If Justin Maloney isn’t panicked about how Covid-19 is affecting the hospitality industry, it’s because, in a way, he’s been here before. In 2015, the lockout laws wiped out business at his busy modern-Asian eatery, Jimmy Liks, in Potts Point.
“I feel like I’m on my second rodeo with what’s going on,” he tells Broadsheet. “In 2015, we had this beautiful restaurant and we got annihilated by lockout laws and politics. It was frightening.”
This time around, he and wife Kirsty saw what was coming. A week before government-mandated social distancing effectively shut down businesses across the country, they made changes, cancelling 70 percent of gigs for the new iteration of Jimmy Liks – a food truck that visits markets and events such as the Royal Easter Show – to focus efforts on home delivery under the name Mrs Liks.
“It started with a few regulars at markets asking us to make things for them to take home and eat,” says Maloney. “We’ve extended the menu so we’re doing something that’s 50 per cent the kind of food I raised my family on, and 50 per cent what I’ve done in my restaurant.”
There’s a four-hour slow-cooked bolognaise, a “big, deep, chunky lasagne” and a yellow chicken curry, all delivered frozen. There are also vegan options such as a zesty, lemony pesto. “It’s a family staple for us. We have it once a week and probably have done for the last 20 years.” Maloney recommends putting it on pasta or eating it with lamb backstrap and vegetables. “You can make so many dishes out of it.”
Meat dishes, such as the bolognaise and curries, come as meals to which you can add rice or pasta. But the vegan options are frozen as sauces without vegetables to ensure freshness and to make them more flexible.
“I don’t want people to eat my food, I want them to eat their food,” says Maloney. “I want them to play with it. If you’ve got something green in the fridge, grab it, chuck it in with the vegan curry for a minute and a half, and serve it on some rice. It’ll be 100 times better than if I put the greens in myself and froze them.”
Maloney’s dedication to fresh, delicious meals is a big reason why Jimmy Liks was a Potts Point institution for 14 years. “I’m uncompromising about quality. If I wouldn’t eat it, I won’t cook it,” he says. “I have to love what I’m doing, and I have to be proud of what I’m putting out there. That’s the crazy old restaurateur in me.”
Most Mrs Liks dinners serve two to three people, and drivers deliver cooler boxes all over Sydney, as far as Palm Beach, Parramatta and Maroubra.