Matt Wilkinson, chef and owner of Pope Joan in Brunswick East, had a couple of thoughts when he closed down the small grocery store next door to Pope Joan, Hams and Bacon, last January.

“There was nothing wrong with having a grocery store,” says Wilkinson. “It was just time for a change.”

He considered converting it into a bar, and then a garden nursery bar. Though neither seemed right for the space. His final idea was staring at him all along.

Late last year, Wilkinson had enlisted his friend and now partner Steve Rogers (ex-Circa, Movida) to make pies for his mates at the Clonbinane-based Warialda Belted Galloways beef farm, for Warialda to sell at farmers markets.

“The pie was really good,” says Wilkinson.

At The Pie Shop, opened in May, Wilkinson has named each of the five savoury pies at his 12-seat store in honour of the food’s great spiritual benefactor: the Aussie bloke (and one sheila).

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The Allen, based on Rogers’s initial recipe, is named after Allen Snaith, who runs Warialda. Wilkinson cooks the beef and vegetable filling next door at Pope Joan. He adds the mixture into shortcrust pastry bases that he assembles in a little space by the front window of The Pie Shop, where you might find him rolling out long, yellowish sheets of pastry on a special machine, before baking in the rear of the store.

The golden-brown, crimped-edged Daryl pie is named after Daryl Deutscher – a Turkey farmer from the Grampians – with curried turkey, sweet potato and spinach.

For The Bruce, Wilkinson adds pork-based spaghetti bolognaise into a pastry bowl (pasta and all) and bakes it with melted cheddar and mozzarella on top in lieu of crust. This one isn’t named after a real farmer, Wilkinson says. “But how good is the name Bruce?”

The Clancy, named after a couple of his mates, is a variation of a recipe that Wilkinson served when he was head chef at Circa. It’s a vegetarian Middle Eastern mix with pumpkin, Swiss chard and haloumi cooked inside pizza dough, much like a calzone. The other veg option is The Shazza (Bruce’s wife), with a caramelised onion, potato and cauliflower-cheese filling that Wilkinson adapted from a croquette recipe.

The diner-style dessert pies come by the slice (or whole if you pre-order 24 hours ahead of time) with aerosol whipped cream on the side. They’re on a weekly rotation, though Wilkinson says he’ll always do one cream and one fruit pie. He’s currently serving one with buttermilk and Rooftop Honey and another with balsamic stewed strawberries and rhubarb.

Other offerings include St Ali coffee, hot chips and refrigerated Mars Bars and Snickers.

Though some might call it culinary regression, Wilkinson is also unashamedly serving pre-packaged, deep-fried dim sims.

“There’s nothing gourmet about them,” says Wilkinson. “Frozen shit dim sims for a dollar. It’s the dodgy dimmy – people love them.”

Soy sauce is optional.

The Pie Shop

75 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

Mon to Sat 11am–3pm

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