[NB: Sandwich options have changed since we visited so please call up before you arrive to see what's on offer]
When the 18th-century English aristocrat John Montagu, aka the 4th Earl of Sandwich, started the trend of eating meat tucked between bread, he could never have envisioned how far the humble sandwich would come. Now we have Hector’s Deli, a café in Richmond dedicated to sandwiches – classic combinations made with high-quality ingredients and decked out with extra flourishes. The menu offers five options (and if you're lucky, a few specials) and that’s about it. No eggs. No fancy plating. No cutlery. But considering co-owners Jason Barratt and Dom Wilton have worked at Melbourne institutions like Stokehouse and Attica, you should buckle up for a sandwich shop with some serious cachet.
The café is housed in a former milk bar on a quiet suburban street, away from the hustle and bustle of Richmond’s main strips but even so the tiny space still hums with throngs of locals. Barratt and Wilton are behind the white-tiled kitchen-cum-register dishing one sarnie after another, while warmly greeting customers, many by name. Couples with dogs wait for barista Zac Kelly’s creamy, strong flat whites made from Axil Roasters coffee beans and hungry kids are placated with flaky croissants from Rustica, also their bread supplier. It’s like the Cheers of sandwich shops.
If you’re visiting during the early shift, order the pastrami – a pimped-up version of the classic Reuben. Wagyu pastrami from Meatsmith (brisket coated with a secret rub, hot smoked and slowly cooked for 15 hours) is wedged between light rye sourdough slices with house-made relish, sauerkraut, and pickles. It’s then slathered with butter and grilled and the combination of salty, gooey, sharp and crispy will knock your socks off. A boiled-and-baked 5 & Dime bagel comes generously heaped with cold-smoked trout from Petuna (purveyors of wild-caught, sustainable seafood), silky cream cheese with a drop of beetroot juice – the earthy flavour working so well with the saltiness of the fish – and rings of crunchy red onion. Traces of salmon roe kick it up a further notch.
For lunch, their interpretation of the Italy-via-New-York all-veg parma sub would make nonna proud. A pillowy ciabatta is packed with crumbed deep-fried eggplant, pickled wild mushrooms adding an aromatic vinagery sharpness, carrot and a hearty tomato sauce – bring your own bib. And you bet there’s a schnitzel (bonus points for using free-range chicken that’s soaked in buttermilk overnight) snuggled between lettuce in a secret dressing on a Kewpie mayo-lathered ciabatta. Keen for dessert? A brioche bun filled with Nutella and vanilla ice cream is a major upgrade on Nutella toast.
An AM sandwich doesn't have to exclusively mean a B&E roll. Mix it up at Hector’s Deli, where generous, honest sangas are ready to save you from smashed avo fatigue and no one is telling you that brisket isn't a breakfast food. The Earl of Sandwich would approve.