Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Jack Horner, Melbourne.
If all goes to plan, this new business from Matt Wilkinson and Ben Foster (Pope Joan, Hams & Bacon) could come to represent their "I knew them when" moment. Because besides being a milk bar/corner store/canteen/cafeteria/bar/bottle shop hybrid, Jack Horner is a template, a prototype for a kind of upmarket 7-Eleven for new apartment buildings. So, instead of microwaved junk food, you can get a green tofu laksa, a goat and chorizo braise or a robust Bolognese that you can eat in or take away. You can also pick up a craft beer, bag of organic pet food, bottle of biodynamic milk, enviro-friendly toilet paper or a jar of peanut butter (designer or regular) from the grocery section. Well-lit and clean-lined, it all feels very European. Like most prototypes, Jack Horner Mark 1 is impressively over-engineered. Large and spacious with a concrete-floored, bare-timber and exposed-utilities industrial aesthetic, it features a blue-tiled bar and a cafeteria-like servery, complete with trays and a sculptural blonde-wood tray track. Line up with your tray and you can choose one of four hot dishes (warming on an induction stovetop), bread rolls, house-made pickles, fresh cheese, sliced free-range ham and an impressive selection of salads (ancient grain, Asian coleslaw). Whole and half roast (free-range) chickens will also be available, as will breakfast, a compact affair (jaffles, eggs, toast, muesli) ordered via a box-ticking menu that you hand to the cashier. Jack Horner itself ticks a lot of boxes and ticks them well. Watch this space.
Jack Horner, 179 Weston St, East Brunswick, Vic; open daily 7am-8pm
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