Neil Perry is rebooting David Jones’ food halls

Author: Sophie McComas

Expect quality over quantity next time you pop in for a bite between shopping sprees.

Never mind late-night shopping, you'll soon be able to order a Negroni at the new-look David Jones food halls. Rockpool chef Neil Perry has signed on to transform the 178-year-old department store's food business from top to bottom. Stores around the nation will see the benefit of the new partnership, starting at the Sydney CBD flagship store and Melbourne's Bourke Street store in the coming weeks, with other capitals to follow in the lead-up to Christmas.

The overhaul is spearheaded by new CEO John Dixon. Before taking on the top job at DJs in January, Dixon spent almost two decades at Marks & Spencer in the UK, and the success of its market-leading food and wine department is something he hopes to replicate.

"The choice of Neil was a very easy one," he says. "DJs is Australia's iconic retailer, and as Neil is Australia's most iconic chef, it's the ideal partnership. It's so important to have a vibrant, exciting food offering in a bigger retail business. We felt that the time was right to transform it."

Apart from ensuring that the country's best oysters will be shucked to order at the oyster bars, Perry is tight-lipped on the specifics of his plan for the menus and the suppliers for the food halls' deli and meat counters. For now the plan is to shake up the take-home offering as well as the various eat-in bars and outlets. Rockpool's sommelier team will be dispatched to educate staff and expand David Jones' wine section, while Perry will spend significant time beefing up their product knowledge and building on service skills.

One part of the plan Perry has expressed considerable excitement about is sandwiches. Huzzah! "We really want to own that for quality in Sydney," he says, adding that he's currently deep in the testing phase.

There's also an opportunity for the addition of a cocktail menu, which will match the potential introduction of later (and earlier) opening hours. "We'll be working on the David Jones Negroni first," he says.

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