The highly competitive burger scene in Melbourne doesn't make it easy for newcomers, but since opening on an unsuspecting corner in Caulfield North this July, Tuck Shop Take Away has swiftly transitioned from new kid on the block to coolest guy in school. Owned by Clinton and Karina Serex — who, between them, have worked at Attica, Vue De Monde, Chez Dre and the Fat Duck — the gossip around the playground all seems to be suggesting the same thing: this tuck shop is serving up the best lunch menu we've seen in a while.
Upon arrival, there's no denying the sense of nostalgia that washes over you thanks to the retro, school-themed interior. A menu is chalked up on a blackboard, offering staples like burgers ($9.50) and chips but also novelties like jaffles (starting from $6.50) and peanut butter milkshakes ($4-$7). Large, white-faced clocks hang from the wall, and — perhaps the most charming feature of all — a traditional schoolyard water fountain bubbles away in the corner, ready to satiate thirsty patrons.
No bigger than a milk bar, only 11 people can be seated at a time, and there's even less room for those lining up to order. If you'd rather not wait on the footpath it's best to avoid typical meal times, especially on weekends. As the name suggests, takeaway is often the best policy here.
If you're lucky enough to score a seat, gear your stomach up for the School Meal ($19). As you demolish the salty, thrice-cooked cuts and one of the tastiest burgers in town — consisting of 100% beef patty, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, onion and pickles all on the softest of seeded, brioche buns — be prepared for the lathering of very special Tuck Shop sauce that will dribble down all 10 digits. Wash it down with an ice-cold soda and a deliciously gooey Red Skin tart — all of this served on a pastel-coloured tray. Heaven.
The kind of classmate that includes everyone, Tuck Shop also caters for its herbivorous friends. The Veggie Wedgie ($9.50) substitutes meat for a beetroot, lentil and brown rice patty, but with all of the same trimmings of its signature burger. Inventive flavoured shakes and sodas not for you? Sip on locally sourced tea and coffee from Storm in a Teacup in Collingwood and Monk Bodhi Dharma in St Kilda.
There's no sign of bullies or grumpy canteen ladies here; the service is cheerful and efficient. It's clear the staff are just as excited as you are about dishing up great quality food in baskets, beverages in tall glasses with striped paper straws and choc chip cookies filled with Kettle chips for that savoury punch.
This is worth ditching class for. Full marks, Tuck Shop Take Away.
Images: Brook James