If your regular Friday night involves pints at The Tote, you may have noticed Polly’s Burgers arrival in the kitchen on March 6, before the much-loved Collingwood pub closed a mere 17 days later to protect its customers and staff from coronavirus.
“It’s literally the worst time I could have opened in the last 100 years,” says Polly’s owner-chef Chris Polak. “It was looking really great … the community were getting behind me and punters were ordering burgers and chips. I operated for about a week before the Covid-19 shutdown occurred.”
Polak had planned to use The Tote as the base for his business – which serves inventive vegan burgers, veggie brown-rice bowls, starchy snacks and more – while also popping up at festivals and events. Due to the current crisis, though, he’s had to change tack and set up online ordering.
He’s also offering $4 local delivery or pick-up via the barred side window on Wellington Street. (“I was going to paint the window and everything, but it looks cool and raw and it’s The Tote,” he says.)
There are four burgers on the menu for $14.50 each. A zucchini fritter with green-pea herbed salsa, butter-bean hummus, slow-roasted tomato and alfalfa. A black-bean-and-sweetcorn pattie with smashed avo and slaw. Vietnamese-style chargrilled tofu with chilli mayo and crushed peanuts. And smoked portobello mushroom with dill pickles, mustard, ketchup and cos.
Buns can be subbed out for brown rice and salad, a gluten-free option that’s $2 more.
“The premise is vegan food where vegies are the hero,” says Polak. “So no fake anything or mock this or mock that, it’s all based on nice seasonal produce, grains, pulses – that kind of a vibe.”
A side of fries or tater tots (served with chilli mayo) is $7.50, as is a side of charred broccolini with smoky eggplant, garlic and lemon. Contactless delivery is available in the inner north, and it’s done by Polly’s kitchen staff.
“I wanted to employ my staff to do deliveries and try to do it myself,” says Polak. “It’s a challenge short-term … but I think it’s something that, across the industry, is changing a bit. People are going to call into their local shop and support those businesses more than using those big apps which take commission.”
Polak has also put together a two-person “lock-in pack” for $55. It includes two burgers, a side, a sixpack of beer or a bottle of bubbly. Beer-wise you can order Stomping Ground or Bodriggy Brewing tinnies, and wines come from Rothbury Estate. There are produce boxes on the way, too.
“The Tote will still be here after all this and I’m going to be here as well – maybe summer’s our vibe,” says Polak.
Polly’s is open daily from 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm.