328 Swanston Street
BYO: not that kind of place, but it is licensed
Doggie bags: again, not that kind of place. Also, no food allowed in the State Library!
Libraries. Normally a hushed place, hallowed halls of learning, little green lamps and the sound of pens scratching (although these days, the clicking of laptop keyboards). Well, that’s not the case at the State Library’s attached cafe, Mr Tulk, named after the first librarian, Augustus Tulk. What a Dickensian name!
The opposite of shush, the place is pumping one Thursday when myself and the fabulous Danielle (of Monschable Melbourne) decide to wander up for a work lunch. I had heard of the place before because my housemate raves about the avocado toast here. “It’s the way they smash it, but not mash it, and there’s heaps of it…” It was very very busy but the waitress did her best to keep everyone happy. We were seated on the communal table, but when a two seat table opened up they offered it to us. Marks for good service!
I didn’t get the avocado toast. In fact, I didn’t even see it on the menu. I was distracted by another brunch item: baked eggs with spinach and pancetta, sourdough on the side ($14). Danielle went for a more lunch-y dish, a panini with pumpkin, ricotta and caramelised onion from memory (around $9).
My eggs were scrumptious. I was a little worried that the flavour of spinach would be too dominant – I like it, but when the dish came out the concern was that I would green out. This was not the case. The spinach was beautifully seasoned and pureed and the eggs were nicely cooked with a runny yolk sending rays of golden sunshine through the murky green.
The pancetta was almost irrelevant – I found it hard to eat with a fork (ended up scooping the strips into my mouth all at once) and they could well take it out and make it a nice vegetarian dish. Perhaps it flavours the spinach, but amping up the seasoning a little would solve that. And I would have liked another piece of crunchy toasted bread – to mop up all of that runny eggs and spinach, plus I’m a carb lover.
Danielle’s panini was good. I really don’t think you can go wrong with the combo of pumpkin, ricotta and, well, bread. I had a little bite and enjoyed the cumin taste of the spiced pumpkin. Was it a little overpriced at $9 when you can get sandwichy-type things for less? Yes and no – it was a good rendition. Perhaps the addition of a token side salad would raise the perceived value of the meal?
Customer reviews on Urbanspoon are a little unhappy with the service at Mr Tulk, but I couldn’t fault it. Eat Play Shop couldn’t fault it either, having a great experience with kids there. It appears the corned beef hash is one of the dishes to order: Table to tummy loved it, and the spinach eggs which I’m interested to see on their visit came with bacon instead of pancetta; and Food Rehab liked the paninis as well.
I’ll have to come back and give that corned beef hash a whirl, it looks spectacular (if light on the portion size, which I think might be a theme at the ol’ Tulk).