We’d never heard of Squirrel Cafe before. But there are so many good local cafes in Melbourne it isn't possible to keep up with them all, so needing to find somewhere new in the Clifton Hill area off we went to see if the cafe was as cute as its name.
The exterior, with several tables to eat at..
The bright and airy front room, with several tables and counter.
The bright and cheerful corridor, complete with china ducks, to the rear eating area.
First signs were very positive. It’s one of those corner store jobs, where an old milk bar has been converted into a new and funky cafe. There are a few of these around and I’ve yet to find one I haven't liked. Because we were running a little later than usual we weren’t able to sit in the front room but the room at the back was nice, warm and comfortable and with a touch of personality.
The bright seating area by the window, and a view of a couple of tables.
A second menu, in the rear room.
The menu has a few interesting named options. For example, my big breakfast style meal was called the ‘Roadkill Hangover’. Why Roadkill Hangover? I have no idea, but my eggs on Turkish bread with bacon, tomato, hash brown, spinach, mushrooms and tomato jam was a touch above your local cafe fare. Nothing to make me go wow but the bacon was nicely crispy, the hash brown still moist in the middle and not hard and overdone like you sometimes get, the eggs spot on.
Snooze went with the house baked beans. This is always a bit of a dangerous option, as in principle baked beans are so simple but so many place just don’t get them right. The two most common faults, over cooked beans that lose their texture and just a general lack of flavour. Unfortunately the beans here suffered from both these faults, albeit not to the extent that you sometimes get. The result was an OK dish, but more on the bland side.
Our guest visitor for the day (Ms Viaggio) decided on the Fried Sprulings, fried eggs on Turkish bread with basil mayo, avocado, tomato and lemon oil. While I didn’t get to try any it certainly looked to be much nicer than your typical avocado and tomato roll and positive comments were heard. Ms V’s raves though were saved for her juice, a beetroot based concoction I failed to note down the details of.
There was one area though where the café could definitely have improved our experience. I don’t know if it was because of sickness or someone failing to show up, but it appeared that the café was staffed by 2 guys only. Given that they needed to serve customers, as well as prepare food and coffee, that was never going to work. The result was that not only was service slow, tables were not cleaned when customers left meaning that not only were the number of places limited the whole place was a slightly less nice place to eat (as who wants to eat surrounding by others leavings). Easily fixed just by having more staff but would make the whole experience better.
While on the whole I’d classify Squirrel Café as a good local place, somewhere to go if you live in the area rather than a destination café, there is one thing which would incline me to return – giant chocolate and honey dew crackles! These were obviously freshly made and just a happy reminder of childhood birthdays.
Nice place to start the day if you're in the area and don’t want to join the queue to get into some of the better known places. Just employ a couple more staff.
Food – 7.5
Ambience – 7
Service – 6
Price – 7
23 Groom Street
Clifton Hill VIC 3068
Tel: (03) 9489 2077