squirrel /ˈskwər(ə)l/
Noun: An agile tree-dwelling rodent (Sciurus and other genera, family Sciuridae) with a bushy tail, typically feeding on nuts and seeds.
Verb: Hide money or something of value in a safe place: “the money was squirreled away in foreign bank accounts”.

Squirrel Cafe makes the most of its name by taking both those meanings at once.

It is squirrelled away in a quiet side street in residential Clifton Hill, the site of a former milk bar and corner shop (the sign for milk has been retained for nostalgia’s sake). Inside it’s been revamped to become a homely, comfortable little nook of a cafe and in the two rooms the squirrel artefacts abound everywhere.

The owners must have had a lot of fun scouring vintage and antique shops for all their squirrel-alia!

It opens on 7am on weekdays and while it is quiet it is the perfect place to draw up a chair, sip a hot drink and browse the day’s papers. From about 7:30am the first customers come loping in for their morning coffee and by 8am there’s already quite a crowd waiting for their takeaway lattes.

As befits a place that caters for the breakfast crowd, the breakfast menu is pretty extensive. Two pages list sweet and savoury options, including a whole 3/4 page dedicated to eggs, eggs and eggs. A little befuddled by the number of egg choices I went for the easy (sweet) option – hotcakes with marscapone and berries ($12).

Basically these were pikelets but that’s not to say that they weren’t good. The plate contained four fluffy rounds topped with luxurious marscapone muddled with berries and syrup – a very sweet treat. So sweet in fact that I felt the need to chase it down with something savoury such as the breakfast roll ($4). This was actually the perfect end to my topsy-turvy breakfast – a small Turkish roll with fried egg, tomato, cheese, avocado and fried bacon in the middle.

I get the feeling that Squirrel Cafe has a devoted cast of regulars – nearby residents who love it for its laidback ambience, retro-fabulousness, solid food and (judging by the lineup) good coffee. It’s near the bike path and there are tables outside for warmer weather so I’m sure I’ll be back.

Squirrel Cafe, 23 Groome St, Clifton Hill +61 3 9489 2077

Open Weekdays 7am-4pm; Weekends 8am-4pm