There has certainly been a bit of buzz surrounding Chuckle Deli since its opening earlier in the month. The party starters behind New Guernica and the lovely hidden gem that is Chuckle Park have gone one step further by setting up an old-school deli in one of Melbourne's unsuspecting laneways.
Chef Brian Narciso (ex La Luna and Gorski & Jones) is at the helm, teaming up with New Guernica DJ Nick Jamieson to write up the daily changing menu. Their food offerings include five fresh salads and, usually, three types of sandwiches. Also located in the cabinets are cured meats and cheese that you're welcome to take home. The walls are adorned with imported wine, as well as a collection of the owner's favourite spirits — just in case the mood strikes you for a midday or late afternoon tipple. Also featured on the walls are large jars of Chuckle's very own homemade preserved lemons, tomato relish and pickles. And any venue that goes to the trouble of bottling their own creations so we can consume them at home is immediately a winner in our book.
While the sandwiches were just starting to come out as we arrived — and they certainly looked darn good — we decided to get some bang for our buck by sampling three salads for $10. We tried the smoky chicken, the kisir salad and the zucchini ribbon. The kisir, a traditionally Turkish type of tabbouleh, is made up of bulgur wheat, seared tomatoes, parsley, onions and pomegranate molasses, as well as actual pomegranates that burst in flavour with every unsuspecting mouthful. The zucchini ribbon was light and refreshing with pine nuts, mint and dates, but hands down, the smoked chicken was our favourite. Juicy home-smoked chicken met with crunchy walnuts, creamy feta, and ribbons of fennel. It's exactly what you want in a winter salad.
The coffee here is reliable and up to the lofty Melbourne standard, but let's get one thing straight: this isn't a cafe. It's clear that the main attraction at Chuckle Deli is the food, and the time and energy preparing even the smallest details of each dish does not go unnoticed. The staff are friendly and happy to answer any questions. Although we did visit at a quieter moment of the day, they strike you as the kind of people who are happy to have a chat about what they do and how they do it.
Friendly staff + a daily rotating menu + value for money = a return visit from us. Forget what you've heard, you can totally make friends with salad.