Nicky’s is the newest cafe in Dickson, taking over the Moo & Chick location (formerly Sfoglia). The cafe is the project of owners Nicky Kim and Max Owens, and while you might not be familiar with their names, you’ve almost certainly tasted their influence on the Canberra cafe scene.
Nicky and Max have been a hospitality super-duo for more than 10 years now. They helped to establish The Cupping Room, launched the refurbishment of The Front Cafe in Lyneham, and ran the daytime menu at Braddon’s Assembly. Chef Nicky runs the kitchen while Max works front of house.
“We’ve worked together for a long time, and we would always move together,” Nicky told Region.
“But we’ve always wanted to do something that was our own, where we could include our own characteristics.”
The opportunity to take on the cafe space came as something of a surprise: Nicky’s Mum was old friends with the owners of Moo & Chick (who also own the building), and when they decided to move on, they offered the space to Nicky.
And as for the name?
“We were thinking about a name for ages, and we went back and forth. I wanted to call it Hector’s because Troy is my favourite film, but there’s already a famous Hector’s Deli in Melbourne,” explained Nicky.
“So finally, I just said to Max, ‘You decide’. And then he came back and said we’re calling it Nicky’s!”
The menu at Nicky’s features brunch classics, all made with Chef Nicky’s characteristic attention to detail. He makes fresh focaccia to serve with their egg dishes, making the dough each afternoon and allowing it to slow-prove overnight before baking fresh in the morning.
The avocado dish is also served with Nicky’s focaccia. I’ve eaten a lot of smashed avos in my time but this one is pretty special. The avocado is served in chunky pieces and scattered with fresh herbs, with additional labneh and a generous lemon wedge on the side. Nicky also recommended pairing it with a side of the in-house smoked salmon.
“I really like smoked salmon, but the commercial ones are too salty for my taste, and it doesn’t taste fresh, so we smoke our own salmon. We cure it for 24 hours and then smoke it.”
Nicky also makes fruit syrups for the sodas. The strawberry soda is made with fresh berries, and Nicky puts the leftover fruit to good use in the house-made strawberry jam. He explained it’s part of their effort to be sustainable and reduce waste in their business.
Anyone who has been following Nicky and Max’s trajectory through Canberra’s hospitality scene might have picked up a few favourite signature dishes along the way. A few of those classic favourites have also made it onto the menu at Nicky’s.
“My mate Scotty had been whinging about the chicken burger I used to make at The Front, saying ‘you’ve got to make it again’, so I put it on the menu and called it Scotty’s Chicken Burger!”
The cake cabinet is full of homemade banana bread, and on weekends, Nicky makes muffin tops: he never liked eating the bottom half, so now he has his own business he can bake the crispy tops!
Redbrick coffee and friendly service round out the experience, whether you sit inside next to the tinned-fish prints on the wall or outside in the courtyard.
It’s fabulous to see Nicky and Max making a name for themselves in their own business after so many years of working for other people.
Nicky’s is located at 28 Challis St, Dickson. They are open from 7 am to 2 pm on weekdays, and from 8 am to 2 pm on weekends. Follow Nicky’s on Instagram.