Only in Melbourne would you find a simple, neighbourhood sandwich shop staffed and run by a cadre of the city's finest chefs. Hector's Deli, now open on Buckingham Street in Richmond, is just that. Co-founded by two former Stokehouse chefs, Dom Wilton and Jason Barratt, the shop is the result of a lot of time and a little planning, and the eternal search for the simplicity of exceptional sandwiches. Hector's hits a refreshing balance of local corner store and Italian deli, with none of the pretension you might expect from these hospitality guns.
"We're waiting around to open a restaurant [in about a year] and in in the meantime, we decided to open a sandwich store — there's no deep meaning behind it," says Wilton. The 'we' he's referring are the duo's other business partners, Edward Ring and barista Zac Kelly. "We have a group of really well-trained, high-quality staff with a depth of experience in hospitality, waiting around for this [new venture] to open. There's so much bullshit out there. We didn't want to over complicate things."
They haven't. The menu is simple: six sandwich offerings, five savoury and one sweet, all made with quality ingredients. A ham and cheese toastie with mortadella, provolone and tomato chutney. An eggplant parma sandie. A smoked trout bagel with caviar and cream cheese. A sweet brioche bun filled with Nutella and ice cream. It's a sandwich lover's dream.
"At the moment we're just doing sandwiches; we're not doing any avocado toast, or any sides, or deconstructed breakfasts, just keeping everything in a sandwich press or toaster," says Wilton. In the near future, they'll be expanding their deli offering to sliced meats, cheese boards, and booze (liquor license pending).
This no-BS philosophy has echoed throughout the rest of the venture, too. It took the team three months from ideation to opening and it was probably so quick because they weren't messing around with interior designers. "We went in and painted it ourselves and kept it really minimal" says Wilton. "We got our chairs from a dude who owned a Laundromat. Everything was done quickly and DIY, it wasn't a thought-out, arduous process."
When you chuck in some sleek but nostalgic branding by Tristan Ceddia and Never Now, the result is straightforward and effortless. It's just some locals doing what they love and, subscribing to Liz Lemon's world view: all anyone wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.
Hector's Deli is located at 1/94 Buckingham Street, Richmond. Open Wednesday through Friday from 7.30am to 3.30pm and Saturday through Sunday from 8am to 3pm. For more info, visit hectorsdeli.com.au.