The Tradie Slammer has been an unexpected hit at new CBD cafe Wonderpop. Scotsman Raymond Capaldi has fluoro-clad workers from nearby building sites rapping at the window at 6.30am wanting to buy a pie wedged inside a brioche bun with caramelised onion jam.
Inspiration for the dish came from his days as a young, impoverished chef in London, when he'd fill up on a mince pie inside a bun.
A cafe and deli specialising in pies might be a far cry from the high-tempo kitchens of the Dorchester Hotel in London, Le Restaurant at Melbourne's Hotel Sofitel, and his own CBD restaurant Hare & Grace, where he made his name.
But Capaldi's training shows through in things like the buttery mash he serves alongside the pies. It's a 50-50 mix of butter and royal blue potatoes, a recipe made famous by the late French chef Joel Robuchon.
Capaldi's adventures in pie land began while working as a restaurant consultant. Spotting a pie-sized gap in the market, he began manufacturing a range of Wonder Pies for the cafe, pub and catering trade, using shortcrust pastry for the base, and puff pastry for the lids.
Wonderpop & Deli is an extension of the wholesale business, adding salads, whimsical sweets such as giant marshmallows and knickerbocker glory sundaes, Code Black coffee and take-home meals to the pie carte.
Other early winners have been the Nice & Cheesy Does It, a macaroni and cheese pie topped with bechamel sauce and crushed Cheezels, and pumpkin "steaks" – wedges of slow-roasted pumpkin with tahini dressing and toasted seeds.
Early next year Capaldi hopes to add Pie Teas – afternoon tea featuring little pies and cakes – to the roster.
There are plans, too, for another Wonderpop at his Bulleen factory, and perhaps elsewhere if the demand is there. It seems the pie's the limit.
Open Mon-Fri 6.30am-5pm.
18 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 9639 5515, wonderpopanddeli.com.au