24 January 2024

Five minutes with Jonathan Murphy from Squeaky Clean

| Claire Sams
man cracking open a beer

Squeaky Clean owner Jonathan Murphy says his venue is a space for people who are ‘a bit alternative’. Photo: Squeaky Clean.

Who are you?

I’m Jonathan Murphy and I own Squeaky Clean.

Why did you open your venue?

When I got here [to Canberra], I was looking for a place that was a bit alternative. They’re a dime-a-dozen in Sydney and Melbourne, but there was a gap in the market in Canberra.

What does your day-to-day look like?

I get up and take my partner to work, then run between different suppliers and get the bar up for service. I’ve been working to close most of the time and then getting home for a couple of hours of sleep before doing it all again.

While we’re getting the wheels turning, we’ve got our noses to the grindstone.

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How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

I was in my early 20s looking for a job when a friend I’d met in Canada who ran bars in Sydney told me to jump onto the Melbourne Bartender Exchange Facebook group and answer the first post looking for somebody to clean glasses.

I got a job through that and after a couple of months, they put me behind the bar and said, “Have a go”. It wasn’t that I knew how to make drinks or anything, but they just thought I could talk to anyone. I worked in Melbourne for over 10 years before moving to Canberra.

The interior of the bar

Located up a flight of stairs near the Civic Interchange, this is one bar you’ll want to tell your friends about. Photo: Squeaky Clean/Facebook.

What are the menu items that really show what your venue can do?

Our grass-fed beef cheeseburger is something that I’m particularly proud of. We spent a lot of time making many, many, many 2 per cent improvements at a time.

As far as the drinks go, we want to make yummy juice that people want to keep drinking. We don’t want to make things too complicated. It doesn’t have to be crazy ingredients that no one’s ever heard of – it just has to be good. The thing that I would say is quintessentially Squeaky Clean would be the peach iced tea cocktail.

What are Canberra’s best-kept food secrets?

I’ve been here now for four years. I just found out about Spice Affair in Casey – it’s an Indian restaurant, and it’s so good. Otherwise, Ramen Daddy is celebrated as a local hidden gem and the Vietnamese restaurant in Dickson called Pho Phu Quoc.

There was a cafe in Dickson called Moo and Chick Cafe. They were world-class in their hospitality. They recently changed ownership and have a new name, Nicky’s. I just haven’t had a chance to go since.

What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

When my partner and I get a couple of hours together, we both generally gravitate towards psychological thrillers.

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What is your comfort food?

I like to eat everything. I’m a very curious eater – if I see something on a menu and I haven’t had it before, I’ll order it. Most of the time, it’s great, and sometimes it’s not – but that’s the risk you’ve got to take.

But if I’m very tired, I’ll get packet ramen, boil an egg, then add powdered pork broth from an Asian grocer, freeze-friend bonito flakes and a bunch of different stuff.

Otherwise, I like Christmas lunch. There’s a bit of nostalgia there, and it’s comforting. I grew up on the Sunny Coast in Queensland, so we ate cold cuts, fresh seafood and potato salad.

Hands reaching for food and drinks, photographed from above

The cheeseburger went through a few versions before one was crowned champion – and Jonathan is proud of the result. Photo: Squeaky Clean/Facebook.

Where do you dine out for special occasions?

Bar Rochford is the crème de la crème, and that’s where I send my Melbourne hospo people when they come to visit. It was a couple of years ago, but I went to Rubicon in Griffith for my birthday, which was great.

Who do you admire in the Canberra food scene?

Nick from Axis Roasters and the boys behind Mountain Yeti are both small local producers, but they’re putting out great produce.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

An oat milk latte with honey, but sometimes without honey.

Squeaky Clean is located at level 1, 45 Verity Lane, Civic. It’s open Tuesday to Thursday from 4 pm to 2 am, and Friday and Saturday from 2 pm to 2 am. The kitchen closes at 10 pm every night.

Original Article published by Claire Sams on Riotact.

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