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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saint Honore Cake Shop, Haymarket

If there's a favourite Chinese bakery item I have, it's definitely the humble but gloriously tasty cocktail bun.

The cocktail bun, or gai mee baau, is a long sweet bun always marked with two pale stripes and usually scattered with a handful of sesame seeds. More importantly, they're filled with an addictive coconut mixture, the ingredients of which I've never quite been able to ascertain. But think butter, sugar, egg and lots of dessicated coconut and you get the picture.

So why is it called a chicken tail bun? I'd love to know. Some Chinese women I spoke to thought the signature stripes looked like a chicken's tail. Or perhaps the name came about because they were commonly served at cocktail parties, and the pre-requisite martini glasses look like cock's tails.

But whatever the reasoning, I can't speak about cocktail buns without mentioning St Honore Cake Shop in the same sentence. For it is here where the cocktail bun reigns supreme.

I'm a cocktail bun fanatic. I've done the taste tests. I've tried cocktail buns across Chinatown, Burwood, Ashfield and even Hong Kong, and none come close to the perfection that is the St Honore cocktail bun.

For it is only here that the filling is at its eggy and coconutty best. And they give you lots of it too. None of this stingy smear of filling. And all for an economically satisfying 80c.

It used to require a health-conscious resolve of steel to resist the allure of the St Honore cocktail bun, especially with the sugary just-baked aromas wafting from the warming ovens in the arcade corridor. The tiny shopfront was always chok-a-block with hungry students, kids and parents embroiled in a not-so-subtle brawl over elusive tongs and trays.

But guess what. St Honore have finally completed their renovations. Having operated out of makeshift even pokier premises down the arcade for the past month, the new revamped, bright and modern cake shop opened late last week. The back kitchen has been knocked out, completely opening up the shop and allowing, yes, a walk-in capacity without the need to stick your elbow in someone's face.

Good luck and prosperity flower arrangements for the store's opening

The new drool-inducing shop frontage on Sussex Street

There are plenty of other tasty cakes available here of course, including Mexico buns, mango pancakes, floss buns, daan tarts, eggy sponge cakes, swiss rolls and sticky glutinous rice dumplings. If savoury is more your weakness, there are curry puffs, bbq pork buns, frankfurt buns, shallot buns and even sticky rice parcels.

Even more surprising is that prices seem to have remained the same. Maybe they'll be hitting us with the subsidy for the cost of overheads in about three months, but for now, the cocktail bun is still a mere 80c.

Of course we had just one thing in mind when we visited.

Cocktail buns.
And yes, check out the trendy new carrier bags too.

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Saint Honore Cake Shop
427-429 Sussex Street, Haymarket Chinatown Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 1628
27 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 5/14/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 5/15/2005 8:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hey AG thanks for the update! glad to know that st honore's out of that squeezy makeshift space. :)

  • At 5/15/2005 11:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i've been craving this sort of baked good for some time now. frankfurt buns (made with plumrose cocktail franks out of the can) are my favourite savoury, despite the fact that the bread always (without fail) tastes vaguely sweet. i think that's why i enjoy it so much.

    now i'm craving a frank bun and a kaya (coconut jam) bun.

    errrghhh... *drool*

  • At 5/15/2005 11:54 pm, Blogger Reid said…

    Hi AG,

    The buns look delish! I think the first ones with the coconut cream are the ones that I like best. =P

  • At 5/16/2005 1:06 am, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    hey AG
    Cocktail bun is one of my favourite HK-style buns. I just love the super richness sweetness creaminess of the butter-coconut fillings! Though I do find St Honore's buns a little too sweet to my taste. But I agree St Honore probably has one of the best cocktails bun in Sydney. hehe. I got over my phase of HK-style buns now. I am totally into Taiwanese! :-D
    Has St Honore had a change of owner a few years back? I used to buy chinese buns there everytime I was in Chinatown. It was perhaps the er, unfriendly lady at the cashier that made it so homey. :-p Now it doesnt look like St Honore to me anymore...

