From running hatted restaurants to becoming purveyors of produce boxes, chefs are doing their damnedest to adapt.
It's been a grand old pirouette for hospitality Australia-wide. Restaurants, bars and cafes, unhappy with standing still and taking corona on the chin, are doing whatever they can to stay afloat. First it was the quick switch to take-home meals. Now, many have become bakeries and greengrocers, connecting with their communities, and supporting the suppliers and farmers who have long been there for their restaurants.
And the best bit? You reap the rewards. Suddenly, we all have access to some of the country's best produce, not to mention chefs who are turning their hands to baked goods and comfort food.
Being in the know is what takes being forced to stay in from miserable to joyful. From bake-sales to organic, farm-fresh produce boxes to those rare wholesale companies that were, once upon a time, completely inaccessible to anyone but hatted chefs, comes a new way to be part of The Stay At Home Club. Level up.
Chef Daniel Puskas at Sixpenny. Photo: James Brickwood
Three-hat chef Dan Puskas launches Sixpenny General Store
Dan Puskas has turned his three-hat restaurant into a general store. Through that, he's engaging with his community more than ever before.
Stanmore's three-hat restaurant Sixpenny has turned into a weekend bakery and general store. And it's going off. So much so that over the course of the three hours they open on Saturdays and Sundays they're making close to the same profits as a Saturday lunch and dinner service, only using flour, eggs, sugar and butter. And through the bakery, chef Dan Puskas has been able to retain his entire brigade of chefs full-time.
"We're there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, prepping for Saturday and Sunday. Even though we're only open two days a week," says Puskas.
It's a good news story that is partly to do with the Federal Government's JobKeeper package, which injected some much-needed cash back into the business and allowed Puskas to stay open.
"Obviously it's a crazy time but that's not to say it's not exciting as well. We've always had plans to do other things and we were trying to open a new restaurant for our head chef Aaron Ward, before the shit hit the fan."
Ward was the man behind Friday staff dessert, baking carrot cakes and basque cheesecake, so while a new restaurant is off the table, a bakery is within their means. And something they'd always intended to do in Stanmore anyway – COVID-19 has just fast-tracked it.
Dan Puskas sought the advice of Attica chef Ben Shewry, who spurred him into changing his business rather than shutting up shop ."He just doesn't sit still. Ben was like, 'Don't wait, don't rely on anything, go, go, go.' "
"For us, it was important to keep pushing. Not closing, just trying to figure it out and figure it out quickly. I had a lot of inspiration and strength from Ben – the way he was spray-painting all over the kitchen and restaurant the words 'never give up'. And before he wrote those things, that was exactly the message I got from him."
The bakery isn't the only pirouette the three-hat restaurant has performed: they also provide take-home meals and now produce boxes to the local community around Stanmore in a bid to support the suppliers who supported them so much over the years. It's been encouraging for Puskas to see so many people from the neighbourhood who hadn't previously visited the restaurant coming to the general store, and returning for more.
"Seeing those locals keep coming back to something they feel comfortable with has been different for us," says Puskas. "Having that support is why I'm going to keep going. A glimmer of happiness in such a crazy time has been beneficial for all of us."
Newtown's Continental was well placed to change their bar, bistro and delicatessen into a shop front. Photo: Hollie Adams
Pop-up grocery stores
Restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs are moving in all kinds of directions to stay afloat. Support the little guys with your next shop, and help #savehospo. Pick up and delivery available – check with them first.
