De Clieu first opened in 2010, with Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor (Seven Seeds, Brother Baba Budan) at the helm. At the time the pair were credited with raising the bar for what a great cafe could be. In the years that followed though, it’s had a succession of owners – and that bar hasn’t seen the same elevation since.
Now, with the help of design studios Flack and Pop & Pac, new owner Andrew Skoullos has completely gutted, renovated and rebranded the space. He’s named it Gabriel in a nod to its previous life (French lieutenant Gabriel De Clieu is credited with introducing coffee to French colonies in South America).
“The vibe and aesthetic are very European,” Skoullos says. “We wanted it to feel like you’re sitting in an espresso bar in the ’50s – with a bit of a modern edge.”
Terrazzo flooring, emerald green wall tiles and large sash windows lend a vintage feel, while a large mixed-media piece by Melbourne-based artist Patrick Dagg brings us squarely into the here and now.
Oversized glass pendant lights redolent of the 1930s are from an old boarding school in Tasmania. Skoullos says they’re irreplaceable. “If something happens to one of them, I’m in a lot of trouble,” he says.
Head chef Kate Pratt, most recently of Thornbury cafe Short Round, has designed a simple but elegant all-day breakfast and lunch menu.
Potato galette is served with cured trout, asparagus, goat’s curd, earthy beetroot and curling pea tendrils. A lightly spiced gingerbread is made using teff (an ancient grain from Ethiopia), served with orange crème anglaise, poached rhubarb, little balls of strawberry sorbet and a scattering of ground pistachios. Lighter is the roasted seed and nut granola; more substantial, the oxtail ragout.
Coffee is by Inglewood Coffee Roasters. Beyond espresso there’s batch brew, French press and cold brew. If coffee’s not your thing, there’s a selection of tea, Mörk hot chocolate, and a seasonal house-made soda.
Daytime cocktails aren’t shied away from here – they make up a solid third of the drinks list. There’s espresso spiked with whiskey and maple, and the French classic Kir Royale, where prosecco and crème de cassis are willing allies. There’s a tight list of Victorian wine, beer and cider on offer, too.
Mon to Fri 7am–-4pm
Sat & Sun 7.30am to 5pm