"I bloody love party pies," says Sunda chef Khanh Nguyen. "Sometimes, the kitchen staff will go to the shops if we're short an ingredient and I'll ask them to grab a box of party pies too. With tomato sauce, they're just so satisfying."
Like many Melbourne chefs, Nguyen is getting fancy with party pies for the AFL grand final.
Available for pick-up and delivery next weekend, Sunda's $140 party pack includes cheeseburger roti and sticky chicken wings, plus sausage rolls and party pies that look like nothing ever served at the MCG.
"I've been obsessed with creating elaborate pastries during lockdown, and you can't have a grand final without pies," he says.
"Our party pies are duck rendang with coriander and braised cashews for crunch. Meanwhile, the sausage rolls are filled with Vietnamese blood sausage, pork mince and fresh herbs."
Party pies are a uniquely Australian treat, according to British-born chef Christian Abbott.
"You don't see a lot of small pies at parties or bakeries in England, the meat pie's true home," he says. "I'm not sure why, though. If you put party pies on a table, they'll go quicker than any other snack."
As executive chef for Australian Venue Co, Abbott is preparing to provide wagyu beef party pies through delivery platforms next week or, potentially, 26 pubs and bars in his group's Melbourne portfolio.
In-venue grand final party pies will only happen if stage four restrictions are relaxed to allow hospitality venues to reopen. "It might not happen, but we need to cover all bases," says Abbott.
"Grand final is the busiest day of the year for Melbourne pubs and if we're not able to open at reduced capacity, it will be another huge loss of revenue for the group. Not to mention a real kick in the guts for Melbourne, especially with the final already being played outside Victoria."
Prahran Market's party pie production is also at full throttle leading up to October 24, with storeholders collaborating on a "Pour'N Plenty" promotion.
The $55 box includes a baker's dozen of gourmet party pies provided by various market traders, a mixed four-pack from Moon Dog Brewery and miniature Sherrin.
"I don't think you can get a better Melbourne tradition than a pie and cold beer on grand final day," says Prahran Market general manager Simon Ward. "It also helps a few of our traders who have experienced a significant drop in wholesale revenue due to the pandemic."
All Prahran Market party pies are house-made by storeholders. Varieties include Peking duck from John Cester's Poultry and Game, lamb kofta courtesy of Cleo's Deli, and roasted mushroom and chicken baked by Mama Marija's Cafe.
"We're really happy with our party pie offering," says Mama Marija co-owner Aleks Dedic. "Mum is making everything from scratch herself. Like a lot of cooks, she's been working extra hard on her pastry game over lockdown."
Also on the grand final menu for Melbourne
What does a three-hatted restaurant serve for the footy finals? A riotous long bread roll filled with beef and black bean chilli, sour cream, jalapenos, cheddar, guacamole, corn chips and pepperberry pickled onions. $85, attica.com.au.
The modern south-east favourite will deliver its grand final pack to almost every corner of Victoria. Featuring crab fried rice, pork dumplings and butter chicken pies. $75 per person, minimum two people, chinchinrestaurant.com.au.
Shane Delia is blowing the whistle on a half-time feast for two including Lebanese lamb sausages, Iraqi bread and salmon kibbeh nayeh. $160, providoor.com.au.
Before Australians were scoffing party pies, Argentinians were enjoying empanadas. Filled with either corn and mozzarella, or beef, roast garlic and prunes, the little parcels star in a South American snack box from Melbourne's asado specialists. $85, providoor.com.au.