We love discovering the little secret places that locals frequent. They may not be big or hip. All they need to do is hit the mark of their demographic, be true to their charter and serve the people.
That’s Mr Brown’s Tuckshop to a tee.
In the surprisingly busy ‘no name’ Brown Street shopping centre in Labrador, we find this little café, home of partners Chee Yap and Rob Barker.
Yes, it’s the same Chee and Rob we first met at Vice Baby, a popup Asian diner in the garden behind Miami Rice. The pair had moved up from Melbourne intent on bringing better coffee to the Goldie. They were the first to bring bao to the coast, with many an afternoon and evening enjoyed in the rangy backyard of Chee’s dad Alan’s restaurant, dining on recycled furniture under beach umbrellas.
So, what happened?
“The goal was always for us to have our own place,” Rob tells us. But the journey to find it took some time, the couple settling on Labrador as an under-serviced suburb for food and coffee.
It’s a joy to see these knowledgeable owner-operators bringing great Five Senses’ ‘Compton Road’ coffee to the ‘burbs, the only stockist on the coast.
Mr Brown’s is a humble establishment. Surrounded by a hairdresser, laundromat, Aldi, Halal butcher and a newly established pizzeria, they’re in the middle of an affordable housing area with Metro student accommodation directly behind the shops. The retro refit of recycled pallets and furniture (ex-Bonita Bonita) is brightened by sunny yellow walls and green plants. ‘Sunny days start here’ yells the wall behind the counter. Cheeky smiles and quick hellos shout out that the only attitude here is friendly!
“We’re a tuckshop for big kids,” says Rob. “Chee likes to know what’s in the food she eats, so we make almost everything in house. Our bestsellers are the burrito, burgers and jaffles, as well as Amazonia açai bowls, especially in summer.”
With prices ranging from $10 – $16 for a meal, their prices are right on the mark. Hearty and tasty it is, but don’t think that well-priced equates to ordinary. Not this pair! Jaffles are filled with Mac ‘n’ cheese, laced with speck and truffle oil, or Roast mushrooms with goat’s cheese and caramelised onion ($8).
Burgers are on brioche with a 200g burger. Tuckshop beans come with smoky ragout, two poached eggs, crumbled feta and toast ($14.50) and there’s even Pulled pork with smoky cheese and kimchi at $8 for the Korean students. GF and V are clearly marked.
There’s also a cabinet to go with Raw delight cakes, fudge brownies, croissants sourced from Nobu’s Vioneserrie Lab, bread from Wildbreads and donuts from The Pastry Emporium. The fridge is stocked full of local drinks including ‘Flat Earth’ Kombucha.
An evening menu is on the way, Rob tells us.
But it’s the coffee that has won over Mr Brown’s loyal customers; Five Senses coffee roasted in Melbourne, and for that we’re eternally grateful. Another little place to bring quality coffee to Labrador. Another light to shine on ‘the dark side’.
5/7 Brown Street, Labrador Ph: 07 5503 1264 or 0478 967 383
Open: Mon – Fri 6:30 am – 2:30 pm; Sat – Sun 6.30am – 1pm
NOTE: This review has also been published in Blank GC.