Even in times of penny pinching, there are always those who will splash out for the big cheese. And super deli Jones the Grocer, which started as one store in Woollahra in 1996, is the place to wear a hole in your grocery budget. Its fromagerie and meat counter isn't cheap, but is extremely high quality. The original store has closed, superseded by this new opening at Westfield in the CBD complete with a bar and restaurant that's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Westfield's upper floors have crammed in as many high-class fast food and sit-down restaurants as possible, with a United Nations of cuisines under one roof. Jones the Grocer's move to the fifth floor has taken the deli aspect away with the emphasis more on the dining menus, which are pretty affordable. The new Westfield venture has expanded on the gourmet retail model, adding a shopfront patisserie, a lounging area, a private dining room and cooking classes. There's a breakfast menu from 7am, a lunch and dinner menu (until 11pm) and lest we forget about the bar to booze at.
The large room is divided into sections and split by the central bar, from a slightly airport-lounge-like relaxation area to a massive open kitchen taking over almost one side of the venue. The staff are very courteous, and the ambience is low-key. The food, one would predict, will be excellence, given the quality of the over-the-counter produce.
Certainly lunch is fresh ... and spicy. The angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab ($22) has an Asian chilli kick up the rear that's hardly volcanic but is a surprise. The salt and pepper squid ($20) with a thick yuzu mayo and a chilli and lime jam-like sauce is again hot but has a crispness not normally found in a rather over-familiar standard on menus.
There's also mixed boards of prosciutto, salami, cheeses including pecorino and marinated mushrooms among other treats for $45 or a Ploughman's lunch for $27, which is a fair way to try the goods before buying. Dinners are a more extravagant fare, with slow-roasted pork cutlet with carrot puree ($32) or beef rib ($35) a just assessment of the continuing quality.
The only criticism is a slight feeling of being in an upper-class food court, which is exactly where Jones has positioned itself. Otherwise, there's not much to fault this first-class, shopping centre food stop.