273 Hawthorn Road Caulfield North, Victoria 3161
|Opening hours||Mon-Thurs, 11am-8pm,Fri-Sat, 11am-9pm|
|Features||Cheap Eats, Family friendly|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||0431 406 580|
I can't work out if Clinton and Karina Serex are humble or naive. ''Surprised'', ''overwhelmed'', ''amazed'' - these are the words they use to describe the runaway success of their two-month-old, 11-seater burger joint Tuck Shop Take Away.
She's a pastry chef who trained under Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck in London. He's helped keep Attica's front-of-house humming for the past two years and, before that, was at Vue de Monde.
Burgers in this town are hotter than a ticket to Springsteen, yet Clinton insists ''we had all intentions of being the little local takeaway''. Humble? Naive? In what universe?
Tuck Shop Take Away has gone ballistic. Clinton estimates they're hand-cutting 450 kilograms of spuds each week for ''the cuts'' (chips) and flipping at least 1200 burgers.
Part of Tuck Shop's appeal is its nostalgic makeover - an old bubbler as the water dispenser, a chalked hopscotch grid as the welcome mat, and a Peter's ice-cream cone light. (Clearly they missed the memo from Miss Chu, who recently blasted George Calombaris on social media for supposedly plagiarising the ''tuckshop concept''.)
The menu is simple - burgers, jaffles, cuts, milkshakes, sodas and sweets - yet each item is made with elaborate cheffy technique.
The triple-cooked skin-on chips are magnificent - crunchy, fluffy, and crispy in all the right places - cut from desiree potatoes.
Noisette supplies the buns, linseed-dotted milk brioche, not as sweet as standard brioche, which are grilled with clarified butter. Inside is iceberg lettuce, tomato, blanched onion, tart dill pickles, American cheddar, and ''Tuck Shop sauce'', a home-made tomato sauce-mayo-sweet mustard combo. ''The Major'' also comes with a free-range egg and Otway bacon.
Breaking news: they haven't used wagyu for the patty. What?! A new-school burger shop and no wagyu? ''I find it too fatty,'' Clinton says. Instead they've opted for three cuts of beef, ground daily. The patty in the Major burger was a bit drier than I like, and a bit crusty in patches. I do love the juiciness of wagyu.
The standout ''veggie-wedgie'' is given respect and is no ''poncy grilled mushroom with aioli and rocket'', Clinton says. It's a yummy, squashy combo of raw beetroot, brown rice and lentils, with the same trimmings as the beef burgers. Top-notch.
Organic milkshakes, made with house syrups, arrive in mini-milk bottles with stripey paper straws. Some flavours, such as the Nutella and salted caramel, lack the aeration of traditional shakes and are more like flavoured milk. The peanut butter and Redskin versions have more froth. House-made sodas are fresh, too, the ginger beer with real chunks of ginger.
Sweets - Karina's forte - stay on-theme with Redskin brownies, dense chocolatey numbers with a rich strawberry-flavoured centre of Redskin ganache, or salty-sweet cookies, made with Swiss white chocolate and crunched up Kettle chips. Cinnamon doughnuts are made to a recipe from the French Laundry, the famous Californian restaurant run by Thomas Keller where she did a three-week stage. ''It's the real recipe,'' she says, the one from the kitchen ''that's different from the book''.
Tuck Shop is a schoolyard delight, a retro bonanza of old-school but with Gonski reforms. It's got my vote.
Do … try a soft serve - maybe choc and coconut-raspberry that swirl to form ''lamington''.
Don't … see a seat? Take away to Caulfield or Princes Parks.
Dishes … School meal.
Vibe … Old meets new-school