From cheese to charcuterie, small goods to sweets, Melbourne has a strong European deli tradition. Here’s our guide to some of the best.
Spring Street Grocers
There’s a “melting pot of cultures” vibe to this premium European grocer (run by the European Group’s Joshua Brisbane and Con Christopoulos), which opened opposite Parliament House in 2013. The sandwich bar is a bustling lunchtime haunt for CBD suits, and while the house-made meatballs are a crowd favourite, vegans are welcomed. There are four vegan lunch options; a tofu open sandwich, corn fritters, a tempeh burger and a roasted-eggplant sandwich. If you’re after something sweet, McManus recommends the salted-caramel gelato, but there are also 20 different chocolates, including local chocolate maker Wawa’s weird and wonderful range. “You’ve got to try their balsamic salted-caramel chocolate,” says McManus. “Or the blueberry and blue corn.”
Spring Street Grocer also does a range of Christmas hampers and gift packs.
Casa Iberica Deli
Located in Johnston Street, Fitzroy, Casa Iberica is a family-run deli specialising in traditional food from Spain, Portugal and Latin America. A fixture on the street for 45 years – and now with a new store in Fulham Road, Alphington – manager Mericia Da Silva says Spanish sweets are the current hot item. “We have a huge range of turron (a Spanish nougat) monte carlo and polvoron (a crumbly shortbread),” says Da Silva. “They’re all authentic, imported from Spain and a real taste of home.”
The star attraction is the dazzling and somewhat terrifying array of hot sauces on offer. Da Silva says many of the Latin-influenced hot sauces they stock are now made in Melbourne. “Melbourne Hot Sauce make an amazing chipotle barbeque sauce,” she says. “It has such a fantastic flavour.” She sounds like the kind of person who would know. How hot you find El Yucateco’s habanero “depends on your threshold,” she says.
A take-away only establishment, you can order empanadas made by local Chilean and Spanish families, or try the Portuguese codfish. Da Silva says they’re about to open a cooking school at the Alphington shop where you’ll learn the secrets to cooking Spanish style.
An icon of Sydney Road, Mediterranean Wholesalers opened in 1961 and is now Australia’s largest continental food store. It’s not the kind of place to stock one variety of a product when 20,000 will do.
The Italian institution carries all manner of meats, cheese, coffee and bakery treats, including an all-too-tempting ricotta and Nutella cheesecake. (Did you know Nutella was Italian?). There’s also Italian liquor, including grappa, and enough pasta of every conceivable shape to build a full-sized replica of the Vatican.
Take a wander down the imposing “aisle of pickle” for an introduction to the mindboggling breadth of this weird, shrivelled, and evidently indispensable vegetable.
Melbourne has a strong range of Russian, Ukrainian and Polish food options, a legacy from the influx of immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. Gary Voskoboynik, owner of European Flavour in Caulfield, was one of those immigrants.
His store opened in 2010 and specialises in a simple cake. Well, maybe not so simple.
“The Napoleon Cake is a traditional cake through Western Europe,” says Voskoboynik. “It’s made by layering cream and biscuits; seven to ten layers of each. You end up with a cake that is intricate and beautiful.” The Napoleon cake was the first thing his shop ever sold and business has grown from there.
Voskoboynik says the secret to great Eastern European food is using only unprocessed, fresh ingredients, and staying faithful to traditional recipes. “We make everything by hand,” he says. “There are no machines here.”
Borgs Cakes, Pasta and Pastizzi
If there’s something Tony Borg doesn’t know about pastry, it’s probably not worth knowing. The Malta-born, Altona stalwart laid the 65,000 bricks of his shop back in 1964, and quickly became a champion of Melbourne’s fast-growing Maltese community.
Still family-run, you can now find Borg pastry in many supermarkets and delis now, but the heart of the operation remains this humble cake shop where it all began.
The pastizzi (a traditional savoury pastry) is still king and it’s worth a trip to Altona just to linger at the window and stare at the lavish display of cakes. While their made-to-order birthday and wedding cakes are famous out West, they also sell and hire everything you need to make your own cake, from tins to decorations to the sweet, edible trinkets that everyone fights over once the candles are blown out.
This article is presented in partnership with Holden Astra – 2016 European Car of the Year.