There’s a constant flux of customers in suits at Lokall. In fast-moving lines, working their way toward the coffee machine or the row of salads on display, or holding informal meetings in the seating area.
Maybe it’s the rain bucketing down outside. But it’s just as likely they’re here for the cafe’s signature cheese toastie or its chicken katsu sando.
“A chicken schnitty sounds mundane, but we’re taking extra care at each step of the process,” says Dean Little, who owns Lokall with his wife Sunga Little and business partner Steve Lim.
Little and Lim met when working at Andrew McConnell’s Flinders Lane eatery Supernormal just after it opened in 2014. They spent a short time together in the kitchen before Little became head chef at Cumulus Inc, just up the road. The pair stayed close over the years before deciding to open their own spot.
“Our perspective and vision for opening a venue married up,” says Dean, adding that it was under McConnell the pair learned to make connecting with customers a priority. At Lokall, everyone in the team works across both front and back-of-house. So the person who serves you coffee one day could be cooking in the kitchen the next.
There are three categories on the menu: toasties, gourmet sandwiches and brown rice bowls, plus a selection of proteins and salads (today's include spiced sweet potato and charred corn; chickpea, coconut and spring greens; and maple roasted carrot with radicchio, couscous and fresh orange) on display.
Lokall’s signature dish is an open three-cheese toastie on Sunga’s house-made shokupan bread, with cheddar, mozzarella, Grana Padano and gooey béchamel. The shokupan, a component of most of the sandwiches here, is a thick-cut, slightly sweet fluffy Japanese white bread with hard edges from proofing overnight in square tins imported from Japan. Other toasties include lamb with harissa; truffle, leek and parmesan; and vegan cheese and broccoli.
There’s a chicken katsu sando, too; a hefty stack made up of shokupan, Panko-crumbed chicken, cabbage and sauce. Its simplicity belies the preparation involved.
“We brine the chicken breast for a day in koji [a bacterium used to ferment soy sauce and sake] so it changes the texture and is much cleaner to bite through,” says Dean.
The red cabbage is lightly salted in advance, so it’s softer than raw, and a generous squeeze of Bull-Dog brand tonkatsu sauce completes the equation.
Lokall’s assistant manager, Jihee Shin, is also the cafe’s kimchi supplier. Her kimchi is made with Chinese cabbage, apple, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, spring onion and glutinous rice, and has earned her the nickname “Ji Kimchi” among the team. You’ll find Shin’s kimchi in a brown rice bowl with braised pork belly and wild garlic. Other rice bowls include seared swordfish and daikon, and a vegan tofu, vegetable and miso-eggplant number.
“We like to share what makes us happy and what we really enjoy eating,” says Dean.
The large corner spot seats 100, 40 of those outside, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a clean and modern fit-out borrowing from its last tenant, also a cafe.
“There were good structures in place already, and the hand-blown streetlights were too nice to remove,” says Lim. “We’ve simply updated the colour scheme from yellow to black, and introduced softening timbers and plants, which work well with all the natural light.”
582 Swan Street, Burnley
(03) 9818 8973
Mon to Fri 6.30am–4pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on September 30, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.