaked slightly for a Melbourne crowd.
You’ll spot Austro on Cecil St, just down from South Melbourne Market. This is the old Let Them Eat Cake Space (Sally reckons it must have been an auto-garage at some point—the polished concrete floor ramps down toward the street). Step through the door and you’re enveloped in a big floury Austrian hug: the whole place smells of coffee and cloves.
Start with the main counter. This is where you’ll find the good stuff—delicate almond caked, piped with dark choc, discus-shaped gingerbread, oatmeal cookies, flavour-packed open rye bread sangers (the sardines with lemon and tarragon are our personal pick).
The real superstars? Two things: Sally’s apple strudel (a staple at the old Hausfrau) and the Bee Sting Cake. Let’s start with the strudel—buttery, flaky, perfectly stewed, studded with walnuts and currants, heavily spiced. It’s just ridiculously good, and probably Austro’s new claim to fame.
“The Bee Sting Cake has been very popular too,” Sally says. And no bloody wonder. It’s a double-decker honey flavoured brioche cake, layered with rich vanilla custard. The top has been baked to a chewy honey crust (think the world’s greatest muffin top, only denser, sweeter, more satisfying).
The best way to do Austro is plonk yourself down at one of the window tables (the big street-facing windows mean the whole cafe is flooded in natural light), order a few tasty treats, then pair with a strong coffee, courtesy of Allpress roasters.
“Coffee is a big part of Viennese culture,” says Sally, “And Allpress are serious about their beans. We want to get that Viennese coffee house feel throughout the venue.”
Pro tip: keep an eye out for the big Austrian mural of Hallstatt on the left-hand wall, done by Avavavavava. Almost makes you feel like launching into a Sound of Music solo.
The hills are alive...with the smell of strudel.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni