Designer Emily Van Loon and chef Ben Shemesh (ex-Dear Sainte Eloise) were on a summer holiday in Bologna, Italy, when they first came up with the idea of running their own sandwich shop. The couple envisioned a friendly, European-inspired spot, where they’d build sandwiches and make coffee in between chatting with regulars.

Fast-forward a few years and that idea has become a reality. Small’s Deli opened in early March on leafy Victoria Street in Potts Point, and already feels like it’s part of the neighbourhood. Every day, locals queue for baguettes, paninis and sourdough sandwiches, made to order and packed with fresh ingredients, including house-made pickles, free-range salami and slowly ripened cheeses.

“We opened just two weeks before the coronavirus shutdown,” Van Loon tells Broadsheet. “So, we didn’t know how things would go. But we’ve been really busy.”

Small’s opens at 7.30am for brekkie sandwiches, pastries and Reuben Hills coffee. “The croque monsieur is popular in the morning,” says Shemesh, who has channeled his cheffing expertise into creating next-level sandwiches. His take on the French classic is a melty, gooey, warming stack of double-smoked ham, gruyère and comte cheeses, bechamel sauce and dijon mustard, packed between two slices of Iggy’s sourdough toast.

From 11am lunch is served. The tight and regularly changing sandwich list offers six staples and two specials. There’s Florence and the Aubergine, filled with finocchiona (a Tuscan salami infused with pepper), walnut paste, creamed pecorino cheese, eggplant and rocket on panini. It takes its name from the English indie rock band, and its filling is inspired by the most popular menu item at legendary Florence sandwich shop All’antico Vinaio, the Favolosa.

Meanwhile, the Nancy (named after American chef Nancy Silverton, who popularised sourdough in the US and has written a sandwich cookbook) is a combination of baked ricotta, marinated artichoke, onion-and-currant jam, cos and dill gremolata on a panini. And the Al Green is a vegan-friendly pile of kale puree, avocado, iceberg lettuce, Granny Smith apple, alfalfa, pepita and vegan mayonnaise on a panini.

There’s also a choice of two salads, as well as a bunch of extras and sides, which include marinated chicken, serrano ham and hemp seeds. The store also sells Kombu kombucha, which is handmade in Dulwich Hill. “We went everywhere trying kombucha, and this was definitely the best one we found,” says Van Loon. Choose between ginger and lemon myrtle, or raspberry and thyme.

Van Loon’s design background (for the past four years she’s worked as a graphic designer, and was a visual merchandiser for Aesop before that) is on show around the store, from the grid paper that wraps the sandwiches, to the cool branding. The couple have made the most of the pint-sized interior (which, for the past 15 years, was home to the Mere Catherine French restaurant), with the help of Sona Studio. Jars of house-made jams, syrups and preserves line the shelves; garlic braids hang from the walls; and a suspended fridge displays meats and cheeses, ready for slicing. While seating is currently stacked away due to coronavirus restrictions, once the store is in full swing once again, diners will be able to squeeze onto stools to eat their sandwiches.

Small’s Deli
166 Victoria Street, Potts Point
(02) 8592 5597

Tue to Sat 7.30am–3pm
Sun 7.30am–2pm