Adam Pruckner has lived and worked in Brunswick most of his life. So when the Code Black chef decided to strike out on his own, opening on Sydney Road was a foregone conclusion. “I love the fact there’s still the roots here, there’s still the old-school Brunswick that’s still around,” he says. “There’s still all the old wogs, it’s still got that soul.”
There’s soul in Small Axe. Founded with the help of his partner, seasoned event manager Kirsty Tate, and old mate Jas Singh, it’s a homey cafe with open-air seating and reassuring, cosy corners alike.
Pruckner drafted Zwei – the interior architects behind Code Black’s distinctive look – to refit the 100-year-old building. He describes the steel-and-terrazzo look of the venue, with its glassed-in espresso bar, street-side dining and internal laneways as “modern industrial meets Bar Idda”.
The menu is equally at home with the neighbourhood. “My mum was born in Sicily, and obviously I grew up with her cooking,” Pruckner says. “Then I went to Sicily, I fell in love with it.”
The breakfast pasta is simple – maccaruni topped with cured pork cheek, peas, mint, salted ricotta and a slow-cooked egg. The grilled brioche dish also comes directly from Pruckner’s visits to Sicily. “In the summertime in Italy they eat granita and brioche,” he says. "You get it in a big glass with a brioche bun that’s sort of shaped like a boob.”
It’s not served quite the same way at Small Axe – instead the pistachio granita and grilled brioche is accompanied by blood-orange jelly, coffee mouse and almond praline.
There’s a range of Italian and Australian wines and a gluten-free Peroni (it’s Brunswick, after all). Coffee is a seasonal blend from Code Black.
281 Victoria Street, Brunswick
(03) 9938 6061