Around 5pm most nights of the week, you’ll spy people loitering in a back street in Melbourne, looking hopefully at a shop front.
They’re there for the pie. The $12 pie that has become famous through word of mouth, and is a delicious, shining light in many Melburnians lockdown experience. If you live within 5km of Luther’s Scoops in Brunswick, you’ve truly won the lockdown radius lottery.
At the moment the pie is a rhubarb and custard concoction, but it changes with the seasons.
The man behind the pie that has got this part of the world in a frenzy is 27-year-old Christian Williams, who has an impressive resume despite his relatively young age. He has worked at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, including Heston Blumenthal’s famed Fat Duck.
And now, fortunately for the people of Melbourne, he is making these ethereal pies (by hand, as the small unassuming shop doesn’t have room for commercial equipment) in limited batches from Tuesday to Saturday. He can only make so many, and there are rarely any left long after 5pm (which is when they come hot out of the oven).
He is picky about his ingredients. The perfect creme patisserie is generously flecked with vanilla bean. The rhubarb is sourced from a farm in nearby Geelong. The buttery, flaky pastry, which has been perfected after years working in the world’s finest kitchens, is a triumph.
Williams – who is originally from Wellington and started working in kitchens when he was 16 – is one of the rare people who has thrived during the pandemic.
“Before this I was working at [croissant bakery] Lune,” he explains.
“I was a little bit sick of the stressful restaurant environment and I didn’t see myself progressing to owning my own restaurant. I just didn’t want that lifestyle.
“What I always loved was making ice cream. I made a lot working in London. I ran the pastry section at one of the restaurants for six months and they let me play with flavors. I loved the freedom of that. So I did a few internships at ice cream makers to see how it works. By then I decided I wanted to open an ice cream shop. I decided to head to Melbourne to be a bit closer to home … and I think Melbourne is a receptive scene.”
He started out selling his ice creams at markets around Melbourne. And they weren’t any ordinary ice creams. A dedication to quality, seasonal ingredients combined with Williams’ culinary expertise meant they were an instant hit. Slightly left-of-center flavors like a cinnamon bun, Earl Grey chocolate, banoffee pie, and blueberry, lemon and sour cream surprised and delighted palettes.
When Covid hit, retail rental prices plummeted, and he saw his chance to give the business a home.
“It was nerve-wracking,” he admits.
“If it wasn’t for the virus I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I was lucky enough to be on Job Keeper and that gave me a little money to start it up, and I found this shop at a really good rate which is what made it possible.”
“The whole thing was born out of uncertainty. I had only just started at Lune before the first lockdown. I didn’t know what would happen, and I thought I should just give it a go.”
He is now there six days a week making ice cream and pies and manning the shop front, and only has a couple of part-time staff to help out every now and then.
The internet is littered with five-star reviews for Luther’s Scoops. As a reviewer on Facebook said “dynamite, hands down the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life … what is this sorcery?”
The pies were introduced as he was anticipating a quiet winter, and it would give him an offering for the cooler months. He thought he would do a couple of pies a week. Now he is making 150.
“I started off doing an apple pie,” he says.
“I found an orchard in Templestowe with over 300 different varieties of apples. They had these really interesting heritage-style apples that were great to work with”.
When the season ended a few months ago, he turned to rhubarb and custard. Word on the street is his next combo will be berry and custard.
And the hot tip is, if you want to avoid loitering at the shop front at 5pm looking like a sugar junkie, you can DM him on Instagram and cheekily reserve one.
This article originally appeared on Escape