We're in a Renaissance period for lunchtime staples in carb casings. Katsu sandos are turning up on Melbourne menus everywhere you look, and in this northern pocket of the city Wonderpop and Deli is remaking the humble pie in a shiny new image.
Before traditionalists get their hi-vis in a knot, the team haven't completely turned their backs on convention, putting their chunky beef and gravy number called ‘That Old Devil Called Tradish’ in pole position on the menu.
Here, pies are ensconced in glass domes reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast and wooden panelling combined with overhanging branches create a cosiness at odds with its office-flanked location and grey exterior.
People are talking about the ‘piesagne’ for good reason. Sturdy layers of lasagne sheets brimming with a slow-cooked Bolognese sauce spiked with salty bacon and béchamel are encased in shortcrust pastry. Uniform layering makes sharing this easy, and share you must if you’re to try anything else on the menu. The pies at Wonderpop are hefty and deceptively filling – only the bravest dare tackle the ‘tradie slammer', a beef mince pie sandwiched by a brioche bun.
Look past the name (yes, you'll feel like an idiot ordering the ‘Phuc Face’ out loud) and you'll be rewarded with a French bistro filling of confit duck with the texture and consistency of pulled pork, cubes of slow-cooked parsnip and a citrus orange jus carried inside a crumbly, buttery puff pastry. And here's the trick, no butter, only vegetable lard, was used in the making of the pie case, and every other pastry shell in the deli.
Wonderpop chef Raymond Capaldi has worked at the likes of London’s Dorchester Hotel and the Sofitel, but that high-end training is not going to stop him trapping mac and cheese in a thick casing of shortcrust pastry that could have spent less time oven-side, but gets fun points for the sprinkling of luminescent Cheezels crumbs on top.
You might be inclined to lump Wonderpop's pastries in with the likes of ‘phorittos’ and ‘cheeseburger gyozas’, but these hot pockets are genuinely tasty, and unquestionably filling, all the better to bolster yourself against the CBD winds over winter.