Hungry but forgot to pack your lunch? No bread, no salad, no nuthin' in the fridge as you bolt from the house with wet hair? Smart operators are taking the hassle out of lunch, tapping into a growing trend of delivering top-notch options straight to your desk.
Chrissy Gant quit her job as a travel agent last year with the intention of starting a magazine. Inspiration got in the way and instead she started Goldilocks Lunch Box, a brilliant lunch-delivery service catering to grateful office workers all around town.
“We're so chaotic in our jobs and our lives these days and often it's hard for people to leave their desk or their office. I thought about all the times I had been at my desk and not had time to take a break until 4pm or so in the afternoon,” says Gant, who used to work on Smith Street in Collingwood and would get bored with all the same-old, same-old lunch options in the area. “I suddenly thought ... maybe there could be a market in this?”
There was. Goldilocks was born in February last year and now delivers about 150 lunches each week to Melbourne's inner north and CBD, two days a week. “At the time I couldn't find anybody else in inner Melbourne doing the same thing, but I know a few have recently popped up and there are more on the rise.”
Misschu is a veteran of the lunch delivery scene, whizzing food around Sydney (and now Melbourne) on electric bicycles since 2011.
Newcomers include the Odd Pod in South Melbourne and Hello Aubergine (a vegetarian bicycle delivery service in the inner north). Three months ago one-hatted Chinese restaurant David's started delivering to offices and residents in the Stonnington area.
“If you cannot come to us, we'll come to you,” says owner David Zhou, adding that delivery is part of the community concept for his David's and Oriental Tea House restaurants.
“Some people see delivery as cheapening their brand, but delivery can be done with personality and with a quality offering,” says Zhou, who has a comprehensive menu for office workers by day and residents at night. He says it's been a huge success and has plans for Oriental Tea House to start delivering soon too. “We have a lot of fun doing the deliveries,” he says.
In 2011, Kedar Pednekar took over Tiffins Melbourne, an Indian wallah service, with the capacity to deliver up to 610 lunches each week. “We do have a few regulars who order every day,” says Pednekar, including pollies sitting at Parliament House.
“Our typical customer is time poor and prefers to go for a stroll rather than wait in queues. We do get a lot of group orders, and definitely butter chicken is always a favourite.”
Whatever your fancy – Indian, old-school lunch boxes, Vietnamese, pizza, healthy salads – there's likely to be a lunch delivery service to suit you. The following all deliver to the individual but also have the capacity to take on bigger, meeting-style lunch options.
Order from a full takeaway menu with plenty of scope: snacks, such as Mama Zhou's san choy bao, dumplings or spiced oolong tea quail eggs with beancurd and wolfberries.
“Grandma's 8” is a big winner, a spicy, texturally splendid medley of chicken, pork, chestnuts, scallops and tangy shrimpy bursts amid the rich, brown, warming, soybean sauce.
“Auntie's fried rice” with Chinese sausage and egg is tasty and fluffy, not greasy; or go for the bao, the buns handmade, perhaps filled with thin, marinated pork, cucumber and green beans, or maybe pickled veg with fresh soybeans.
As you would expect, David's is an excellent option, whether it's inhouse or takeaway.
How to order: Online at davidsrestaurant.com.au or phone 9529 5199. And stay tuned for the David's app.
How much: Snacks and mains, $6-$26
Will they deliver to me? Stonnington area only; delivery fee $4.
How we ranked it: 9/10
Goldilocks Lunch Box
“Something big, something small and something sweet” is what you'll find in a Goldilocks Lunch Box, “inspired by the lunches mum use to make me as a kid”, says Gant.
There is love in this home-made food, and real attention to detail. In one container there was a warming, hearty, healthy tomato-based soup of celery, pearl barely, chickpeas, carrots, sweet potato, zucchini and capsicum, with fall-apart pieces of lamb. It was warm but needed a whiz in the microwave to make it hotter.
In another container, flat-leaf parsley to sprinkle on top, making the soup extra fresh and delicious. There was butter to spread on the Turkish bread, and for afters a little tub of fresh orange in orange blossom syrup with pomegranate seeds. Then, for afternoon tea, some scrummy icing-sugar-dusted, date-filled almond and cardamom shortbreads.
Menus change weekly and offer meat or vegetarian options. Ingredients are top quality and organic where possible, such as Babka bread, which Gant hand-slices; smallgoods from D.O.C Deli and Skinner and Hackett, and cheese from La Latteria.
How much: Lunch boxes, $15 each or $55 for a four-week round.
Will they deliver to me? Goldilocks delivers to Fitzroy, Carlton, Collingwood and North Melbourne on Wednesdays and the city on Thursdays.
How we ranked it: 8/10
A tiffin is a stackable set of containers, traditionally used to deliver lunches and snacks to office workers in India, the food usually prepared by spouses or family members. Melbourne's Tiffins turned up bang on time at the 12.30pm request.
The curries and rice were a bit lukewarm and needed reheating – you'll need to take the food out of the tiffin containers if you want to microwave them.
