OK, I understand
On my haphazard path to world domination, amongst many other madcap ideas, I have occasionally entertained the idea of opening a 'TDF Cafe' (you know, only in my wildest dreams, as part of some amazing TDF department store and headquarters / studio complex). BUT I can't do that anymore, thanks to Matt Wilkinson and Ben Foster, because they have already opened the CUTEST little food store in Brunswick, characterised by the most fabulous bright yellow details... and it basically looks exactly like the 'TDF Cafe' of my dreams. It's called Hams & Bacon (a deceptive moniker which I shall explain momentarily), and it's 2 doors down from Matt and Ben's immensely popular establishment, Pope Joan. If they weren't such downright lovely lads, I'd be well annoyed. :)
Matt is a character in every sense of the word. He rocked up a little late to our photo shoot (no biggie, it was awfully rainy that morning, and Matt has a 7-day old baby at home). Anyway, he bounces in, all smiles and energy, and is handed a huge enamel mug of milky tea by one of his staff, which he sips from enthusiastically whilst we chat. 'Not having a coffee?' I ask. 'Don't touch the stuff!' says Matt in a kind of buzzy, Jamie Oliver-esque UK accent. Not only does he not drink coffee, he admits he can't make one either! This from one of Melbourne's most successful cafe owners! Love it. A proper pom, this one.
What Matt CAN make, however, is a seriously impressive sandwich. In fact, in 2011, Matt was awarded 'World's Best Sandwich Maker' at the inaugaural Australasian Sandwich Association (ASA) awards. Um, AMAZING! Not surprisingly, Pope Joan has gained a strong reputation off the back of it's hearty sandwich menu - cooked by a team of chefs who previously worked with Matt when he was head chef at Circa in st Kilda. No wonder they're so good!
Hams & Bacon has been open 3 weeks and deals with Pope Joan's overflow of takeaway orders, and well as stocking a great range of local produce. Here you can grab a coffee (not made by Matt) or any of Pope Joan's famous sangas to take away. The produce side of the enterprise focuses on much of what Matt's been using for years in his own kitchens, such as Bundarra Free Range Berkshires Pork, Cunliffe & Waters preserves, Melbourne City Rooftop Honey, Barham Avocados and Milawa free range chicken. There's a big emphasis on locally reared MEAT, which Matt sources direct from the farmers who supply it. It's the same meat his chefs use in the Pope Joan kitchen.
'The main focus is on the many amazing small producers I use who do not have retail places to sell their product, except at the VFMA farmers markets' says Matt of his new enterprise. 'The takeaway element is to improve timing for customers waiting for takeaway orders at Pope Joan, but also to give them more options for takeaway food. Soon we will also have homemade pies, sausages rolls, salad, soup and in the long run fully prepared meals'.
Hams & Bacon inherited its memorable name quite by chance. Matt picked up this quirky circular vintage sign more than a year ago whilst on holiday in Queensland with his family - the phrasing appealed to his UK sensibilities! He lugged the sign back with him to Melbourne, with no plans at the time for what he would do with it. A year or so later, when the Pope Joan produce store idea came to fruition, Matt's distinctive 'Hams & Bacon' sign finally found it's rightful place, swinging proudly from a shopfront in Nicholson street!
The super cute Hams & Bacon fit-out was designed by local architect Matt Rawlins of Figure Ground Architecture, in collaboration with Matt's business partner Ben Foster.
Hams & Bacon by Pope Joan (no website yet sorry)
75 Nicholson St
Open Monday to Sunday, 10.00am to 2.30pm
We're super chuffed to have Matt join us for Tasty Tuesdays for the month of March, sharing four favourites from his award winning repertoire of world-class sandwiches! Do pop back at 2.00pm today for his first instalment!