While visiting Clinton and Karina Serex at their new store in Caulfield North, just a few doors down from their first, Tuck Shop Take Away, a funny thing happened.
We’d been talking about our favourite milk bar memories when the doorbell chimed and two young boys rolled into the store. After collecting a few Redskins and Milko Chews, the taller kid leaned his arm over the counter and scanned his Apple Watch on the Tap & Pay device. A single beep confirmed the payment and in a moment, they were gone.
It certainly didn’t match our fond memories of the angst and excitement of visiting the local milk bar, and scrambling for one last coin to pay for that extra lolly. Putting together a pick-and-mix bag was a time-consuming and calculated process.
Karton Milk Bar does manage to retain some of those nostalgic elements of the local corner store, while also bringing it into the current day.
The menu includes new takes on familiar flavours, such as Fruit Loop-flavoured milk, as well as more contemporary treats such as a smoked green apple icy pole. There are ice-cream sandwiches rolled in 100s & 1000s or a cornflake crunch. (There are home ice-cream tubs too in vanilla, maple, cookies and cream and blueberry.)
“I don’t like to do things by the norm. I’m very inventive with different flavours and techniques and always like to offer something original,” says Karina, who experiments with smoking or might add fresh herbs or salt to more traditional treats.
“My jam donut ice-cream flavour needed to translate that sense of warmth, so I tried toasting some ingredients first before mixing them through the ice-cream,” says Karina of a one-time flavour she made.
At Tuck Shop Take Away, everything from the potato chips to the tomato and hot sauces are made in-house. The same approach applies here, with peanut butter, jam, ice-cream, flavoured milks and slushy syrups made from scratch.
“We want to be there for our local community, offering the best quality we can with friendly, first name service,” says Clinton.
They’re also stocking hearty, awarding-winning meat pies and sausage rolls, while bread and croissants come from Noisette. These items are displayed on the counter along with popcorn, chips and other pantry staples.
“We’ve carefully chosen to stock good-quality, ethical and locally sourced products,” says Clinton. “And the cereal variety pack … well that’s in there for good, nostalgic measure.
“Our brown paper bag packaging is reminiscent of the old school milk bar,” she adds. “But with the addition of the gold, it’s more schmick and premium.”
Karton Milk Bar
261 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North
Tue to Sat 10am–9pm
Mon & Sun Closed