Jack Burton and Jo Crago have never had their own venue before, but they’ve got a knack for hospitality. That’s clear as soon as you enter their new late-night cafe, where comfort food, music and art collide.
“We love hosting … we want [Quiet Time] to be like [your] other living room,” Burton tells Broadsheet.
By day, it’s a great spot to read or work, with a pastry and a hot chocolate on hand – especially if you snag the window bench at the front. By night, it feels like you’re at a friend’s house. It’s easy to spend hours around candlelit wooden tables or in the fairy light-strewn courtyard, equipped with simple snacks, good drinks and music humming from Klipsch speakers.
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Couple Burton and Crago, originally from Perth, had planned to launch an artist and performance space together. But in January 2021, they found themselves drawn to a vacant heritage site, once home to The Bell Jar, at the end of Smith Street. They decided to turn it into a late-night cafe where they could showcase local creatives and chefs.
Quiet Time is mainly inspired by home, with nods to Japanese listening bars and French cafes and bistros. The space is split into a small bar at the front – with a wall stacked high with vinyl – and an intimate room at the back. There’s wood and exposed brick everywhere, plus a restored strip of Aztec blue from some point in the site’s former life. (The pair did much of the demolition themselves while they lived upstairs.)
Perth-based Torren Clifford made most of the furniture (and was also behind the renovation and design) and everything else is second-hand or from the couple’s own home. Burton, who’s also a ceramicist, made lots of the bowls and plates, and paintings were done by old housemates or Crago. At night, candles are propped in water glasses and lamps glow softly in different nooks. Connecting the cafe and courtyard is a laminated stained-glass steel door made by artist Jodie Mae (Lead Levels) and Clifford.
Whether you’re there at 8am or 10pm, there are cheese toasties on offer (loaded with extras like marinated eggplant and tomato or triple-smoked ham with bread with butter pickles). You’ll also find Ovens Street pastries and house-made sweets. The rest of the menu changes often.
Breakfast might include overnight oats topped with stewed fruits; triple-smoked ham and gruyere croissants; and a butter bean breakfast stew. Come lunchtime, it’s rotating soups and salads. From 3pm, there are bar snacks (dips and crispy flatbread, cheese and antipasto plates). Soon, evenings will include roast dinners. The coffee is Proud Mary, the tea Assembly Tea.
Though Crago is often on the pans, there’ll be a rotating line-up of Melbourne guest chefs every weekend. Yolanda Whelan (Bar Holiday) is currently serving up house-made polenta pizza by the slice and other vegan bites.
Skylab Radio fans will already be familiar with Quiet Time – it’s the new home for the online radio station. Burton’s background is in ambient music; he runs the label Deep Water Greenhouse, which has its own Skylab show. Every Friday and Saturday you’ll be able to see the likes of Darcy Justice stream live from a double-glazed booth. At other times, local DJs play soul and funk, as well as drum and bass.
A constant stream of events, exhibitions and pop-ups will also make Quiet Time notably different from the average cafe. A recent Hungarian-themed night included picnic plates and Eastern European tunes. A group of customers has been coming in regularly to play chess, so Burton and Crago want to make it a club. No idea is out of the question.
“Fostering a community is what we are working towards and what will feel different for us,” Burton says. A lot of venue owners say that; Quiet Time actually does it.
656 Smith Street, Clifton Hill
Wed to Fri 7am–11pm
Sat & Sun 8am–11pm