A well-stocked Asian grocery store with a great line in ready-made meals and superior sandos (sandwiches) and toasties, Pantre is a welcome addition to the subterranean world of Melbourne Central.
Location: Shop LG08, 211 La Trobe St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Melbourne Central is a curious place.
With a busy train station, offices and floors of shopping, it’s an obvious spot for food outlets. But aside from the regular delights of the shopping mall Food Court, Melbourne Central offers a fascinatingly eclectic array of eateries and even bars.
Take the time to wander between the floors and the choice is surprising. Yes, there’s MacDonald’s and KFC, but there’s also great Japanese noodles at Ajisen Ramen and Shujinko Ramen or Chinese variations at Master Lanzhou Noodle Express. Brunswick East’s lauded Mexico City influenced taco joint, CDMX does great Mexican fare. Prefer Japanese cuisine? There’s plenty of choice apart from the ramen spots with Miyama Melbourne, Makoto Sushi Train. Omi and Gyoza Gyoza – amongst others – in the building. If you want good coffee, pay Axil Coffee Roaster a visit. A cocktail? Well, Byrdi was declared the Australian Cocktail Bar of the Year 2023 and you really can’t do any better than that.
And then there’s Pantre.
If you’re running for a train, you might miss it. But that really would be a pity. After all, this is the latest venture from Zero Mode – and if you know this Box Hill gem, you know to stop and check out what’s on offer.
Talking of Box Hill institutions, click here to read our post on Dumpling King
Tucked just to the side as you rush for the ticket barrier, Pantre is an oasis of organised calm.
The aisles are eye-catchingly neat and the lighting (essential when you are in the bowels of a building) is used to full effect to showcase the products on display. Smartly, black is a dominant colour choice for much of the shelving and cabinetry. The result is that both rainbow-hued rows of refrigerated Japanese soft drinks and pre-packed boxes of Nigiri ‘pop’ against their dark background.
Pantre is also pleasingly spacious, with lots of wriggle-room between racks and fridges. Whilst we love the clutter and chaos of the more traditional Asian food stores in many of our cities’ suburbs, there’s a lot to be sad for a neat lay-out and wide walk-ways. Especially at busier times of day.
Last, but definitely not least, Pantre is absolutely immaculate. From the spotless floors and clean shelves to the regimented rows of Bento boxes and perfectly stacked pots of Instant Noodles.
There are 2 main arms to the Pantre business – groceries and pre-packaged food.
If you’re missing your favourite brand of soy sauce or can’t live without an obscure flavour of Pot Noodle, Pantre is the shop to try.
Though a pan-Asian providore, the main focus of the bottles, jars and boxes is Japanese and Chinese. Along the obligatory Seaweed Seasoned Snacks, Bubble Tea and Cookies you’ll find an extensive selection of Condiments and Sauces, as well as quality Fresh Fruit and Vegetables.
Ready Made Meals
Whilst the grocery section is well worth investigating, the real excitement for us happens in the pre-packed meals area.
Pantre has a number of chilled cabinets ladened with meals just perfect to grab as you either head into work, or to take home at the end of the day. From Teriyaki Chicken Don to a rather fancy-sounding Slow Cooked Duck Breast Soba Noodle, the choices are both varied and gloriously fresh. Personally, we love the Chirashi option. What’s more, like all Pantre’s Bento boxes, the Ora King Salmon, Tuna, Kingfish, Scallop and Cucumber come with a choice of White or Brown Rice, Mixed Kale, Mixed Coleslaw and Quinoa. Needless to say, everything is beautifully presented in bio-degradable cartons.
Even the sandwiches are a cut above. Pantre does a range of Japanese-style Fruit Sandos that look so pretty, it’s almost a shame to eat them. Almost.
If savoury is more to your taste, Pantre does some outstanding Toasties, made to order. Honestly, if you haven’t tried the Wagyu Brisket number, you haven’t lived. This belter comes stuffed with juicy layers of tender Wagyu, American Cheese, Mozzarella and a killer Kimchi Slaw. That awesome ‘slaw also makes a welcome appearance on the ready-to-go Chicken Katsu Sando. Jammed between 2 slices of toasted light-as-air Shokupan bread, it’s a firm favourite here at Eatability. And you know that we LOVE a great sandwich.
From Coke and Kombucha to Matcha Latte, Strawberry Panna Cotta Drinks, Korean Soju and a quite distracting Hazelnut Tiramisu featuring Hazelnut Cold Brew and a Coffee Cheese (yes Cheese) Foam.
Melbourne is blessed with some seriously good Asian grocery stores and some equally noteworthy Japanese, Chinese and Asian Fusion inspired take away spots. But few combine all these elements with the class and attention to detail that is evident at Pantre.
Next time you are rushing for a train out of Melbourne Central, schedule a stop at this exemplary Asian grocer and take away store. You won’t regret it.