Small Axe Kitchen; bringing the flavours of Sicily to Brunswick

"A lot of people ask what our cuisine is and have no idea, and find it very confusing but that’s ok.”

If you wander down Victoria Street in Brunswick on the hunt for a much-needed coffee after an overwhelming trip to the Mediterranean Wholesalers or a clothing marathon at nearby Savers, you’ll come across a quietly unassuming café shopfront, squeezed in next to the gaudy signage of a shoe repair, it’s front window emblazed with a simple, gold font reading “Small Axe”.
If you’ve got an eye for detail and knowledge of politically charged reggae music, those words will be familiar to you.
“So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe,” sang Bob Marley.
And the ‘small axe’ they are, this family-focused and highly successful subtly-Italian kitchen that holds it’s own among the highly competitive Brunswick hospitality landscape.  Mostly, it seems, due to Kirstyn Tate, a Bob Marley fan and one of the three owners of the café. A self-described perfectionist, Tate’s attention to detail and positive attitude shines through in every aspect of the Sicilian-influenced eatery that she and her husband opened with a close friend only a year and half ago.
“We always vowed that we’d never open a café in Brunswick because it’s so saturated already, but this site came up and we thought if we don’t do it, someone else will.”
This is a woman who works hard and yet maintains the feeling that there’s nowhere she’d rather be than chatting to you in her beautifully designed café.
Tate’s husband, Adam Pruckner sure knows his stuff too. After 19 years in the chef world, including a stint helping to establish the highly reputable Code Black Coffee, a café and roastery on Weston Street. His creativity and desire to cook unusual café fare that is still grounded in his Sicilian roots, has culminated in a menu quite unlike anything else available on the streets of Brunswick.
“It’s really important to us that we’re not doing the same old things. When you go to different cafes there are lots of things that you can pretty much guarantee that you’re going to see on the menu, we’re trying to not do that,” says Tate.
Trying and succeeding it seems, unless you know somewhere else in the inner-north that serves breakfast pasta, brioche with granita, and spelt milk coffee.
“Italian food has been bastardised a lot in this country. People generally think pizza and pasta, but that’s only a small part of the culture. We didn’t want to be Italian-themed, we wanted to keep it broad. A lot of people ask what our cuisine is and have no idea, and find it very confusing but that’s ok.”
Tate agrees that their breakfast pasta is probably the most unusual Italian-influenced food item for which they are now well known. She calls it the Small Axe version of bacon and eggs on toast.
“We use macaroni, which was traditionally made by rolling the pasta along knitting needles. It has a really chewy texture because it’s thick and served al dente. We have a slow-cooked egg, cured pork jowl – so there’s your bacon – and you stir it through and it comes with some mint and some peas, and the yolk becomes part of the sauce. It’s really fresh and it’s yummy and different.”
The brioche and granita dish is a nostalgic choice for those who have recently travelled to Europe, as it’s considered normal breakfast fare on the other side of the world. Tate says she enjoys seeing people get excited to order something back home in Australia that they ate every day while on a European holiday.
The kitchen will be able to flex their creative muscles a little more from here on in, as Small Axe have announced that they’re now opening for dinners from Wednesday to Sunday, 6pm until late.
This seems like an awful lot of work for the already very hands-on business owners, but says Tate and Pruckner have found someone that they trust to take over dinner service.
The Italian chef from whom Pruckner first learnt to cook as an apprentice almost 20 years ago has joined the Small Axe kitchen. He brings a reassurance that the new dinner menu is in good hands and will continue with the day time’s subtle yet crucial, Italian authenticity.

Find Small Axe Kitchen at 281 Victoria St, Brunswick.