If you’ve been following my food journey for a while, you’ll know that I’ve got mad love for Florian, the North-side favorite, run by Dom Gattermayr and Rose Richards. So when I heard they were expanding to South Melbourne which is so close to home—you can bet your bottom dollar I’d be there to suss them out! So, on a Monday morning after a fun Aerial class, my friend Rayne and I set our sights on Juniper to feed our post-workout hunger.
From Giddyup to Juniper
Before we dive into the story, it’s worth mentioning that this spot holds a nostalgic piece of history for me and my partner. It was once home to GiddyUp, a joint my partner used to get his coffee from before the pandemic hit. Funnily enough, I was almost hired to work as a barista at GiddyUp around the same time; just imagine if I had met my now-partner there—our lives could have taken a completely different turn!
Alas, GiddyUp closed its doors amid the COVID chaos, and the spot stood vacant for a while. But here we are, years later, the heart of South Melbourne is finally beating once again, and I’m so excited to check out what Juniper has to offer.
Located just a stone’s throw from the buzzing South Melbourne Market, Juniper has definitely brought a fresh pulse to the area and added to the broad mix of eateries and shops that make this inner suburb so special.
Compared to Florian‘s curated French aesthetic, Juniper leans more toward a market-canteen style. Gattermayr promises the same all-day breakfast offerings but in a more laid-back setting. It’s a bit like running into an old friend and finding out they have a sibling you had no idea about but are just as keen to get to know. The resemblance is strong, especially in the quality of service and the coffee, but I found Juniper has a charm of its own.
When it comes to getting here, honestly, it’s very easy, you’ve got zero excuses. For those of you in the CBD, you could easily hop on the number 12 tram from Collins St and get off at York St/Clarendon St, which is just a three-minute stroll from there. If you’re more of a bus person, number 236 will pretty much drop you right at Juniper’s doorstep. Look out for the bright red signage beside Vincent Design Supply, and you’re there!
Vibe & Size
The first thing that hit Rayne & I straight away when we stepped in, was the full-on, lively vibe of the place. I’m talking about clinking cutlery, baristas at their coffee machines, animated chatters, all filling the air inside Juniper’s relatively small space. It’s immaculate, and I absolutely love it!
If you’re into snug spots, you’re going to feel right at home here. The seating is tight—so close you’re almost rubbing elbows with your neighbors, but not in a weird way. Indoors, they’ve got seating for maybe 15-17 people. Good ol’ Rayne snatched a couple of seats in front of the bar while I was busy with my camera; the seats were next to the entrance, facing the window, giving us a perfect spot to people-watch.
Now if you come with a furry friend or need more room—maybe you’re a party of four or got a stroller in tow—try their outdoor seating. They’ve got around the same amount of tables and chairs as inside but with way more space. And trust me, it’s prime real estate on a sunny day, especially now that we’re already in Spring! 🌼
I’ve got to hand it to them—the menu is chock-full of breakfast delight, catering a little something for everyone. Whether you’re craving a classic croissant, feeling fancy with some cured trout, or leaning toward a fresh deli sandwich, soup, or salad, they’ve got you covered. I had seen their Mushroom Congee all over social media, and couldn’t resist ordering that. On the other hand, Rayne opted for the Steel Cut Oat Porridge.
As for the prices, they’re fairly reasonable, ranging from $9 to $30. So, no matter your budget, there’s an option for you.
For our drink of choice, I went with a batch brew coffee while Rayne stuck to her go-to 3/4 cappuccino. The beans are sourced from AllPress, a New Zealand roastery I’ve worked with before—and the same one that supplies Florian. The brews hit just the right spot for us and arrived quicker than you could say, ‘Melbourne coffee culture.’
Let’s talk about the Mushroom Congee first, shall we? The dish came beautifully presented—a bowl of congee with two 1/4 soft-boiled eggs cozied up next to pickled mushrooms, heavily sprinkled with their homemade Furikake and a great dash of the chili oil, topped with the contrasting color of the greens.
Now, if you’re thinking this is your grandma’s congee, think again. Juniper’s version is an interesting fusion of elements. The first spoonful felt like an exploration: the congee itself was lighter in flavor than I had expected, but the pickled mushrooms delivered a tangy kick that’ll jolt your tongue awake. As someone who grew up with the rich, hearty congees of Indonesian and Chinese kitchens, this one did not win me over.
But I gotta say, this is a dish that’s still worth the try, especially if you’re intrigued by a French twist on this Asian staple. I’d love to see them go a bit bolder on the flavoring of the furikake and the chili oil, maybe ease up on the pickling too. But I’m curious as to what others say about this dish, please comment if you have tried it!
As for Rayne, she settled on the Steel Cut Oat Porridge. Classic, right? And Juniper’s take on this morning staple was pretty on point. The dish featured grilled persimmon, brown butter crumb, maple syrup, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Sweet? Very, thanks to the naturally sweet persimmon and the added maple syrup on top. The two combinations were honestly a bit too sweet for my liking, but the plain oat and the brown butter crumb helped to balance the flavors.
Overall, it was pretty solid, yet we both felt it lacked a hero ingredient to tie everything together and elevate the dish to ‘wow’ status. If it were up to me, I would grill/blow torch the persimmon to the point of it getting caramelized, and I would either toast or salt candy the pecan crumb to add more crunch to the porridge. But that’s just my two cents.
Service in Juniper is quick and pretty straightforward. I actually recognized one of the waiters—a subscriber of mine whom I had bumped into a few times when she was still working at Sweet Canteen. I love seeing a familiar face, and she’s still as friendly as ever, although I still haven’t caught her name. I’ve gotta work on that. With her on the team definitely made the service exceptionally welcoming, even though the place was jam-packed.
Juniper’s arrival in South Melbourne is more than just a new beginning for this particular spot, it symbolizes the resilience of the area as a whole. While the menu looked incredible on paper and had me drooling in photos, the taste sadly didn’t quite hit the mark—for me at least. But hey, that might just be my Indonesian palate talking.
Still, whether you’re in the area for work or leisure, Juniper is worth a visit for its vibe and coffee alone. I definitely will come back to try their salads or sandwiches next. This part of our beloved Melbourne is clearly back in business, and I couldn’t be happier to witness its revival. Until then, thank you for reading, keep exploring and eating, my loves!
- Everyday : 08:00 AM – 03:00 PM
- Type : Breakfast & Brunch Cafe
- Price : $$
- Coffee : Yes
- Alcohol : No
- Dessert : Yes (Pastry)
- Indoor Capacity : +-16
- Outdoor Capacity : +-16
- RSVP : Walk-in Only
- Waiting Time : 5 minutes
- Toilet : Yes
- Wifi : No