There’s a bit of magic in having a Local. That place where everybody knows your name. For a lot of people these days it’s probably a brunch spot round the corner that pumps out killer smashed av; but growing up as a kid in the 90s, it was a genuine, bona fide milk bar.
You don’t see them much in the wild anymore, the real milk bars that were run more like food-stuffed community centres, shelves better-stocked than a nuclear fallout bunker. Which is what makes Murray’s Food Store such a damn exciting concept. There’s been a milk bar here since 1910—pick n’ mix is practically in the place’s bones. You just can’t fake those sort of credentials. So when you push through the front door (with its grinning Pink Panther mascot) and see new owners Jeremy Gaschk and India Gauci behind the counter, pouring coffees, dancing to reggae music, and generally having a blast, there’s a definite feeling of Home.
“We wanted to honour the past with this place,” Jeremy says. “India grew up around the corner. This was her local milk bar. We’ve had people coming in saying how glad they are that someone’s keeping the shop alive.”
Like anything in Melbourne that’s vaguely retro, there’s a definite risk of hipster wankery in a venture like this. But India and Jeremy (of Easey’s fame) have managed to build something that feels legit. Let’s start with the fit-out: a fun mish-mash of hot pink highlights, hand-lettered street typography, old-school milk bar paraphernalia (that Jeremy found in the shop’s attic) and a few comfy booths, all equipped with power-points and WiFi. A huge mural by street artist Nychos covers one of the outside walls. “It’s meant to be a place you can just come and crash,” Jeremy says. “Do a bit of work. Eat a bagel. Read the paper. Somewhere people can just be themselves.”
The food is unpretentious too. There are big pick n’ mix jars on the walls and a few choice Cadbury Whispa bars in the counter cabinet, but Jeremy and India also offer a full bagel service. For a quick brekky snack, try the Bella (a cinnamon and raisin bagel with butter and red currant jam), but if you're after a proper Sunday feed, it’s gotta be the Francis (roast pork with cabbage slaw, chips and hot sauce).
Murray’s also bakes its own handmade muffins, sausage rolls and pies on-site. The snag-rolls are the size of bloody burritos, and the pies come in funky flavours like mac n’ cheese (surprisingly delicious) and cheeseburger (two beef patties, cheddar, pickles and sauce, all trapped in flaky golden pastry). And, like any proper milk bar, you can also swing by for pantry staples like eggs, milk, cheese and assorted fridge-fillers.
It’s no easy job to take a hundred-year-old business and reinvent it it for the 21st century, but Murray’s has kind of nailed it. This might just be the milk bar of the future, and our inner kid is pretty pumped.
Image credits: Griffin Simm