The most fabulous and marvelous Jen texted me the other week inviting me to join her for brunch at a little cafe in her neighbourhood. “Service can be weird,” said the message, “but food is mostly good!” Colour me intrigued!
Lawson Grove Shop is located on the ground level of a gorgeous art deco apartment block, and so hidden away that you wouldn’t know it’s there unless you were a local… or lucky enough to have a local show it to you! The space is quite amazing – it’s a big basement room full of wood floors and paneling, quite rustic in a way, and true to it’s name, it provides shelves and fridges full of foodie products in a more gourmet update of the local shop.
The service was, well, Jen’s word for it was ‘weird’ but I would go with ‘disinterested’. No one greets you or comes to bring you menus, you have to get everything yourself, and when you do interact with staff they seem to wish for nothing more than for you to not be there. The glum-looking girl behind the counter who we gave our order to seemed to stare right through us, and since my visit I have heard tales of outright hostility from staff towards customers, which worries me. The space is so gorgeous it really deserves a staff of people who are excited by it, and are not making customers uneasy.
As for food, we both went with the poached eggs on sourdough with grilled tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms and relish, although Jen stuck with the original inclusion of bacon while I subbed it for spinach.
What was fab: the poached eggs were perfectly runny and hot, and no trace of the hated vinegar. The spinach was brill as well, only just wilted so it was still bright green and springy, with a light dusting of pepper and salt.
What was meh: all the other components didn’t leave much of an impression. The mushrooms were okay, I ate one half of the tomato but left the other as it had a big black blemish on the outside, and the avocado was as good as they’re going to be out of season.
We also shared a wee orange cupcake with passionfruit icing. Jen, who had quite an impassioned rant about the lack of taste in most cupcakes these days (we both agree the problem lies mainly with the icing – too much of it and too little flavour) was a little disappointed and decreed it not to be of the highest echelon of Lawson Grove’s baking skills. As for myself, not being the expert, I was pretty damn pleased with it – despite the very base being a tad overcooked, the cake itself was bursting with the taste of orange, being very reminiscent of flourless orange and almond cake (though I’m pretty sure this was a wheat flour cupcake, sorry gluten-freers). As for the passionfruit icing, it was very thinly spread across the top, but the flavour of it, it was so strong and vibrant it practically danced around my mouth.
When it comes down to it, I think Lawson Grove Shop could be a great little place, but it’s clear problem food-wise is inconsistency. My breakfast eggs could have been truly great if it wasn’t for those luckluster elements, yet the little cake offered a really exciting flavour punch that will easily entice me back to try more of Lawson Grove’s baked goods, if nothing else. But despite wonderful cakes and a truly beautiful space, I just can’t get over the bad vibe that emanated from the staff. So, go for baked goods, but don’t blame me if your head gets seared off by the angry gaze of someone glowering from behind the counter, you’ve had warning enough!
Stay tuned for the second food adventure Jen and I took on this day, an across town late lunch at the very impressive (and impeccably staffed) Bell Jar.
Lawson Grove Shop
1 Lawson Grove, South Yarra
Ph: 9866 3640