Matt Wilkinson's Pope Joan to stay in the city

Staying put: Pope Joan head chef Jake McWilliams, far left, with David Mackintosh and Matt Wilkinson at the ...
Staying put: Pope Joan head chef Jake McWilliams, far left, with David Mackintosh and Matt Wilkinson at the now-permanent site. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis

Good news for reuben fans, Pope Joan lives. A year ago, Matt Wilkinson's much-loved Brunswick East cafe was forced to shut to make way for developments. Now, the temporary home Wilkinson found at the former Mayfair site, in Collins Street's Sofitel forecourt, has turned permanent.

It's good news for Wilkinson and new business partners David Mackintosh and Tom Crago.

Milawa chicken schnitzel at Pope Joan, which is sticking around
Milawa chicken schnitzel at Pope Joan, which is sticking around Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis

Wilkinson says it was surreal closing down the old site after eight years, "but it's been so much fun doing the pop-up".

"In the 20 years I've been in Melbourne I've never worked in the city, never owned anything in the city, so it's a bit of a dream come true."

Wilkinson is keen to leave most of the space as is, saying the dining room "fits that Englishness of me, and works really well in the evenings". But he will refresh the bar area to reveal the original wooden ceiling, and add more "garden elements" outside.

That won't require closure. It's weekdays only, breakfast through dinner, starring the signature boiled eggs with soldiers and bacon bits, garlic and mustard butter schnitzels and the Cornish roll stuffed with Milawa chicken and jalapenos. Newer dishes include fried eggs with hummus and pickled red kraut, and cuttlefish cooked over coals with harissa and almonds.

As Four Pillars gin's new creative director, Wilkinson will also be developing products on site, such as his salt and gin vinegar crisps, gin-cured salami and pancetta and a range of gin-washed or infused cheeses.

Wilkinson's other business, Brunswick East's Pie Shop will also reopen on July 1 after a summer sabbatical. Wilkinson has also revealed that he's on the hunt for a new CBD location, near Pope Joan, in which to open a second Pie Shop.

Pope Joan is open Mon-Fri, 7am-9pm, Sofitel forecourt, 45 Collins Street, 03 9654 8545, popejoan.com.au.