Travelling to Italy in 2010, Pope Joan chef and co-owner, Matt Wilkinson, formerly of Circa, fell in love with the Eataly concept in Torino. The three-storey building operates as a sort of gourmet supermarket, restaurant and takeaway store all-in-one, celebrating the best of Italian produce under one roof. There’s a similar Eataly concept in New York too, and Wilkinson dreams of bringing an Australian-focused version to Melbourne, one step at a time.
‘Ham & Bacon at Pope Joan was the start of that journey, and Jack Horner is next, Wilkinson says.
Working on a slightly smaller scale, Jack Horner, to be located on Brunswick East’s Weston Street on the corner of the apartment complex development on the site of the former Tip Top bakery, will combine the local corner shop idea from Wilkinson’s English origins with the treasured Australian milk bar, a grocery shop and Eataly-style eatery and deli.
‘When we opened Hams & Bacon, the produce store and takeaway part of Pope Joan, to be honest, I knew nothing about retail,’ Wilkinson admits. ‘I thought I did, but I had to do more studying, and Jack Horner is the product of that research. I want to find the tastiest food and flavours and my belief in in-season and put that into a community element.’
Wilkinson also notes that after 20-odd years, he’s ready to move out of the kitchen and let the next generation take over. ‘There’s loads of younger people here and it’s kinda their time now. Knowing that about my life and my real passionate love of food, and my beliefs about things being local, I want, in the long run, to end up opening a supermarket restaurant.’
Jack Horner will have a sort of school canteen element that will include a free-range chicken shelve, where you can buy whole, breast or leg, and four Creuset-style pots on an induction heater offering house-cooked feeds including the likes of a tasty Bolognese that can be eaten on-site or taken home in biodegradable containers.
‘Bolognese is one of the easiest things to cook, but it can be more delicious than some people make it, and sometimes you just don’t have the time,’ Wilkinson says. ‘You’ll be able to afford to buy a perfect amount to feed the whole family and have a little bit left over for lunch the next day.’
Jack Horner milk bar and deli-grocer will also have a bulging glass cabinet festooned with the likes of house pickles, marinated olives, ricotta, fresh curd and pecorino made in-house and daily deliveries of mozzarella from That’s Amore. Folks will also be able to feast on sliced ham. ‘A pet hate of mine is we all celebrate ham on the bone at Christmas time, but that’s it for the year,’ Wilkinson says. ‘Why do we eat ham that’s not great for eleven months of the year?’
There will also be a small but perfectly formed selection of bite-sized sandwiches for about $5 each, around ten seasonal salads, freshly baked cakes and a yum cha-style brekkie you can build yourself by ticking boxes on a DIY sheet and handing it in to the kitchen. Jack Horner also has a bottle-o offering, which you can drink on-site too, and carries a range of standard milk bar stuff like toilet paper, light bulbs, milk, eggs, fruit and veg.
Jack Horner will open sometime in April, with offshoots to follow in the CBD and southside. Wilkinson wants it to be a one-stop-shop for time-poor but quality-conscious locals. ‘I know with having kids, I don’t always want to cook every night, but if I can get some bits and pieces to take home that’s delicious, ethically produced and wholesome for a reasonable price and grab some bacon, ham and cheese, bananas for the kids, some milk and a six-pack of beer… It’s everything I used to be able to grab at the old corner shop growing up.’
Jack Horner is set to open in April
Weston Street, between Lygon Street and John Street, Brunswick East
Image credit: Pope Joan