Curries are home style, based on traditional Indian recipes. The chicken korma was pretty good, in a thin cashew nut gravy; the aloo gobi was a thick almost paste-like North Indian dry curry of cauliflower and potatoes; and the toor dhal was a liquidy concoction of yellow lentils with onion, garlic and tomatoes. The basmati rice was good and, in another container, the roti bread was OK too. All the curries were mildly spiced and not too heavy.
How to order: Online at Tiffins Melbourne.
How much: A tiffin of one curry, dhal, rice and roti for $12.
Will they deliver to me? Tiffins service the 3000 postcode and RMIT. They will also deliver to people on the fringe, such as in a 3008 postcode. Call 1300 131 603 to check.
How we ranked it: 6.5/10
An office delivery service of modern hawker food, transported around Melbourne and Sydney's CBDs on the back of electric bicycles and scooters. My 12-item order was due to land at noon, booked for a meeting scheduled to run from 11am to 1pm. At 12.09pm, I received a call saying the order was running 15 minutes late, then, at 12.40pm, it arrived. It was worth the wait.
Misschu's rice-paper rolls work exceptionally well for office delivery – the wagyu beef pho was still hot and steaming, although the meat a bit overcooked (fair enough). The dumplings weren't piping hot but hot enough to still be OK, and mighty tasty, especially the springy, chunkily filled scallop and prawn. The fat rice-paper rolls were great, the tuna bright pink through the translucent wrapper (they sell about 700 of these each week).
Ordering online is a cinch: click in the “Me Hungry” section and go from there. It's an expansive menu, 95 per cent of it gluten free, and none of it cooked with garlic or MSG. “I hate garlic breath,” says owner Nga Chu.
How to order: Online or download the free Misschu app (iPhone for now; Android very soon).
How much: Entrees and mains $6-$16
Will they deliver to me? Delivery from each Misschu Tuckshop starts at $4 and for every additional 500 metres 50 cents is added. Maximum delivery zone is 3.5 kilometres from a Misschu Tuckshop.
How we ranked it: 8/10
The Odd Pod
Run by Tahl Katz, the Odd Pod started an online-only delivery service in March. It's an easy process to order online, with no option to specify a time, but the broad parameters of a two-hour delivery window are given (from 11am to 1pm); my order arrived at 11.47am. Salads are the go – fresh and healthy with cutesy names, such as the “Barley Legal” or the “Carrot and Chooks Adventures in Morocco”.
The “Just beet it” was beautiful to look at with lots of springy green spinach, deep-purple beets, blobs of labna (more please), bland quinoa (you'll need to add the dressing) and some candied walnuts adding superb crunch. The “Baa-toush” had beautifully tender, still-pink marinated lamb with a tart sumac dressing and plenty of crunch from the capsicum and cos. The beauty of The Odd Pod is that it's great for people who are just after one salad.
How to order: Online.
How much: Salads $11.50-$15.50, soups, $8.50-$9.
Will they deliver to me? Deliveries to South Melbourne and Docklands.
How we ranked it: 7.5/10
* As at February 2014, The Odd Pod expanded delivery to the Melbourne CBD and St Kilda Road.
Pippa Cunningham started delivering Hello Aubergine lunches by bicycle last November. "People in Melbourne are very receptive and supportive of small, community-minded projects and they also love their food," she says, "Plus it's a great city for bike riding... there aren't too many hills." All the food is vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options. My salad was a fantastic, a fleshy honey-roasted whole field mushroom, with crunchy hazelnuts, baked potoatoes, thyme and marinated feta - salty, flavourful, healthy and delicious. That was followed by a mini coconutty polenta cake topped with lemon icing. It will be great if Hello Aubergine can start doing a CBD run in the future.
How much: Salads, $10; sweets, $3-$4.
Will they deliver to me? Deliveries to Fitzroy, Collingwood and Abbotsford on Thursdays.
How we ranked it: 7.5/10
Eleven inch pizza
"I was 24 when I discovered I should have been a pizza-maker," says Eleven Inch owner Sam Jafari who hails from Iran. He was working as a civil engineer in Germany. He moved to Melbourne, learnt the art of pizza at Fugazzi in Middle Park, back in the 1990s, and now he runs two pizza shops - he even eats pizza on his nights off, he laughs. The bases are made using a little bit of his own three-year-old sourdough starter (which he takes between the two shops) and some fresh yeast, creating a thinnish base and fluffy crust with a good amount of chew. My order arrived hot and I was nearly mobbed carrying it through the office - margherita with fiore di latte and buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil added at the end. Another topped with home-made salami made by a Brunswick butcher, Calendar goat's cheese, house-roasted peppers and black kalamata olives. Do try the sweet pizza, a fab combo of milk and white Belgian couverture chocolate, finished with pistachio nuts.
How much: Salads, $10; sweets, $3-$4.
Will they deliver to me? Deliveries to CBD, Docklands and Southbank; free delivery for a minimum order of $20.
How we ranked it: 8/10