When you think of organic food, as far removed from your mind might be a cobblestoned laneway in the heart of Melbourne’s bustling CBD. Back in 1999, founder Jeanette Taylor launched The Organic Food & Wine Deli with the intention to “offer the best in organic produce and ready-made food in an environmental setting for all to enjoy”. A traveller in her own right, Jeanette has an extensive background cooking in restaurants in Sydney, Canada and London.
Once back in Melbourne, Jeanette cottoned on to Melbourne’s obsession with food, and promptly researched the best in organic produce that the city (and beyond) has to offer. All such ingredients were gathered together in the tightly knit ‘hole in the wall’ in Degraves Street; one of Melbourne’s key iconic laneway locations. Nutritious, ready-made food thus has been sold at The Organic Food & Wine Deli to locals, city workers and travellers alike ever since.
Dining in holes in the wall create the best travel experiences for me. The intimacy of such food stops gives travellers the unique opportunity to dial in to the urgent hum of the spot, the conversations that come and go and the shop-talk between staff. Travellers have an insider ability to chat with the purveyors on an even level about their creations.
What’s easy about ordering at The Organic Food & Wine Deli is that the rotund cabinets (taking up the bulk of the space in this petite store) show off everything that’s available to purchase. Decisions can be made in a blink of an eye with quick-fire precision, and the order line moves at speed as the whir of an essential coffee machine up motors along (coffee culture is rampant in Melbourne’s laneways). From plump savoury parcels with golden, thickly baked pastry cases (think pies, pasties) to takeaway containers stuffed with the day’s salads, and freshly baked spongy cakes laced in smooth and generously smeared icing.
What my precision-perfect order hones in on, is a couple of vegan, gluten-free choices that make for the perfect, comforting laneway lunch as pedestrians bustle by. I sit at a small wall bench and squat on a chair, careful not to take up too much space. Within a few minutes, lunch is served warmly and warmed – a slice of Vegan Kashmir. My fork slices off a corner of crusty maize pastry baked to golden, then scoops up mouthfuls of filling – brown rice and silverbeet risotto. The topping is just as comforting, smooth potato dusted with a medley of herbs, all on a ceramic plate.
What is tempting about this lunch is that the entire order is served at the same time. This means two things. One, I eat my slice of Vegan Kashmir way too quickly because I can’t wait to launch into my slice of cake. Two, I really should wait until after lunch to order cake. Going back to my lunch, the lovely slice of Vegan Kashmir is demolished in record time. A main serve that’s delicious and satisfying while leaving a small amount of room needed to start on the cake. It’s a large portion of orange poppy-seed cake with a thick smear of creamy icing. Such a tangy, zesty and sweet flavour, making my cake choice all the more moreish, topped by a slice of candied orange to nibble on.
What The Organic Food & Wine Deli serves are hearty homestyle meals that can be devoured and enjoyed in a locale that’s as far-removed from home as you can get in your travels. A humble hole in the wall experience in the middle of a capital city where home can be found.
Experience a laneway lunch at The Organic Food & Wine Deli for yourself. 28 Degraves Street Melbourne Victoria 3000 Australia. Phone: 03 9654 5157.
Open Monday to Friday 7.00am to 7.00pm, Saturday 8.00am to 6.00pm, Sunday 9.00am to 5.00pm.
There is a second store located at 603 Orrong Road Prahran Victoria 3181 Australia.