Can't find pasta on your local supermarket shelves? Have no fear, you'll find it here (both fresh and dried), along with plenty of other grocery and deli items (San Marzano tomatoes! Truffled pecorino! San Daniele prosciutto!) and take-home meals. 10 Neild Avenue, Rushcutters Bay, bar-m.com.au
The progressive Finnish bistro that took the inner west by storm recently reopened as an actual cafe. Buy chef Pasi Petanen's baked goods each weekend and take home a loaf of the best rye bread you'll ever taste. 131 King Street, Newtown, cafepaci.com.au
Continental Deli, Newtown
One of the earliest adopters, the Continental team really were singularly placed to change their bar, bistro and delicatessen into a shop front. Order a sandwich to go and buy any of their tinned products, olive oil, and anything behind the deli counter. They also deliver, within a three-kilometre radius. 210 Australia Street, Newtown, continentaldelicatessen.com.au
Envy Deli Cafe, Summer Hill
Find fresh produce boxes that should see you through the week, as well as coffee, eggs and take-home meals (hello, pumpkin tart) at this Summer Hill cafe-cum-general store. 109 Smith Street, Summer Hill, envydelicafe.com.au
A relative newcomer to the 2024, these guys specialised in fresh pasta when they first swung open. Now they're offering take-home versions of all their sigatures and, if you want to DIY, fresh and dried pasta to go. 170 King Street, Newtown, favola.com.au
Fleetwood Macchiato, Erskineville
For the period of COVID-19, this cute Erko cafe has rebranded itself Fleetwood Snackiato, offering coffee and sandwiches as well as eggs, soy milk and Brickfields bread. 43 Erskineville Road, Erskineville, fleetwoodmacchiato.com
Fratelli Fresh, around Sydney
It's no surprise these guys were able to pivot so successfully. Frat Fresh started life as a greengrocer and providore before turning into a series of fast-casual Italian restaurants. Get all your essentials here (fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, meat) and a few non-essentials (chocolate, wine and spirits) too. It's mostly an online service, though they do offer curb-side pickup from their Darling Harbour digs. shop.fratellifresh.com.au
Hospo market, Chatswood
This is a relatively new initiative from the restaurant group behind Chatswood's General Chao. Any local restaurants north of the Bridge are welcome to get involved and sell their ready meals via this contactless, click-and-collect store. They also offer delivery. hospomarket.com.au
Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills
Operating as an online cafe, you can still order their waffles with fried chicken and a cold brew coffee but you can also order all your pantry essentials at the same time, from white sugar to red quinoa. 80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, paramountcoffeeproject.com.au
The Royal Hotel, Leichhardt
Pretty much everything you could need to fill your fridge, from beer and wine to burger patties, sausages, milk, eggs and all those packets of peanuts they're obviously not selling behind the bar at the moment. 156 Norton Street, Leichhardt, theroyalleichhardt.com.au
Single O, Surry Hills
This little cafe still offers takeaway coffee and snacks but now stocks a full shop of staples including Pepe Saya butter, good eggs, sourdough and avocados. They also offer a huge range of make-at-home coffee essentials. 60-64 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, singleo.com.au
Sideways Deli Cafe, Dulwich Hill
Order ahead for ready-made meals, 10 types of bread (huge!), coffee, herbal teas and pretty much everything you need to power-brunch, from Canadian bacon to yoghurt, milk and butter. Looking for bakers flour? They sell that too. 37 Constitution Road, Dulwich Hill, sidewaysdelicafe.com.au
Take-home meals are available at the pointy end of the week and the general store is open all weekend for your baked good needs (if there was ever a time to buy a lamington chiffon cake, it's now). Sixpenny is now also offering organic produce boxes in a bid to support their suppliers. 83 Percival Road, Stanmore, sixpenny.com.au
Something for Jess, Chippendale
Produce boxes always seem like such a grind when you're flying solo but here at this Chippendale darling they're offering fresh fruit and vegie boxes for one. How very good. Grab something for yourself to take home while you're there. There's the usual takeaway menu, plus a full range of milks, bread and tinned goods. 27 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale, somethingforjess.com.au
This Redfern local has done a full 180, and pivoted from local pub to local store, offering all the daily essentials (meat, fresh fruit and veg, toilet paper), as well as their full wine and beer list. It's mostly just the basics, but it's a valuable community service all the same. 90 Pitt Street, Redfern, tudorhotel.com.au
Merivale at Home is delivering restaurant-quality produce boxes. Photo: Supplied
Buy a box, support our local farmers and producers. In some cases these can be picked up, but in all cases, they deliver for a fee or minimum spend.
