Serving pimped-up sandwiches in a retro deli in Richmond will make you very popular with locals
The co-owners worked at Stokehouse and Attica
WHEN THE 18TH- CENTURY English aristocrat John Montagu, aka the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, started eating meat between bread, he could never have envisioned how far the humble sandwich would come. Now we have Hector’s Deli, a café in Richmond dedicated to sandwiches – classic combinations made with high class ingredients and extra flourishes. The menu offers six options (three available from 7.30am and three from 11am) and that’s about it. No eggs. No fancy plating. No cutlery. But considering co-owners Jason Barratt and Dom Wilton have worked at Melbourne dining institutions like Stokehouse and Attica, you should buckle up for a sandwich shop with some serious cachet.
The café is housed in a former milk bar on a quiet suburban street, away from the hustle of Richmond’s main strips. But still the tiny space hums with throngs of locals. Barratt and Wilton are behind the white-tiled kitchen-cum-register dishing out one sarnie after another, while warmly greeting customers, many by name. Couples with dogs wait for barista Zac Kelly’s creamy, strong flat whites made from Axil Roasters coffee beans and hungry kids are placated with flaky croissants from Rustica (also their bread supplier). It’s like the Cheers of sandwich shops. If you’re visiting during the early shift, order the pastrami – a pimped-up version of the classic Reuben. Wagyu pastrami from Meatsmith (brisket coated with a secret rub, hot smoked and slowly cooked for 15 hours) is wedged between light rye sourdough with house-made relish, sauerkraut and pickles. It’s then slathered with butter and grilled, and the combination of salty, gooey, sharp and crisp will knock your socks off. A boiled-and-baked 5 & Dime bagel comes generously heaped with coldsmoked trout from Petuna (purveyors of wildcaught, sustainable seafood), silky cream cheese with a drop of beetroot juice – the earthy flavour works magic with the saltiness of the fish – and rings of crunchy red onion. Traces of salmon roe kick it up a notch on the fancy sanga yardstick.
For lunch, their version of the Italy-via-newYork parma sub would make nonna proud, and it’s all-veg! A pillowy ciabatta is packed with crumbed, deep-fried eggplant, pickled wild mushroom adding an aromatic vinagery sharpness, carrot and a hearty tomato sauce – bring your own bib. And you bet there’s a schnitzel (bonus points for using freerange chicken that’s soaked in buttermilk overnight) filed between lettuce with a secret dressing on a ciabatta spread with Kewpie mayo. Keen for dessert? A brioche bun filled with Nutella and vanilla ice cream is a major upgrade on Nutella toast.