MELBOURNE | Jack Horner Brunswick East is the newest venture from Pope Joan owner Matt Wilkinson. Occupying a space at one corner of the Tip Top apartment development just off Lygon Street, Jack Horner is part delicatessen, part canteen, part milk bar, part cafe. Prior to opening Jack Horner, Wilkinson expressed a desire to find the tastiest food and flavours and his belief in in-season produce and put that into a community element. Has he succeeded?
The space certainly has a “canteen” vibe about it, an open kitchen displays a variety of meals, hot and cold for people to choose from. Whether it’s one of the 4 hot meals bubbling away on the induction cook-top, a roast chicken, a seasonal salad or a sandwich, there’s no shortage of choice. Simply grab a tray, slide it along the rails you remember from your childhood and purchase either 1 or a range of dishes as part of a combo.
For those who aren’t looking for a meal, the cafe counter offers a range of cakes, pastries and other ready-to-go options along with coffee and a few other drinks. Breakfast is also available, from a concise menu of toast, muesli, yoghurt, jaffles and a few not quite the full English hot options.
The aptly labelled “Beer” is in fact the Cavalier Pale Ale with a custom label. A solid choice for a house beer.
…and if you’re looking to grab a few high quality grocery items, there’s a section dedicated to that too. Bread, butter, milk and a focused range of products can be found in the grocery section, with a mixed assortment of local, high quality produce, niche imported items, and things like Cadbury chocolates and Kraft peanut butter. There’s not real rule to what’s on offer – it’s simply the stuff that Wilkinson thinks people might want and things that he personally likes and wants to sell.
As mentioned earlier, there are a range of food options available. Everything can be ordered individually however we went for 2 of the combo #1. The pricing is such that these combos do provide you with the best bang for your buck.
Canteen Combo #1 ($14.00)
Combo #1 gets you 2 small salads and a sandwich. We went for the vegetarian Gardener sandwich and the Beef & Black Bean sandwich. Individually these go for $6.00 each. The sandwiches were both quite tasty. I preferred the Gardener while Lauren enjoyed the Beef & Black Bean more. Both were undeniably of top quality, with the freshness of the produce really shining through.
The salads are constantly rotating. For one of our combos we chose the Asian coleslaw and the winter tabouleh. Very fresh and light, these salads really hit the mark.
We also went for the roast pumpkin wedges with smoked yoghurt as well as a Cajun brown grain salad. Again, the flavours were spot on here – nothing fancy, just classic flavours done right and allowed to shine.
Medium Salad Plate ($14.00)
Also offered are small, medium and large salad plates. You can choose whatever you want until the plate is full, and our friend was quite happy with her selection of salads.
Coffee beans are provided by Allpress Espresso, and is served äs you like it”. The espresso was exactly what was required to start the day, with the “Supremo” blend having a slightly nutty element to it.
There are a range of pastries and sweets available at the counter, and I fell for the old sales trick of placing something appetising near the register. Needless to say, my decision to purchase this raw chocolate and salted caramel slice wasn’t regretted.
We like what Matt Wilkinson has done with Jack Horner. The concept fills a niche that’s been left open in Melbourne for a while now, namely the availability of high quality, precooked meals for those who live busy lifestyles. We made use of these sorts of stores when we lived in London and it’s nice to see a similar sort of thing finally happening here. The service was great and the food was tasty, however we can’t fail to mention the pricing, which is undeniably on the high side for both the cooked food and the groceries. You always have to pay more for quality and convenience, and only time will tell as to where the balance between price and willingness to pay lies in this fast developing part of town. It’s definitely a concept we want to see succeed.
179 Weston Street
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 8:30pm
Sat – Sun: 8:00am to 4:00pm