When Michael Coates and Miroslawa Kotowska decided to open a cafe in the site once home to fine-diner Merricote, they wanted to create a welcoming venue filled with their “essence”. As the couple watched their pet chickens roam around their Thornbury backyard, they quickly realised what that was.

“We had to name it after the chooks somehow,” says Coates. “We wanted to serve the food we love to cook and eat and they give us the most beautiful eggs. So we started there.

“They’re really good pets, love a cuddle and have personalities … One of our girls is a rescue and still has damage from being caged. We couldn’t ethically go with anything other than grass-fed, free-range and pasture-raised.”

When their chooks aren’t laying, Little Flock will serve free-range eggs from Gippsland Pastured.

Eggs naturally feature throughout the menu, as do the couple’s other passions – curing, baking, and filtered coffee. Chef Kotowska’s Polish heritage and 25 years of kitchen experience has shaped the food offering, and Small Batch provides beans for the batch brew, pour-over and espresso.

“While I love smoking smallgoods, something I learned from Miroslawa's family, I couldn't do the volumes we need,” Coates says. “We source from Uncle’s Smallgoods in Dandenong, an institution in the Polish community. They smoke their bacon the traditional way, over a real fire, not dust or pellets. You really can taste the difference.”

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"I do get to contribute to the menu, curing our smoked ocean trout and baking our rugbrød (a Danish rye sourdough) to go with it. That dish takes us about three days to prepare.”

This light, eastern European breakfast is worth the effort – the buttery portions of delicately smoked fish cover a thin slice of dark bread, offset with crème fraiche, capers and dill.

Kotowska took care of the fit-out herself – it’s a warm but sophisticated home-style vibe, filled with bird motifs and greenery. Snow, the couple’s beloved Japanese bantam chicken who died during the cafe’s development, has been memorialised in a print near the kitchen. Preston ceramicist Yesha Macdonald provided custom plates, cups and saucers – her first cafe order – that add to the relaxed charm.

“I love what Miroslawa does and it needs to be shared,” Coates says. “We just hope people enjoy being here as much as we do.”

Little Flock
81 High Street, Northcote
(03) 9994 2686

Tue to Fri 7am–3pm
Sat & Sun 8am–3.30pm