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Exclusive: Neil Perry is opening his first café in the CBD tomorrow

Written by
Freya Herring

Always wanted to try Neil Perry’s food but can’t spare the coin? The once-fine dining-only chef has been slowly branching out into the more casual sphere of dining over the past few years, opening up Rockpool Bar and Grill and most recently, Burger Project joints across the country. But now he’s turning his hand – and considerable experience – to the David Jones Food Hall in the CBD, where he opens a sandwich bar tomorrow.

We got to sit down with Perry and get a sneak peak at the sandwiches he’ll be serving up, and we’ve got to say – they are goddamn delicious. “We’re making sandwiches inspired by some of the greatest sandwiches in the world, both old school and new,” Perry tells us, “we’re putting together what we believe are going to be the tastes, flavours and textures that people in the city are going to swarm for… We really believe that with what we’re doing and what we’re using and how we’re putting it together, that we can compete and come on top of any other sandwich offering in the city.”

The sandwiches will be change ups of various worldwide classics – shrimp po boys, lemongrass pork, smoked ham and cheese and meatball subs (using the meatball recipe from Perry’s five star Melbourne restaurant Rosetta Ristorante). The chicken katsu sees free range Lilydale chicken fried to crispness and paired with a shredded cabbage slaw, tonkatsu sauce and sriracha for that chilli kick, enveloped in a super soft burger bun. We try a veggie-friendly wrap stuffed with spicy falafel, soft, charred eggplant, yoghurt, hot guindilla peppers, tabbouli and bright pink turnip pickles. It’s perfect: messy, garlicky, and exactly what we want to be eating (at any hour). The Italian sandwich is basically every meat you could ever ask for – hot sopressa, prosciutto, mortadella, capicola and smoked ham – layered up in a baguette along with pickles, provolone cheese, hot peppers, mustard, hot sauce, herby dressing and salad. Now that’s a Scooby Snack.

They’re in the process of bringing in pastry chefs so that almost everything will be made in house. For now, they’re buying in various breads, befitting of each sandwich. “We’re using Sonoma,” says Perry, “and we’re going to have some Iggy’s bread over in the Espresso Bar soon. We’ll be making our own brioche rolls, and everything eventually… why buy it when we can make it?”

There’s going to be a chicken rotisserie round the back of the sandwich bar, too (the rotisserie itself is currently on its way over from France), with a range of chickens, from free-range to organic, the idea being that people can come in to pick up dinner on the way home – a Neil Perry dinner, no less.

It’s all part of a wider project to redevelop the David Jones Food Hall, in line with its ultimate redevelopment over at the Elizabeth Street store in three years time. They're even doing the Bondi Junction store too. Food Service Manager Pierre de Wit tells us, “In September last year the food team consisted of nine people. In the next two weeks it will be almost 60.” Perry is developing each food concession so that eventually there will be an enviable food offering at every bar, including world-class oysters at the Oyster Bar, and Italian food at the Italian Bar.

You ain’t never seen a food hall like this before.

Love sandwiches? Us too. Check out Sydney's best burgers, here.

Need more CBD eats? Check out our favourite CBD takeaway soups, here.

We also really like bacon and egg rolls, so here's the best of those too.

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