“Basically what we’ve done is create a whole new restaurant by flipping [our model] on its head,” says George Papaioannou, the manager at Stanmore fine diner Sixpenny. “Although it’s a pretty crappy situation we’re in, it’s been really fun to change everything up.”
Since dining-in was banned more than a month ago due to Covid-19, Sixpenny has set aside its usual $175 degustation in favour of a more casual takeaway approach. Now instead of, say, bass grouper cooked with lemon myrtle and champagne, you can grab a slew of baked goods, bacon-and-egg rolls and comfort meals to take home.
And the punters are loving it: people are queuing on the street on weekend mornings for slices of layered carrot cake, tarts, cheese-and-bacon rolls and loaves of sourdough. The new approach has been so popular that Sixpenny has had to set up a pre-ordering system to help people maintain social distancing (and reduce wait times).
“On the first day we were very shocked,” says Papaioannou. “When I went to tell people how to line up I was surprised about how far down the street the line went. Obviously we do have a reputation as a three-hatted restaurant, and there a lot of people who are locals, people who haven’t been to the restaurant, who can drop in and pick up some pastries without a five-hour degustation experience. It gives people something to do rather than sitting at home.”
Papaioannou says one of the most popular items is the fluffy Japanese cheesecake (“it’s always the first to fly out the door”), but he reckons the banana cake is the real winner.
Sixpenny isn’t just functioning as a bakery, either – it’s also a general store, selling house-made passata; handmade pasta; eggs; milk; coffee beans; and boxes of restaurant-quality produce.
Plus, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night there are take-home set menus available for pick-up or delivery. The menu changes each week, but you can expect a selection of dishes you’d want to eat while wrapped in a throw on the couch on a chilly night. Past menus have included moussaka and rice pudding; this week it’s osso buco with parmesan polenta; rosemary and olive focaccia; radicchio and pear salad; and tiramisu. The $90 meal serves two people (plus an extra $10 if you want it delivered locally), and you can add on a matching bottle of wine for $40.
“What we tried to avoid was serving the same dishes as in the restaurant,” says Papaioannou. “You come to the restaurant, you have a seven-course tasting menu and the service that goes with it. We wanted to keep that with us – you won’t get that same service and experience at home. What we’ve done is a bit more homely and comforting while everything in the world feels like it’s up in the air.”
If it seems as though Sixpenny’s gear-change has come about quickly, it’s because the team has been thinking about opening a bakery for a while, even considering a shopfront down the road before the pandemic.
For now, Papaioannou says they’ll focus on taking each day as it comes, but this long-held dream – and the popularity of the new iteration of Sixpenny – means we might see a second venue under the Sixpenny moniker before too long.
Sixpenny is open from 10am to 1pm on weekends. The take-home meals are available from 5pm to 8.30pm Thursday to Saturday.