A community-run co-op, they'll deliver a $41 vegie box to members. It's easy enough to join, and you can always add the essentials such as bread and milk to your order. They also sell miso and vinegar in bulk. alfalfahouse.org
Block 11 Organics
Ah, the organic fruit and vegetorium to the stars. Get your certified organic produce box, add some Berkelo pasta and a lobe of Willowbrae fresh goat's curd and have yourself a party. block11organics.com.au
Delivering Tuesday to Friday, order a weekly mixed box and try a few of the recipes they also publish on their site. Or better yet, head to goodfood.com.au for all the inspiration you'll ever need. boxfresh.com.au
An eastern suburbs initiative, order a seasonal box of fruit and veg and challenge yourself to cook out of your comfort zone. communityorganics.com.au
Don't panic, it's organic. Order natural yoghurt, hand sanitiser and even pork and chive dumplings alongside all your fruit and veg. doorsteporganics.com.au
Fix St James, CBD
Not only can you buy some very special wine packs from this CBD bar, but also take-home meals and produce packs from Nicholson and Saville. Order seafood, meat and fruit'n'veg online, and straight to your door. fixwine.com.au/wine-store
Food by Fiat
Fiat Malaniyom is one of the pioneers of growing hard-to-find south-east Asian ingredients in Australia. And now you can order his produce (the health and immune booster pack is a winner) with free delivery to certain areas. foodbyfiat.com.au
Fruit and veg, yes, but also Brickfields bread, milk and pickles. It's farm-to-front door so you're guaranteed freshness. Pick individual items or order a box. hillviewfarms.com.au
The Local's Market
What started as a rooftop community initiative supporting local farmers is now online. Order a produce box and perhaps a loaf of Iggy's bread while you're at it. thelocalsmarket.com.au
The Sydney restaurant group is supporting their suppliers by offering direct access to their range of seafood, meat and greenery, with door to door delivery. They're also doing cook-at-home meal packs, but check out their family-sized $100 seafood box: saucer scallops, a kilo of mussels, king salmon fillets and something they're describing as "family fish fry". Just add potatoes for luxe fish and chips. merivaleathome.com
Missing Yellow's outrageous liquorice bread and salted butter and Monopole's cured meats? Head down to Potts Point on the weekend and pick up a produce box and a few of their goodies while you're on the ground. monopolesydney.com.au
Fresh, organic produce delivered door-to-door for free from farmers such as Kurrawong Organics with orders over $44. They also stock a range of cheeses, dry goods and tinned gear. ooooby.org
Anthony Puharich, owner of Vics Meats, at his Sydney factory in Mascot. Photo: James Brickwood
Direct to the public
Here's where to buy straight from the source.
Sydney Fish Market
For the first time ever, SFM is offering a delivery service, as well as call-ahead and pick-up from any of your favourite outlets. For ordering and delivery details, visit the site – each fishmonger has a different system. sydneyfishmarket.com.au
Ever wondered where all those hatted restaurants are sourcing their ingredients? Quite a lot use this previously wholesale-only company, now open to the public. Hot tip: if you're scrounging for flour, they have it in truckloads, and it's the same stuff they use at Iggy's. Baker talent not included, unfortunately. twoprovidores.com.au
One of the last bastions of proper butchery in the city, offering cuts of all shapes, sizes and beasts delivered straight to you. And if there's something you want that's not listed on the site, the full range is available in-store for pick up. vicsmeatmarket.com.au
Your favourite stalls from the farmers' markets
Cambridge Markets EQ are offering a delivery service, Northside Produce Market offers a virtual market, putting you in touch with all your favourite farmers and producers, and Carriageworks online directory provides links to every stallholder at the markets so you can buy direct.