Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SJ's #1




By a pure fluke, today I became the very first customer to stride through the doors of Simon Johnson’s brand spanking, lip-smackingly new Providores Market in Alexandria. Being a denizen of the Pyrmont store, which is a little walk away from me, I thought I’d arm myself with my UBD and beat through the industrial jungle of South Sydney to check out this newest of SJ spots, which has been promoted for a while in the food media. Little did I know that 10 am November 1 was kick-off time. As I drove up, despite the pouring rain, a few guys struggled successfully to mount aloft the “now open” sign at the entrance. Once inside I noticed it was a little desolate but the lovely Virginnia welcomed me as their first customer. Wow – I felt kind of special! The thing you can always say about SJ staff is that they are the most pleasant, helpful and knowledgeable on the food planet.

The new Alexandria market is a true food Cathedral. It feels quite a bit bigger than the other SJ stores I’ve visited and has a warehouse feel, cool concrete floor interior with nose-bleed high ceilings. You’ll find all the usual goodies – the SJ brands we’ve come to love for their taste and quality, Chris Manfield’s ready-to-eat line, Duchy Originals from HRH (PoW), Italian pasta and a range of cupboard staples, culinary equipment and gadgets. But the big plus is the expanded fresh food section. A large range of Vic’s meats, several rows of plump and vibrant greengrocery from Matt Brown, prioritising seasonal produce, and a soon to be fully-stocked fresh seafood section from Joto’s wholesale. I spoke with Jonathan who explained they would stock a range of farmed aquaculture varieties as well as a few wild (but of course more pricy) items. Whole fish and fillets, molluscs and crustaceans will be available as they come into season. Of course there is also the legendary SJ Fromagerie beckoning from behind the glass of its glisteningly dewy climate controlled space.

Greg Doyle of Pier fame will run the café, which at the moment is an empty-ish shell waiting for a few more fittings and fixtures. But don’t let that deter you – it’s still well worth a visit before it shifts up a gear into full swing.

To find it, head for O’Riordan Street and hang a left (if you’re coming from the city end) at Doody Street just where the huge megaplex housing The Good Guys sits. Keep going to the corner of Ralph Street and it’s on the right hand side.

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