One time local girl, Catherine Russell went behind the scenes of the kitchens, farms, vineyards…
Canberra loves to go to market, to market, especially during autumn’s abundant harvest season.
Except that during COVID, when you have a vulnerable or immunocompromised person in your home, this can get tricky.
Add on that some Canberrans aren’t physically distancing as much as they should be and you have two options—resort to lacklustre supermarket delivery produce or brave the shops yourself.
This is the challenge that Pialligo Estate has set out to solve—that and keeping their team together and the wheels turning on their family-operated paddock to plate restaurant, café and events business. As far as COVID pivots go, this may just be Canberra’s most impressive.
Over the course of five days in late March, General Manager Scott Taylor and his team laid a fresh concrete slab adjacent to their Glasshouse pavilion and erected an airy shed for Canberra’s newest—and healthiest—drive thru, building a new concept that would see the Estate’s offerings and values of old fashioned customer service translate to the COVID era—Pialligo Market Grocer. As Scott puts it, they didn’t sleep much.
The Market Grocer concept is simple—boxes of fresh produce, meat, dairy, in-house prepared, restaurant-quality heat-and-eat meals and essentials, ordered online or over the phone and home-delivered or collected contactless. But as Scott explains, it’s much more than that. When he walks me through Market Grocer headquarters—complete with hairnet, temperature check and copious amounts of hand sanitiser—the community vibe is palpable.
Events staff and bartenders carefully select groceries (including some surprising additions like lemon butter “our older clients love it”, lollies and toilet paper) under Glasshouse chandeliers for waiting order boxes, thank you notes nestled alongside freshly picked fruit.
Nearby, in the space that used to prep meals for hundreds of wedding guests, Pialligo’s team of chefs, butchers and gardeners are washing, chopping, marinating and pickling kilos of fresh produce—from vegetables and fruit from the 55-acre Estate to choice cut meats from their fine dining wholesalers. It’s a huge change for the team, but Scott wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’ve had wedding coordinators packing boxes, groundskeepers delivering orders and the owner’s wife harvesting corn from our market garden. It’s a family and the team has been amazing handling the huge demand we have experienced.”
It’s also a way for Scott to keep the Estate’s beloved wholesalers connected to the Canberra market.
“It’s now incredibly easy to support local and regional farm gate producers,” he says. “The goodness of Canberra’s various farmers’ markets in one convenient website.”
Scott is especially keen to support bushfire-affected small producers, such as Batemans Bay Nut Roasters and Tilba Milk, with 60 (and heading towards 100) regional farm gate and local businesses on board.
But what he might just be most excited about is what you can’t normally find at a market—ready-to-eat restaurant-quality meals, with the Estate’s Heat & Eat meals offering a luxe new way to dine at home.
“Our banquet kitchen is producing the same delicious restaurant-quality meals—only now they are going in to cryovac bags for you to reheat at home,” explains Scott. “It’s some of our favourites from the menu, plus a few comfort food newbies.”
Lovers of the Estate’s award-winning Smokehouse will be thrilled to see the full range of Pialligo Estate Smokehouse smoked and cured delectable all available in one place, whilst those who used to while away an afternoon over a long lunch in the restaurant can now bring the famous lamb shoulder or beef cheeks home.
Meanwhile, in the grocery portal, households with dietary requirements can browse a section devoted to vegan, organic and gluten-free products, ensuring no one is left of out the Estate’s fresh produce revolution. As for demand, Scott says it’s unlike anything they expected, but what it all comes down to is old fashioned hospitality.
“We have been blown away by the way Canberra has responded—it’s huge. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why it has been so popular, but one factor is our old-fashioned service approach. Remember, we are restauranteurs, so customer experience is the most important thing.”
“Whether it’s the fact that we never take longer than 30 minutes to respond to an enquiry email or the little posies of fresh herbs in every box…I think people just appreciate speaking to a local human being that genuinely cares about their little box of groceries. Whatever the case Pialligo Market Grocer is here to stay.”
WANT TO EXPERIENCE PIALLIGO MARKET GROCER FOR YOURSELF?
Get A FREE spinach and parmesan quiche (valued at $9.90) with every purchase over $80 with the code: HERGROCER.
What: Pialligo Market Grocer
Order: Online at pialligomarketgrocer.com.au then pick up via Contactless Click + Collect service via drive thru (where PPE-clad staff place the order in your opened car boot) or opt for delivery, now available across Canberra and Queanbeyan.
Phone: 0401 215 204