Adam Pruckner has lived and worked in Brunswick most of his life. So when the Code Black chef decided to strike out on his own, opening on Sydney Road was a foregone conclusion.
Small Axe was founded with the help of his partner, Kirsty Tait, and old mate Jas Singh. It’s a homey cafe with both open-air seating and reassuring, cosy corners.
The 100-year-old building has a modern industrial feel; with an espresso bar, street-side dining and internal laneways. The breakfast pasta is simple – maccaruni topped with cured pork cheek, peas, mint, salted ricotta and a slow-cooked egg. Like the pasta, the grilled brioche is inspired by Pruckner’s visits to Sicily. It is accompanied by blood-orange jelly, coffee mouse and almond praline.
To the delight of regulars, in 2018, the cafe started serving dinner for four nights a week following a series of successful monthly pop-ups in 2017.
Dinner is slightly more intimate and moody than breakfast; tables are adorned with flowers from a local florist and the menu is more diverse, but still focused on rich Sicilian flavours. Favourites include a prawn spaghetti with a pistachio pesto, octopus with ‘nduja (spreadable salami).
The dinner menu is designed for individual portions – but shared smaller plates are available on request. For those left unsure there’s a three-course chef’s selection available for $60 a head.
There’s also a range of Italian and Australian wines and a gluten-free Peroni (it’s Brunswick, after all). Coffee is a seasonal blend from Code Black.