In May 2019, third-year uni students and childhood friends Jay Fink and Jordan Abram signed a three-week lease on a deserted deli in Bellevue Hill, and within days opened a pop-up sandwich shop that quickly gained a dedicated following. Three years later, and the duo now has permanent digs in the centre of Bondi – complete with a designer fit-out, an extensive natural wine list and nods to their bootleg beginnings throughout.
The first iteration of S’wich took 18 days to plan and was an admirably makeshift affair: the workbench was formed of cable-tied milk crates and a piece of timber, brown parcel paper stood in for wallpaper, and the menu was a simple four salad, four sandwich situation. Despite its modesty, the pop-up was met with huge success.
“Our opening day was crazy. It was just the two of us working, and 400 people rocked up,” Fink tells Broadsheet.
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While their permanent store is considerably more high-end – the product of two-and-a-half years of planning – the S’wich founders credit the pop-up (along with a shared passion for food and design) for inspiring them to found a business. “It was never our plan to do something permanent, but the pop-up worked as a concept test – it was so well-received,” Fink says.
While the pop-up aimed to fill a gap in the market for high-quality sandwiches, now the S’wich offering has been fleshed out to become something more experiential.
“We’re both really passionate about food, design, music, fashion and art, and that’s what we’ve tried to create here: a space that houses all of that,” says Abram. “We wanted to create a space that you could come in and actually feel something, experience-wise, not just a takeaway hole in the wall.”
The founders’ interest in design is reflected in everything from the uniforms (designed by local fashion label Albus Lumen) to the fit-out, which is the first hospitality space by multidisciplinary design agency Studio Shand.
The neat menu (which includes the best-selling chicken schnitzel sandwich; a veggo sandwich packed with veggies, spiced lentils, goat’s cheese and house-made pickles; and four protein-heavy salads) remains, but customers can also opt for the “S’wich It Up” option and build their own sandwich or salad.
The three-cheese toastie that became a fan favourite during the 2019 pop-up is also available, as are specials like the eggplant schnitzel sandwich, which will appear on the menu intermittently. The evening menu is also set to see some updates, with share plates and snack options likely to come in the next few months.
“We plan to transition into more of a wine bar at night,” Abram tells Broadsheet, before explaining the thought process behind introducing a 28-strong natural wine list to a sandwich shop.
“We realised that nowhere has really paired sandwiches and salads with good wine and beer in a space that plays good music, and we wanted to serve wine that’s usually seen in top restaurants in a setting that doesn’t feel unapproachable.”
The “Sips” menu also features Australian and global craft beers, Margarita seltzers from Cantina OK, pre-mixed Campari spritzes and Negronis made in-house.
“It was important for us to hand-pick the drinks, so everything we serve is something we’d actually want to drink,” says Fink.
This attention to detail is a running theme. “All of our suppliers make our business, so choosing well and building good relationships really matters,” says Abrams. “We’ve chosen everything from the olive oil that goes into our dressings [an Australian-made extra-virgin] to the bread [Sonoma and Wholegreen Bakery] to the Parmigiano-Reggiano.”
To continue the legacy of its pop-up origins, there are plans for collaborations with young local chefs in the pipeline, and although the parties haven’t yet begun, there’s a turntable and solid stack of vinyl in the corner for when the moment arises.