  • At 5/16/2005 1:09 am, Blogger Ms One Boobie said…

    I wish i could have one of this buns here now.. that i'm in no -where land.. haha!! never used to like it.. because it was too sweet for me.. but now.. i crave anything remotely similar to home.. :)

  • At 5/17/2005 12:18 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Gwenda - Yeah it's nice not to have to engage in a full-on scrum to get to the cocktail buns, but really, half the time, that was part of the charm =)

    Hi Juji - Yeah those frankfurt buns are scarily edible. They are sweet buns. But then frankfurts are pretty sweet too really.

    Don't think I've seen kaya buns. Normally I just spread it on toast.

    Hi Reid - I love cocktail buns. They are, without doubt, my favourite. I forgot to mention Napoleons though. They're pretty tasty too!

    Hi pinkcocoa - I suppose St Honore cocktail buns are pretty sweet. And very very buttery. That's why I love 'em so much I suppose! =)

    Where you do get your Taiwanese buns from? Can you get them in Chinatown? What am I looking for?

    Hi MrsT - Ahh it's amazing what you miss when you can't have it. Grass is always greener... etc etc. I never really liked Vegemite before I left Oz, but abroad, I just couldn't get enough of it. Although it's true, there's only so much apricot jam and bread you can stand for breakfast every morning (and I never liked apricot jam to begin with!).

  • At 5/17/2005 7:49 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Have never understood your fascination with cocktail buns. I'm more of a sponge girl. But your photo has me sold.
    I had no idea there was so much buttery coconut goodness in it.
    Where have you been all my life!

  • At 5/18/2005 12:06 am, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    Hey AG
    I used to really love St Honore's bread when my tooth were super sweet but now that my tastebud seems to be a tad sensitive, St Honore becomes a nice treat once in a while and yes, I would go for the cocktail bun. I have not had cocktail bun as good as the one there!

    I haven't found any nice Taiwanese bakery here in Sydney, or at least in the Chinatown & eastern suburb area. There are Savoy and Andy's in Chinatown but the standard isn't quite up there yet unfortunately. My aunt (back in taiwan) makes better pastry than they do! That's why I am making the milk custard myself....:p if only i know how to make bread myself....

  • At 5/18/2005 10:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    we've been going there for years and years, so i was surprised to see it all renovated last week.. lovely!

  • At 5/18/2005 3:52 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Veruca Salt - *sigh* Always trust the AG! Definitely the most satisfying 80c you could spend in Sydney. You must make its acquaintance asap!

    Hi Pinkcocoa - Yes they're rich/sweet enough to only eat 1/2 at a time, but greed almost always wins out and I eat the whole thing and then feel queasy...

    I'll have to make more of an effort to investigate Taiwanese sweets. For research purposes of course... totally selfless...

    Hi tracey - We've been going to St Honore since, like, forever =) I'll miss the old-style chaos in a sense.

    Thanks for commenting. Wow I must admit I was a little shellshocked when I clicked on your profile. I've been a regular visitor to your site for over a year! Ok ok and yes, I'm a shameful 'browse by stealth' surfer who *shame shame* never leaves comments.

    I love your photos though. Your sushi macro shots made me weep with both inspiration and self-defeatist despair. But enough gushing.

    ps. Like, can I have your autograph? =)

  • At 5/19/2005 8:07 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Darlink, can you pls remove photo of cocktail bun. I have looked at the offending photo every morning since you posted. How does it make me feel? In the words of the original AG 'hungry!'

  • At 5/19/2005 6:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    augustusgloop, happy eating!
    love tracey x

    (there's your autograph haha ;))

  • At 5/20/2005 9:15 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Veruca Salt - Sorry, no can do luvvie. I'd have to shut down the whole sight if I had to remove all the pornolicious photos!

    May I say I am so pleased that you have finally seen the cocktail light?

    *Hi Cornelia*

    Hi Tracey - I'll treasure it for life =)

    PS. You have really neat handwriting! ;-)

  • At 6/12/2005 5:37 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Veruca Salt?! Is that you from the Morrissey-solo website?! This is truly weird finding YOU on here! So you are an Aussie lass?

    ~ J.R

  • At 8/17/2005 3:57 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi JR - Sorry I think you have the wrong person. Veruca is Aussie, yes, but not a frequenter of the Morrissey-solo website as far as I'm aware!

