Popular Brunswick East café Pope Joan, owned by chef and cookbook author Matt Wilkinson, is closing in late June, leaving a hole in Melbourne's breakfast scene and, if we're lucky, an appetite in Wilkinson to open something new. The Nicholson Street site is slated to be developed into apartments, however the development will not affect Wilkinson's other business located nearby, The Pie Shop.
"I knew from day dot that development was going to be quite rife in this area," Wilkinson says. "Did I think it would happen with five years left on the lease? No."
"It's a sad day but I think I couldn't be prouder of anything we've achieved."
For its last month of service, Pope Joan, which opened in 2010, will open on Friday nights for dinner, a treat for those who remember the days of the café's dinner service, which began in 2013 and ceased in March 2016. Alongside the chicken Kiev – made with Milawa chook, no less – the kitchen will send out oysters with a fig vinaigrette, a risotto of grilled shiitakes, sesame and brown rice, and dry-aged Warialda sirloin cooked on the bone.
By day, the café menu will also feature favourite dishes as chosen by staff and customers. Repeat visits will be rewarded with everything from pumpkin and haloumi tarts topped with fried eggs, the house take on huevos rancheros and sandwiches including a Cuban, the roast chook-filled Cornish (named for GT contributor Richard Cornish) and The Kebabalon, a pita stuffed with roast carrot, tabbouleh and shanklish.
As for Wilkinson's future plans, they involve a holiday with family and a focus on The Pie Shop, with plans to host more of his Summer Camp Cookout dinners come summer.
Meanwhile, get in on the Pope Joan fun before June 24.
Pope Joan, 77-79 Nicholson St, Brunswick East, Vic, (03) 9388 8858, popejoan.com.au
Listen to our podcast with Matt Wilkinson and Sharlee Gibb where they discuss their latest cookbook, Mr and Mrs Wilkinson's How It Is At Home, and share their entertaining tips for surviving everything from dinner parties to Christmas Day.