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By Jo Rittey
July 29, 2015

Uncle & Jak

Fitzroy's friendliest new family members.
By Jo Rittey
July 29, 2015

Up at the Nicholson end of Johnston Street, Uncle & Jak manages to be white-walled, fresh and cosy all at the same time. From the minute you enter the door, first-time cafe owners Jackson Finlay and Diana Martinez make you feel at home — and as soon as you walk out, you'll already be thinking about when you can come back. The name exudes friendly togetherness, and that's exactly what this Fitzroy cafe is all about.

The fit-out was a family affair and certainly a labour of love. Jackson and Diana did most of the renovations themselves with the help of family and friends — ripping off the wall cladding to expose the bricks underneath and then painting them white, adding industrial bulbs and wooden tables and benches. It is a deceptively large space that can seat up to 50.

Chef Maninder Singh Rajput — formerly sous chef at The Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder — has put together a thoughtful menu. The emphasis is on breakfast, but there are a couple of lunch options, with salads and sandwiches in the display cabinet and a daily specials board which features consistently appealing pasta dishes. In keeping with the kinds of the people they are rubbing shoulders with in the gym and yoga studio enclave of Fitzroy, Uncle & Jak have a definite healthy slant to their food. Not only does their menu feature such superfood heroes as chia seed Bircher muesli and kale and eggs, they also want to cater for people limited in what they can eat. And they want to do this without any of the eye rolling which can sometimes accompany requests for gluten or dairy free dishes.

Having opened just over two weeks ago, Uncle & Jak's Chilli Scramble has quickly become a favourite. Perfectly cooked scrambled eggs have a bit of heat to them, and are served on sourdough with pan-fried chorizo, a decent handful of rocket, cherry tomatoes roasted to bursting and a generous sprinkling of grated manchego cheese. Every mouthful is a delight — so much so, that it's hard to know exactly which element makes the dish the star that it is. Jackson thinks it’s the buttery piquant manchego, but we think the chorizo and the cherry tomatoes are also in the running for the top prize.

Coffee is from Melba Coffee and Tea in Dandenong, with their philosophy on ethical and sustainable sourcing tying right in with Uncle & Jak's commitment to good food and community values. It's just what this end of Johnston Street needed.

Images by Jo Rittey. 

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