When Brenton Lang opened the first Rustica Sourdough in Fitzroy in May 2012, he never imagined a time when he would import $600,000 worth of baking equipment from a town near San Sebastian, Spain.
But that is exactly what happened before he opened the new flagship store – the sixth Rustica Sourdough – inside the old Diesel store in the heart of Chapel Street last week.
Although, the original plan wasn’t to expand into this part of town. With two other venues in the city, one in Hawthorn and one in Highpoint, Lang had taken out a lease in Faraday Street, Carlton when he ordered the enormous Spanish ovens that are now wedged into the back of the brand new Rustica.
That lease fell through and he had a sizeable investment on a ship, sailing closer by the day. But much like the way he has grown his business in the past seven years, Lang adapted.
The ovens arrived in March and went into storage until Rustica got the keys to Chapel Street in July.
If Rustica was already a household name in this city, its arrival in South Yarra, inside a bright, spacious 100-seat converted warehouse is the dawn of a new era. They are still the benchmark of artisan sourdough in Melbourne, but now they have a venue that sits in the top bracket.
“I definitely would be kidding myself if I thought we would get this far, to tell you the truth,” Lang said after the doors opened for the first time at Rustica Sourdough in South Yarra.
“Brunswick Street definitely served its purpose. The end goal was always to set up a bakery/café space I was really proud of and I think what we have tried to achieve here. It is a big step up from Brunswick Street.
“We have always been very limited in terms of what we could do at Fitzroy with the equipment and the space and everything else. And that’s why we wanted a bigger space.”
It is a much bigger space than Fitzroy, both front and back of house. And it is a much, much bigger operation. The new venue employs 50 people and the group now has more than 165 staff.
It wasn’t something Lang dared to dream of in 2012, but it is now a reality in 2019.
“There is always someone here,” he laughs..
“The bakers start at around 7am and that staggers across the day until the last baker leaves at 11pm. Then we’ve got packers and slicers here from 8pm and pastry chefs here from 3am. So there is a constant crossover.”
“And that’s just the back of house. We are now doing dinners from Thursday to Sunday. With the moves across the road, we think a pizza and a wine before or after is always a good idea.”
Every Rustica has a slightly different menu and feel from the next. They are all well stocked with the artisan bread, pastries and cakes they are renowned for. And the new location is no different.
The baba ganoush with grilled halloumi and poached eggs comes with two pieces of the signature sourdough toast. The chilli scrambled eggs with manchego cheese and pickled chilli comes on pumpkin toast. While the vegemite butter pastry and croissant bread French toast are already generating waves on Instagram.
With the Chapel Street venue off and running, Lang has no intention of taking the foot off the gas anytime soon.
They might move on from the venue that put them on the map in the not too distant future, but when they do, it will mean another order of Salva ovens from northern Spain…
501 Chapel Street,