It's eerily apposite timing that the launch of Co-Lab Pantry's new range of cult-brand gourmet goods coincided with the announcement of Victoria's latest snap lockdown – but the founders aren't exactly celebrating. "It's not a great feeling, to be honest," says Danielle Lebon, who co-founded the virtual grocer in the middle of 2020 as an "emotional response" to the deprivations of COVID and a hospitality industry on its knees. "We were really excited to launch, then to have another lockdown announced was pretty crushing."
Launched last Wednesday, the new gourmet grocery range contains a raft of A-list names. There are meats from award-winning Victorian butcher Peter Bouchier; seafood from Ocean Made; cured meats from Puopolo; dairy products from St David Dairy and Schulz Organic; and a smorgasbord of cheeses from producers including Will Studd, Yarra Valley Dairy, Milawa and Meredith Dairy.
They join the national delivery service's already-established roster of heat-and-eat meals from top restaurants along with one-off pantry items such as Ides' peanut butter, Gelato Messina's spreads and ice-cream toppings, and chilli oil from Chotto Motto.
"We saw a real gap in the market for these kinds of products when we thought we were back in our normal lives," says Lebon of the new range. "The new lockdown sort of caught everyone on the hop but the sentiment stays the same: we want to support local hospitality businesses, producers and farmers, as well as keep people like us supplied with the things we love." (And here's a word to the wise: use the code TENOFFGROCERY to get 10 per cent off your first order – head to colabpantry.com.au.)
Looking for inspo for the all-important isolation booze factor? Look no further than Moon Dog Brewing. Their bimonthly subscription beer box fortuitously sends on Wednesday this week, this time around packed with the things any good lockdown needs, including two mini beers (a butterscotch pale and a chocolate imperial stout) that, when layered, make a Yee Haw cocktail – otherwise known as a beer-y Cowboy.
While many restaurants aren't performing the takeaway pivot in Lockdown 4.0, there's more than a touch of "here we go again" to the announcements flooding Espresso's inbox, with "names" including Chin Chin, Estelle, Hanoi Hannah and Daughter In Law performing the hospo equivalent of a full twisting triple pike.
With impeccable timing, Hawthorn cafe Our Kitchenette has transformed into a food store, offering grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, slow-cooked soups and meals such as Persian-spiced lamb shoulder, and daily essentials.
If you're going to use this enforced home detention to sharpen your cooking skills, King & Godfree in Carlton has a bunch of pantry staples as well as nearly-ready meals (including Johnny's pizza and their smashingly good eggplant parmigiana) that simply require working knowledge of an oven.
Babajan in Carlton North, which is well set to cruise through lockdown thanks to committing wholeheartedly to life as a takeaway and providore after the year that shall not be named. If you live within five kilometres, consider your morning coffee and house-made bread, pastries, sandwiches and salad needs met
Babajan in Carlton North Babajan in Carlton North can supply your coffee, pastry, sandwich and salad needs. Photo: Arianna Leggiero
It's (takeaway) business as usual at Good Times Milk Bar in Bentleigh, where you can put the mortgage savings on hold and order avocado toast, or go the full old-school burger and milkshake route. Order online at goodtimesmilkbar.com.au, by phone or via the HungryHungry app.
Shane Delia's Providoor has added some well-timed strings to its bow, with Lygon Street boundary-pushing mod-Chinese darling Lagoon a fresh signee to the delivery platform and a Supernormal pack of buns, bao and dumplings upping the comfort factor. "A lot of restaurants have been thinking up solutions for the produce in their fridges, so new dishes could be coming along any time," says Providoor marketing honcho Magenta Burgin.
Victor Liong is bagging up a trio of signature dishes to take away. Photo: Justin McManus
Want further COVID-lockdown consolation? In Melbourne's Duckboard Place, Lee Ho Fook is doing its bit for morale with its trio of takeaway dishes, all $15, including chef Victor Liong's signature crisp eggplant and wok-fried wagyu beef char kway teow. Looking at Melbourne's chilly forecast for the week to come, be thankful there's also the Sichuanese winter staple, mapo tofu.
"[It was] taught to me by Iron Chef Chinese – Chen Kenichi when I was an apprentice at Galileo in Sydney," says Liong. "Exciting stuff for our team to sling out – like a hawker short order wok cook."