Amongst the heritage-listed houses of Clifton Hill sits a converted milk bar that serves exceptional coffee and delicious home-style food with a healthy serving of passion and experience.
Like many Melburnians, Jonathon Scali and Karel Simek love to drink coffee. Experienced hospitality professionals, they met while working at La Camera Southgate, with Jonathon as the restaurant manager and Karel in the kitchen. Finding common ground in their mutual appreciation of great food and coffee, it wasn’t long before a plan was hatched to create their own little patch of culinary paradise. In early 2016 they lay the foundations for the new project and named it Uncle Drew, after the first barista Jonathon ever worked with.
It may not be on a main road, but there’s no missing Uncle Drew’s exterior. Bright red doors welcome you into a clean white interior, designed and renovated by Jonathon, Karel and their friends and family. Take a seat by the window or choose a spot outside, where rustic tables – built by Karel – line the street, and umbrellas ensure you don’t overheat. As proud owners, Jonathon and Karel will always be found nearby, with Jonathon and his brother Tim preparing your favourite coffee and Karel cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
Once settled, take a moment to look over the extensive coffee menu. Dukes Coffee Roasters and Cartel Coffee Roasters are responsible for the coffee on offer. The Dukes Espresso blend is enriched with vibrant flavours of red apple, caramel, milk chocolate and cherry, with beans from Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia and Ethiopia. If you’re looking for something a little different, try the pour over or cold brew.
If you’ve already had one too many espressos, there are plenty of other options. Jonathon and Karel have partnered with Calmer Sutra teas to present a comprehensive tea menu, which includes black, green and tisane varieties. Smoothies and juices round up the options, meaning you’ll always have something to sip on.
Once you’ve selected a drink, let the food menu be your next priority. Karel has worked hard to create and maintain relationships with a list of local producers, including Biviano and Sons fresh produce, Istra smallgoods, Dench Bakers, Cunliffe & Waters preserves and Rooftop Honey. Their products appear through the all-day menu, with options like the Broken Omelette served with spicy Istra chorizo, creamy goat’s cheese and house-made dukkah.
For lunch, try the spicy BBQ pulled pork on a brioche bun with Asian-style kohlrabi slaw and kipfler potatoes, or the ancient grain salad, with red and white quinoa, farro, chickpea, capsicum, cucumber, pomegranate, toasted seeds, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, mint, Bulgarian sheep feta and popcorn shoots. The menu also caters for dietary requirements, with a number of gluten free and vegetarian options available.
Uncle Drew is a neighbourhood gem with more than one attraction to its name. Stop for the delicious coffee and hang around for the food – the longer you stay, the more you’ll love it.