328 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 8660 5700
I’m finally taking a break from writing about places in Queensland and turning my focus towards Melbourne. Just as well, seeing as I’ll be flying up there again in a few days *big sigh – one of elation or exasperation, you decide*
I took a day off work last week because I had a bunch of errands to run, appointments to attend to and a lunch date. It was a pretty busy day, and I half-wished that I had gone to work instead. Okay, that bit was a lie. But anyway, it was a draining day and in order to get through it, I had to grab a nice coffee in the morning – a rare occurrence these days but somewhat of a necessity when you’re running on very little sleep (thanks, Revenge, you kept me up with your engrossing plotlines and cute guys from the Hamptons).
Mr Tulk is an oldie but a goodie, a place where I’d sometimes grab a delicious latte to take away en route an exam at the Royal Exhibition Building. Funnily enough though, I’ve never actually sat down to have breakfast there. This is somewhat strange for someone who loves libraries (the café is attached to the State Library of Victoria and named after its first librarian, Augustus Tulk – what a boss name!) and who spends most of her waking hours in the city.
When I walked into Mr Tulk that morning, I was greeted by a massive and unorderly crowd of office-workers wanting to get their java fix before work. There was a lady standing off to the side and because she was dressed in black and wore a State Library of Victoria lanyard, I assumed that she was working there. So I’m like, “Hi there, can I please get a table for tone?” She then flashed me this brilliant smile and said, “Absolutely! … but I don’t work here.” Oops. Fail, Libby, fail. I quickly backed away from her and went up to the now-free counter, asking for a table. All I had to do was walk to the right and plop my arse down on any of the spare seats – either on a table by the window, or on the communal table in the middle of the room – and someone will come and assist me. Ugh, clearly I am not a morning person.
Fortunately, my waiter was. He appeared by my side as soon as I sat down, and asked me if I wanted a coffee just as he handed me a menu. Soon enough, a regular-sized latte ($3.50) appeared in front of me before I had even opened the newspaper to page 2. Mr Tulk always do great coffees and this one was no different from the other times I’ve had it. Smooth, creamy and robust, it was the perfect wake-up call for me.
Going by several friends’ recommendation, I ordered the corned beef hash with poached eggs and Dijon mustard ($15). I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with the size of the hash, especially since I enjoyed an enormous one a few weeks ago at The Duck’s Nuts in Gold Coast. That said, the dish was extremely filling thanks to the potatoes. I loved that the hash was crumbed and fried until golden and the inside so soft; such wonderful contrasts in texture.
Despite the lovely crumbed coating, I have to say that Duckies’ corned beef hash tasted just a little bit better. The filling at Duckies was more tasty, and the corned beef actually tasted like corned beef and not smoked ham (yeah, WTF). I also felt that whoever made my dish went overboard with the pepper shaker – ick! On the other hand, I liked the addition of the Dijon Mustard – it cut through the creamy potato perfectly and I couldn’t really fault the poached eggs.
Okay, so maybe my expectations were a bit too high when it came to the corned beef hash (or maybe my friends are just philistines – kidding) but I do like the café itself. The service was ridiculously efficient, despite it being extremely busy and the coffee is always great. Also, you’d think that the big crowd would create an atmosphere that was boisterous but I could not fault the noise level at all. Sure, there was still a lively buzz but I was still able to read my newspaper in relative peace. Definitely a top spot for an early morning coffee date, or even a weekday lunch if the enticing sandwiches and baguettes on display taste as good as they look.