“Music is a world within itself” are the lyrics that kick off Stevie Wonder’s 1976 hit Sir Duke. Replace the word “music” with “this new all-day diner” and the same message rings true for the song’s Puckle Street namesake.
With the help of Melbourne’s Studio Tate (responsible for the fit-out at Middletown, Fancy Nance), co-owner Ashley Elia has transformed the former site of Lemon Soul into a bright and warm eatery and bar, brimming in pastel pink and yellow. It stands out on this section of Puckle Street: its a sunny and contemporary preserve among neighbours including Chemist Warehouse, The Reject Shop and Noodle Box.
“I think it was about time,” says Elia. “I feel like everything is either really out-dated or half-way there and not quite hitting it.
“I think back in the ’80s and ’90s this place was pumping with cafes and restaurants and I think we can regenerate that again.”
For the Melbourne cafe scene, Sir Duke is nothing groundbreaking. But it’s not trying to be. “We wanted to bring that south-east-style cafe here, because everyone on this side of town usually travels for it,” she says.
Waiters roam the room in tailored grey aprons that complement a central rendered concrete bench. They’re delivering Code Black coffees and Praha Chai lattes to customers settled into creamy brown leather banquettes.
There’s a circular theme used throughout the space, from the lighting to large round mirrors to a disc-shaped wall garden. A white and gold coffee machine sits atop a grand terrazzo bar, and indoor plants – standing tall or draping elegantly from hanging pots – give the cafe a welcome dose of nature.
Since opening in July, the team has edited the menu numerous times in response to local preferences. It will change again in the lead up to summer.
Expect standard breakfast dishes served all day (eggs, fritters, a breakfast salad and French toast); a range of hearty burgers and sandwiches (with beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian options); share plates, plus more refined dishes for dinner.
Produce comes from local suppliers such as Little Bertha’s free-range eggs, Cremorne’s Empire Bakery, and Clover Valley Meat. A range of sweets are also baked in-house, and it’s here where the cafe’s best dish makes an appearance.
DIY doughnuts are plated up with three separate components: balls of deep-fried dough, a sauce and ingredients for coating. Customers roll the doughnut in sauce and sweet toppings once it arrives at their table. Options include the Jam Bam (doughnuts filled with raspberry jam and served with chocolate sauce, toasted coconut and chocolate fairy floss) and Midnights in Marrakech (doughnuts filled with vanilla custard and served with rose syrup, dehydrated strawberries and fairy floss).
$12 cocktails kick off at 3pm.
“There’s a need for both healthy and indulgent in today’s market,” Elia says. “I don’t think you can go just one way anymore.”
99 Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds
(03) 9041 4022
Mon to Fri 7.30am–10pm
Sat & Sun 8am–10pm