Uncle Drew Cafe
In the quiet backstreets of Clifton Hill, you’ll find owner Jonathon Scali on the coffee machine at Uncle Drew Cafe. The name is a nod to the fella who taught him how to make his first coffee in the early ‘00s.
Today Scali serves up Dukes coffee to local residents and office workers, while his co-owner Karel Simek works his magic in the kitchen. Istra Smallgoods bacon, Dench bread and Rooftop Honey all feature on his tight, sophisticated menu.
With the warm sun gleaming through the windows of the corner frontage and all the neighbourly feels, the only dilemma used to be whether to choose from the breakfast or the lunch menu. Since 2018 though, things have gotten harder, with the introduction of a dinner menu, which is available on Friday and Saturday nights.
The dinner service is an extension of Uncle Drew's spirit – accessible and comforting – but it also manages to distinguish itself from the daytime offering. Lights get swapped for candles and counter clutter is put away to allow space for cocktail making. The overall effect is moodier and more romantic, but it stays true to the venue.
For eating, a smart choice at lunch would be The Uncle Drew’s Toastie – shaved ham, pulled pork, manchego, pickles, Dijon mustard and crème fraiche. It’s a crowd favourite at any time of the day. Filled bagels, baguettes, homemade pies, cakes and slices are available for a quick takeaway option. Night-time dishes have included anything from a slow-cooked porchetta with braised green lentils and chimichurri to a Scotch fillet served with celeriac puree. Soft drinks are by Karma Kola and teas by Calmer Sutra.
The space itself is bright and clean, with a hint of lived-in charm. The counter is made of timber recycled from the floor of a Victorian woolshed; and the same appears in the handmade tables in the dining area.