“It’s quite a change for us,” says part-owner Kyle Bush, who is responsible for the design of New Guernica’s latest venue, Chuckle Deli, tucked in Hub Arcade on Little Collins Street, just next door to their existing outdoor bar and cafe Chuckle Park. “We’re all used to working in nightclubs, but we can’t do that forever.”

Tucked down this small city lane with a neighbouring shoe-repairer and a sushi bar, this inconspicuous lunch spot, which draws inspiration from the classic Italian deli, has a lot of charm. Previously a nondescript pho joint, the boys have given the place a complete makeover, turning the small space into a slick, modern eatery with art-deco style curves, wooden swivel stools and a bright neon “deli” sign above the counter.

Chef Brian Narciso (La Luna, The European and Gorski & Jones) heads up the kitchen, smoking trout, curing pickles and preparing salads which fill the deli counter.

The menu, put together by writer and regular New Guernica DJ Nick Jamieson, features six rotating daily salads. When we visited there was a trout orecchiette, an enoki mushroom with edamame, cherry-smoked chicken and farro and a zucchini ribbon salad. The sandwiches include a tonkatsu roll (crumbed pork, cheese and coleslaw), a mushroom roll or a Reuben sandwich. There is also house-made tequila-cured salmon and a selection of unusual cheeses (including the only smoked blue cheese in the world, apparently). Dine in or take these home with cured meat, pasta and a bottle of wine. Because it is licenced, Chuckle Deli also offers a small selection of international wines, the owner’s favourite spirits and some beers to have with lunch.

Chuckle Deli
Shop 5, Hub Arcade
Enter via 318 Little Collins St, Melbourne
(03) 9650 4494

Mon to Fri 8am–6pm