The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

University Café

257 Lygon Street
Carlton VIC 3053
+61 3 9347 2142

I don’t usually go out of my way to eat Italian food on Lygon Street. Who pay to eat pasta from the packet doused in a sauce that’s either too bland or too salty to hide the smell and taste of meat that’s about to go off? But that’s what Sam and I ended up doing last night before we headed up the road to Cinema Nova to watch Polisse (I highly recommend this fantastic movie if you’re into The Wire or cute French-Martinique guys in general – just be prepared for some WTF scenes). Our original plan was to have dinner at Middle Fish but we weren’t prepared for the possibility that it would have been closed by the time we rocked up. Fail. And so after doing a lap around Lygon Street, we ended up going what seemed like an inoffensive Anglo-Italian café a block away from the cinema.

The place I’m talking about is called University Café, which sounds just as Italian as Willie Carne, though given its proximity to Melbourne University, its name is pretty apt. The café has been around since the 1950s and was apparently the site of Melbourne’s first imported Gaggia three-handle espresso machine. Since then, it has been a popular hang-out joint for Italian migrants, idiot muzzas and university students alike.

Like many Lygon Street restaurants, however, University Café’s food quality has since gone to shite. I may or may not have eaten there while I was an undergrad at Melbourne Uni as the restaurants on this strip are pretty homogenous. However, I DO know that the food we had last night was pretty bad. That said, I couldn’t really find fault in the service. The girl who served us was not only appropriately friendly and polite, she also managed to get us out of there within the half hour so that we could make the movie in time (we could have had a longer dinner if we had not walked past the Gewurzhaus spice store beforehand *cue Libby going slightly crazy over rubs, spices and teas*).

We were given a basket of cold bread and probably more than enough Western Star butter pats. It wouldn’t have been at all fair to bitch about the bread here (which, to be fair, wasn’t horrible), so we just appreciated the fact that we actually got some.

Sam ordered a main-sized spaghetti alla universita ($20.50). The generously-sized dish came in the form of cooked packet spaghetti drizzled with way too much olive oil and not enough garlic and chilli. There was a decent amount of mushrooms on top so you’d think that they would, at least, make the dish taste earthy but all Sam got was ‘bland.’ Not even the heaping of parmesan cheese on top could make it remotely exciting.

I wasn’t sure I fared any better with my entrée-sized penne telefono ($17). The tomato-based ragu was more tomato sauce with only little flecks of nasty processed sausages scattered here and there. I found the sauce to be pretty salty, so I regretted my decision to say ‘yes’ to parmesan cheese. That said, I did like that the portion was pretty good for an entrée-sized dish so you’re unlikely to remain hungry if you don’t have a particularly massive appetite like I do.

While the service was friendly and speedy, we both thought that the pasta should suffer the same fate as some of the scumbag characters in Polisse. Generous portions aside, they were very two-dimension and boring. We’re not frequent cooks at home but hell, I’m pretty sure we can both whip up better pasta dishes at home. That said, University Café was reasonably busy for a Wednesday night and I can’t see it struggling like a Judd-less Carlton team any time soon.

University Cafe on Urbanspoon

13 Comments on University Café

  1. threehands78
    July 20, 2012 at 00:24 (4 years ago)

    Moneys would have been spent better elsewhere. MIFF is soon approaching. Yeeeeyyy!!
    Thats all. O/

    • libishski
      July 24, 2012 at 16:15 (4 years ago)

      I agree. What movies will you be seeing this year?

  2. Choc Chip Uru
    July 20, 2012 at 07:20 (4 years ago)

    Not too good, not too bad but uni students deserve the best with how much they have to work!

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. theragingcook
    July 20, 2012 at 08:01 (4 years ago)

    Stop calling stop calling me anymore!!!! lol pretty bad?? I’ve… never eaten at Lyon/Carlton aside from Brunetti’s @_@

  4. Ames
    July 20, 2012 at 08:45 (4 years ago)

    Yeah, funny enough I like the Asian food on Lygon st now lol cheaper and more variety 😀

    • libishski
      July 21, 2012 at 14:57 (4 years ago)

      Haha I know, right? 😐

  5. Sophie Wang (@aecliss)
    July 20, 2012 at 09:47 (4 years ago)

    I went to this place in my first year of uni all those years ago, and haven’t been back since. I should probably head back to Carlton sometime, I forget that there are actually good restaurants if you search a bit 😛

  6. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
    July 20, 2012 at 11:26 (4 years ago)

    Its a shame really how the Italian restraurants aren’t that great on Lygon st but I do like the new ice-cream place hehe ~ doesn’t matter i’m sure you’ll find better places to have dinner 😀

    • libishski
      July 21, 2012 at 14:56 (4 years ago)

      Oh yeah, the restaurants aren’t so good but the gelati places are great. My fave is Il Dolce Freddo :)

  7. Hannah
    July 20, 2012 at 14:30 (4 years ago)

    That looks suspiciously like chemically pre-grated parmesan. Ooogy.

    • libishski
      July 21, 2012 at 14:47 (4 years ago)

      It was. Totes ooogy.

  8. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 20, 2012 at 20:46 (4 years ago)

    Oh what a shame! You definitely want better than what you could make at home at a restaurant or cafe :)

  9. Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake
    July 21, 2012 at 16:40 (4 years ago)

    I used to eat there all the time…still do sometimes…I suppose the pastas are a bit boring though…shame you didn’t like it!


Leave a reply