The poor old office lunch has had to reinvent itself, now that so many of us aren't in an office. For a start, we don't need to go out for it. The kitchen is right there, the fridge is full, and last night's pasta can be turned into a salad.
Even so, wrangling three meals a day while home-schooling, baking cupcakes and Zooming is a big effort. Increasingly, work-from-homers are giving themselves and their dishwasher hands a break by ordering lunch in.
There's a world of choice out there, and I've put three of those choices to the hardest test of all: is this really better than my own ham-cheese-and-pickle sandwich?
Banh mi box from Lit Canteen, $45 for four
Banh mi is always fun for lunch, with its beguiling mix of crusty French baguette, pate, cold meats, salad and herbs. Lit Canteen owners Ly Dan and David Phan make it more fun than usual with a once-a-week delivery of all the fixings in a smart, tailored box.
It's like standing in front of a well-stocked banh mi counter, the difference being you put it together yourself. Inside you'll find three wonderfully soft-crumbed, crisp-crusted, freshly baked buns and a huge, well-laminated croissant, ready to stuff with three different roll-ups of Vietnamese hams, sweet barbecued pork patties, chopped chicken, a nicely coarse pâté, and a pile of herbs, pickled carrot, chilli, soy and mayo.
The kerrr-unch and fluffy softness of the bread, the sting of the chilli and the light, lilting sweetness make this a big hit. Or, as they say, "lit". And you don't even have to queue, unless your family members get to the box first.
Best bit The immaculate baguettes, the pâté, the freshness and the fun.
Order for Saturday pick-up or delivery from Lit Canteen, 11 Mitchell Road, Alexandria, litcanteen.com.au
Neil Perry's salami and salad roll. Photo: Supplied
Salami and salad roll, Neil Perry at Home, $19
I'm standing in line outside Neil Perry's Double Bay restaurant, Margaret, but this is all wrong. I shouldn't be here – I should be inside, on the banquette, ordering coral trout with XO butter. It's surreal, but needs must. Perry keeps things practical and accessible, with a takeaway menu of burgers and fries, salad rolls and heat-and-eat family pies for dinner.
The seasoned chef has made a few decent burgers in his day, and doesn't bend his own rules here. Everything is made to order, and cooked over fire. An American burger ($25) uses a patty mix of CopperTree Farms chuck and brisket from retired dairy cows, with hot American mustard and the usual suspects on a classic milk bun; good hand-cut fries on the side. It's rich, meaty and smoky, with GREAT pickles.
The "pimp'd" salami and salad roll with crisps ($19) is, I imagine, what he would have for lunch himself, stacked with Pino's Dolce Vita salami and gruyere, and lots of grated beetroot and carrot as filler. It could do with more pickles – the ones from the burger, please – otherwise all good. Augurs well for the restaurant when it opens. I'll be back.
Best bit Classic Perry – great ingredients, plain and simple.
Pick up Wed, Thu and Fri from noon until sold out, from Margaret, 30-36 Bay Street, Double Bay, margaretdoublebay.com
A classic DIY beef burger box from Chebbo's. Photo: Supplied
Chebbo's classic DIY beef burger box, $24.99 for two
The smash burger, invented in Kentucky in 2007, involves flattening the patty on a hot grill to maximise the area exposed to the heat, creating greater caramelisation of the crust. Before the lockdown, Ali Chebbani was flipping smash burgers in his Roselands-based food truck. Now, he's sending out 400 flip-it-yourself burger kits a week, and fast becoming a star on TikTok and YouTube.
My kit contains just the right sort of milk buns, American cheddar slices, four beef patties and portions of green oakleaf lettuce, sliced dill pickles, sliced onion and Chebbo's "secret sauce", which is nice and pickley. The patties are 80 per cent chuck and brisket and 20 per cent fat, which renders in the pan, and in turn, fries the patty. The end result, with its orange sunset of melting cheese, is an instant meaty hit that practically oozes umami. Reader, I smashed it.
Best bit The burger has good structure and doesn't collapse to a squish.
Order for pick up from Duo Duo Roselands, or delivery within 25km from Chebbo's Burgers, Punchbowl, chebbos.com