Dr Jekyll

107-113 Grey Street St Kilda, Victoria 3182

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Opening hours Mon-Sat 7am-4pm,Sun 8am-4pm
Features Gluten-free options
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9525 5999

Luckily, the reader who emailed gave precise directions. Not that it's too difficult to find but Dr Jekyll, despite being open for six months, is still a cafe with no obvious name.

Roy Merrington and Matthew Tuck aren't too fussed about signs. They're happy to rely on word of mouth to spread their reputation for consistent coffee and good food. And things seem to be evolving nicely at the tiny Grey Street cafe as the pair have started renovations to expand next door.

There's cool music playing in the cafe, the sun is shining in the leafy courtyard at the back and Merrington and Tuck buzz about, making sure to exchange a friendly word with everyone who enters.

Their aim is to distance themselves from what they call "the Chadstone of the Sea approach" on nearby Acland and Fitzroy streets and to serve up good coffee to the locals and office workers.

"So many establishments that you walk into, you wonder if you have been noticed," Merrington says. "There's this 'too cool for school' attitude. You've got to value your customers and acknowledge them."

They're not worried about Grey Street's murky reputation, both having worked at the former Luxe on Inkerman Street (now Mr Wolf). They see great potential in the area's density of population and myriad apartments in the pipeline. They graduated from Windsor's Cafe Orange, where they used Syndicate fair trade organic coffee for several years. Tuck, an experienced barman and barista (and a former professional cyclist), had no hesitation in sticking with the Syndicate blend.

"It's 100 per cent arabica," Tuck explains. "It's a full-flavoured coffee with dark chocolate, orange, marzipan and hazelnut characteristics.

"You've got to understand the coffee you are using and how to get the full flavour out of the extraction. This coffee likes a really slow extraction — about 27 seconds for an espresso."

Tuck is coy about revealing any more barista secrets but their La Marzocco machine is another essential ingredient.

They are serious about their food as well but the cafe's limited space means the menu is kept simple.

Breakfast is served all day and the scrambled eggs, house-cured ocean trout and chive creme fraiche on a roll ($14.50), plus the brekky burger with fried egg, Istra leg ham, chorizo, melted cheese, house chutney and rocket ($12), are hot favourites.

They make their own stocks and do their own shopping at the market.

Life seems to be moving pretty quickly at Dr Jekyll. The cafe seats about 20, the courtyard 35 and the expansion will add 30 seats. There are also plans to open as a tapas bar three or four nights a week. As a former sommelier and self-confessed "restaurant tart" who has worked at the Stokehouse, Toofey's and Guernica, Merrington would like to put his knowledge to good use.

And they will eventually put up a sign but "if we do a great, honest product and treat people the way we would expect to be treated ourselves, then word of mouth will prevail", Merrington says.

Found a hot coffee spot? Email epicure@theage.com.au

SOURCE: Epicure