  • At 11/10/2005 10:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like the coctail buns too. Only i never had the ones from st honores since i live in Amsterdam.

    If you're ever going to be out here, go to Hoi Tin at the 'Zeedijk' and try them.

    They have a drooling window as well ;-)

  • At 6/22/2006 10:46 am, Blogger jon said…

    love these things - i live in China half the year, and i'm always scouting good spots. San Francisco has some good ones, too. But my big question is this:


    I'm trying to count everything i eat and i have no idea what to call it. ideas?


    --jon rahoi

  • At 6/24/2006 5:54 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Sip303 - I've been to Amsterdam but only for 2 days. Thanks for the tip. I'd love to explore the cake shops there!

    Hi Jon - I figure these bad boys are pretty darn nasty! =) I always end up feeling slightly ill after eating one of these (I have no self-control to just eat half) so I'm sure they must rank calorifically alongside a Big Mac or somesuch.

    I'm sure there's a fair bit of lard in them coconut fillin' but gawd... they taste so goooooood.....

  • At 9/22/2006 2:44 am, Blogger An said…

    Yes I admit the chicken tail bun is v. sweet and sugary, but you probably haven't tasted all that much of the bakeries in HK - I urge you to look for the small corner bakeries - they are the ones that do them best!

    Although I prefer savory to sweet, so I go for the plain old bun - purely plain, no fuss, no frills (but looks v. similar, just without the stripes). Or the sausage bun. Or the BBQ pork bun.

  • At 9/23/2006 12:14 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi ~an* ^&^ - So many choices indeed. And I always have a soft spot for the sausage bun.

  • At 10/26/2006 9:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I find St Honore a bit pricy considering the quality of the product. I once bought a taro bun from there (yes, I have an obsession with taros) and it costed $1.20, with only about a tsp of filling. I agree with ~an* ^&^ on how you should purchase from small corner bakeries.

    There's one in Hurstville near the train station called "Bakery King's Cake Shop". It's the best I've been to so far, considering quality and price, although their buns tend to be more chewy and less dense. I think their cocktail bun is $0.70, cheap indeed, but I suggest you try the taro one. It's the best in my opinion.

  • At 10/28/2006 9:49 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Anon - Funny I've always thought St Honore was one of the cheapest bakeries, esp compared to Emperor's Garden and now Bread Story.

    I haven't been to that bakery in Hurstville but it sounds tasty. Thanks for the tip!

  • At 8/22/2009 6:30 pm, Anonymous margaret said…

    Gotta love running down to chinatown on a lunchbreak just to grab some buns from St Honore. They've also got excellent mochi there!

  • At 8/24/2009 2:41 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Margaret - I agree, the St Honore bun run is always tempting!

  • At 10/07/2009 2:32 pm, Blogger cafedave said…

    Wow. I tried this place on the way back from lunch at Happy Chef. I can see why you think they're the best in Sydney - I had no intention to eat it on the way back to my desk, but couldn't help myself!

  • At 11/04/2009 6:23 am, Anonymous Stephanie said…

    Okay, so I read this and it reminded me of my search for not just the best BAKED CHICKEN Bao/Bun but ANY Baked Chicken buns. I've searched high and low in Los Angeles, San Francisco and even New York and alas, no luck. All are the same, BBQ PORK or Steamed Chicken. We used to have this amazing Bao place where I grew up here in Los Angeles called Bao Wow and then they closed after their lease was up and I was never the same.

    Anyway, if you happen to know of somewhere in Sydney that might satisfy my search for any baked buns with chicken, that would be amazing since I'm going to be there for two weeks starting Saturday and will have plenty of time to look. :-)

    Thanks for any help you might be able to provide and thanks for all the amazing posts on your blog.

  • At 11/06/2009 10:52 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Cafedave - lol. Glad you enjoyed the cocktail bun - and good to hear it's still living up to its reputation! Haven't eaten one for ages...

    Hi Stephanie - Not quite sure what type of baked chicken bun you're looking for, but does this chicken bun from Saint Honore fit the bill? Keen to hear how your chicken bun research goes in Sydney. Happy eating! :)


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