“What do we want to eat for lunch that we can’t get right now?” It’s the question Joe Pagliaro and partner Grace Watson (Zeitgeist, Verd) ask themselves when they’re thinking about a new business venture. “When we figure out what that is, we just hope other people will want it too,” says Pagliaro.

This time the answer is delicious vegan sandwiches made on Iggy’s bread, and that’s what they serve at the newly opened Joe’s Sandwich Bar in the CBD.

Joe’s Sandwich Bar partnered with Alfie’s Kitchen on the project. “I think Joey [Astorga] from Alfie’s Kitchen is one of the most creative chefs in Sydney, and he just happens to be vegan,” he says.

Making a great vegan sandwich isn’t about the most convincing meat substitutions. “The best vegan food is always about vegetables. You don’t need fake meat and fake cheese, you just need tricked-up veggies made by an exceptional chef.”

The menu makes liberal use of spice, pickling and slow-roasting to bring out the flavours in each elaborate sandwich. The miso eggplant is served with furikake (sesame seed and seaweed seasoning), pickled ginger and Japanese slaw. The coconut greens sandwich is piled with coconut-and-lime-roasted silverbeet, fennel and shaved broccoli. There’s also a B.L.A.T with smoky tempeh in place of bacon.

“These sandwiches are so good people aren’t even going to want to eat meat,” he says.

Joe’s serves coffee by Coffee Bondi Beach(link) and the nut milks are made in-house. Pagliaro says the process requires “a lot of pain and cheese cloth.” It takes an hour to make 20 litres, which translates to just 100 coffees, but it’s worth it. “You can’t get good nut milk out of a bottle,” he says.

Joe’s Sandwich Bar has taken the place of Zeitgeist’s CBD spot. The vegan eatery shut down because of (now-completed) construction surrounding the heritage building. The fit-out of the tiny space hasn’t changed. “It’s a cubby hole in the basement of a beautiful building,” says Pagliaro. The only seating is crates on the side with plywood.

Joe’s Sandwich Bar

B1/153 Clarence Street, Sydney. Enter across from 321, Kent Street

Mon to Fri 8am–3pm