In ancient Roman mythology, the goddess Juno is a symbol of aid, youthfulness and rejuvenation.

With its sleek yet playful interiors and farm-to-table ethos, these qualities are exactly what Ahmed Mekawy hopes to embody at his new McKinnon cafe of the same name.

“Our mission is to develop holistic products and services that nurture the soul, nature, communities,” he says. “We try to make conscious decisions like buying local, wild, seasonal, organic, ethically-sourced ingredients wherever possible.”

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Juno is Mekawy’s second hospitality venture. He also owns Prior in Thornbury and was inspired to open a south-east sibling after moving to the area.

Along with him came Prior’s head chef Nick Korceba (ex-Maha), who – along with fellow chef David Mikkelsen – has crafted a refined, produce-focused menu that easily transitions from breakfast to lunch.

The mainstay panko-crumbed chicken schnitzel is freshened up with kale-and-red-cabbage slaw, and dill-and-yuzu mayo. The Moreton Bay bug roll, another crowd-pleaser, is loaded up with green-mango jam, kohlrabi, fried shallots and an assortment of herbs.

For something sweet, look to the Farmed Ricotta Toast – a thick slab of Rustica brioche topped with three types of jam. They’ll change according to what’s in season, but right now there’s a luscious quince variety made with fruit grown in Prahran. It’s also available to buy by the jar, along with pickled heirloom carrots, specialty drinking chocolates, bags of Inglewood coffee and Juno-branded mugs. They’re stacked on pale timber shelving and behind them sits a minimalist greenery-filled courtyard.

Artist Bobby Clark's charmingly childlike chalk illustrations (and the menu) on the wall are also a feature of the design, by architect Ritz & Ghougassian. It also designed Prior and MCKN – the concrete-heavy apartment complex that houses Juno – so the partnership was a perfect match.

“They wanted someone they knew they could push creatively,” says Mekawy. “Not many people are trying to over-design cafes [because] the average spend is so much lower than a restaurant.”

But for him, the investment was non-negotiable. “We’re trying to create something beautiful.”

270c McKinnon Road, McKinnon

Mon to Fri 7am–3.30pm
Sat & Sun 8am–3.30pm