“A duck is calm above the surface of the water,” says Tom Skocic, owner and chef of Be the Duck cafe in Richmond. “But below they’re working hard.”
Things moved quickly for Skocic in the two weeks between moving in to the Burnley Street site and opening in April. “It was like an episode of The Block,” he says.
Skocic sold a pizza oven left by the previous tenant – Nourish Me cafe – to make space for a small padded booth for diners to sit in. He also installed a long bar. Otherwise, he left much of this bright, 35-seat daytime eatery, on a small strip of shops between a drycleaner and Love Thai Hand massage parlour, intact.
Skocic didn’t become a chef until he was 27, but he’s done a lot in the nine years since. His resume includes stints at Raymond Capaldi’s former Rialto Tower restaurant, Hare and Grace, Brighton paleo cafe The Deck and, most recently, at Matteo’s in North Fitzroy.
Now on his own, Skocic has created a menu of daytime dishes he describes as “clean, fresh and as unadulterated as possible”.
Options range from grab-and-go staples such as takeaway rolls and bacon, cheese, tomato and kale pastizzis (similar to a pasty), to intriguing, quality sit-down dishes.
The hearty and slightly spicy Asian Chilli Eggs is scrambled eggs mixed with Korean chilli paste, tender pork lardons, broccolini, spring onions and king brown mushrooms that are steeped in master stock. It comes with two large prawn crackers in lieu of bread.
Or there’s the Veggie “Burger” Stack, a breadless wonder of braised field mushrooms topped with egg wash and sesame seeds (to look like buns), a chickpea veggie patty, salad and caramelised onions. This comes with seasoned whipped tofu and sweet-potato crisps.
The Nest is based on a mousseline (savoury sauce) recipe Skocic found in an old Julia Child video, which he uses to glaze soft-boiled eggs that he serves with raw shaved asparagus, pork floss, grissini, grapefruit segments and smashed avo on toast from Phillippa’s Bakery.
There’s also a “More” menu, which has larger, restaurant-style lunch dishes. This includes twice-cooked pork belly with fermented apple cabbage slaw, and a vegan bolognese with minced mushrooms and zucchini spaghetti.
The build-your-own Your Food Plate menu lets you pick from eight proteins, such as beef sirloin or golden tofu, and lots of sides, such as sweet-potato mash or ancient grains with goji berries. (Skocic is developing an online meal service that will launch at the end of May. You’ll be able to pre-order a few days’ worth of these meals, which are delivered, cryovaced, to your door.)
The drinks menu includes Proud Mary coffee, juices, smoothies and fresh coconuts, which you can order with a shot of espresso. There will also be breakfast cocktails (once the liquor licence comes through), including a Bloody Mary and Espresso Martini.
“We don’t judge,” says Skocic.
Be the Duck
131 Burnley Street, Richmond
Mon to Fri 6am–4pm