Tuck Shop Café, Northbridge
It’s astounding what a couple of years can do. The Northbridge territory often draws shudders of fear from Perth-ians and rightly so. It’s a suburb notoriously known for its wild nightclub scene, its random acts of violence, gang assaults and heavy police crackdowns. During the day however, Northbridge is a relatively calmer and safer scene. In the last couple of years, it’s gone up in terms of popularity, eatery wise. A few of my local favourites are placed in the new cultural hubbub of Perth, one of which is Tuck Shop Café.
The very first time I went to Tuck Shop Café, I remember being remarkably impressed. The pork belly was a standout, complete with my two favourites: potatoes and chorizo. It certainly went down a treat and to this day, has set the benchmark for clever, nourishing food at affordable prices. On top of that, the service is always gracious and the dishes look a treat!
My friend from Melbourne was in town for a couple of days, and so we decided to catch up on a balmy Winter’s day. Both of us were ultimate foodies – when I had visited Melbourne earlier on in the year, she had been happy to recommend a list of her favourite cafes and restaurants, which I was eternally grateful for. We had quite a bit to talk about, so we chose Tuck Shop as a reliable destination.
I had gleaned on Urbanspoon that Tuck Shop could take reservations, so I called up the day before to make a booking. The lady on the other end said that they were only currently taking bookings for 6 to 8 people (damn), so she suggested that I call up tomorrow, 30 minutes before I was due to arrive, so that my name would be put on a waiting list. They were anticipating the Saturday morning breakfast rush, which was pretty smart. I followed her instructions to the tee, and met my friend there at 9am on the dot. The lady at the front confirmed that I was indeed on the list and we proceeded to wait. The place looked packed.
The lady came out at random intervals to let us know how far we were away from being seated. Luckily, my friend isn’t the complaining type, so as the minutes ticked by, we preoccupied ourselves by chatting about our lives. By the time we were ushered in, we had been outside for about 30 minutes. I also bumped into another friend who was in the area grabbing a coffee. She had been waiting for her take away flat white for about 20 minutes (inching towards the half and hour mark), which gave us an initial indicator of how long we would be around for, pre-food. The curses of popular places…
When we were finally seated (up towards the front, me on a cushy black booth, my friend delegated to a chair), we were given menus and tap water. To my delight, the menu had changed very little from my last visit, a year previously. All my favourites were still there! I settled for an apple, lemon and ginger juice ($7.50). It was pretty expensive for a drink, but as it was a freshly squeezed juice, infused with one of my favourite herbal remedies (go ginger!) I wasn’t too fussed. The juice itself was rather stimulating. It had taken about 10 minutes or so to come out, but it hadn’t taken as long as my friend’s latte, which took a good 20-25 minutes to arrive at our table. The poor barista must have been busting his chops that day.
The regular sized latte ($3.90) had a beautiful consistency of froth, but there were some obvious flaws with the coffee. A glance at the drink told me almost everything I needed to know – the glass housed a latte that was tinged with a brown-greyness, dull in comparison to a typical coffee, which is often identifiable by the golden caramel glow of a rich crema. Another sip from my friend and I informed us that the coffee shot was well over extracted – burnt, bitter with a slight ashy aftertaste. It was not good, and my friend felt very bad as she left it on the bench, almost untouched.
The food fared a lot better that my friend’s latte. Nothing spoke to me more that day that a heady, hot pot of smoked cod, potato and leek bake ($19.50) which came in a burning hot china pot (potential burning accidents pre-emptively avoided by the waitress, who had warned me about how hot it was). Big, flaky portions of pink and white fish had simmered in a rich, creamy sauce, along with portions of potato and specks of leek. The fish had been cooked immaculately, gleaming fragments of fish falling apart at a single touch. My poached egg was magnificent in its element, gooey yolk and all. The large slab of toastie to the side was a bit too crusty and dry for me – I like my toast only lightly grilled, so it still retains the sponginess of the bread. Despite this, it was an ingenious idea to pair a toastie with the smoked cod bake and I had no qualms in devouring it.
My friend’s Chilli Con Carne ($19.50) was a Spanish affair, a medley of tomato, beans, vegetables and beef. The dish was mildly spicy, setting the taste buds off in drooling mode with its aromatic presence – you could smell the spices mingling in the air, as it was placed down complete with the tomato, avocado and lime salsa. The poached egg was a polished, white island in the middle of the lava-like chilli con carne, the remnants that were, of course, swept up by the two pieces of sourdough toast.
Our food had arrived about 30 minutes after our drinks had been delivered, which meant that our total waiting time that morning had equated to about an hour, from arriving to embarking on our food. It was clear that Tuck Shop was struggling with its heavy influx of customers – even the wait at the till was about 5 minutes after we got up to leave. The lady who served us was polite and very nice, but having to wait 20-30 minutes for a coffee isn’t a particularly ideal situation.
Despite this, the food at Tuck Shop speaks volumes – for less than $20, you are getting substantial food, sure to please anyone with its colourful, homey presentation. As much as I would love to give this place top marks, I think it was just an off day for one of my favourite joints – the five times I have visited previously, Tuck Shop Café possessed pitch perfect service, coffee and food. It’s a step up from its seemingly humble name, a place that serves so much more than jelly cups and cheesies.
Tuck Shop is a must try for those who want an enjoyable brunch experience, though I would strongly advise going on a weekday – hopefully, the pacing of food is delivered more promptly than the day I went and the coffee is a little more spot on. Their breakfast is always something special – no plain eggs and toast here at Tuck Shop – instead you get a range of different items across a range of international cuisines.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
Address: 178 Newcastle St, Northbridge WA 6000
- Open for breakfast and lunch every day of the week (7am to 4pm daily).
- Serves take away coffee, utlising Toby’s Estate beans!
- Daily specials are available on the blackboard menu.
- Takes reservations for parties of 6+ people (contact via phone: 9227 1659).