A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published December 16th 2018
Library locker room turns classy dining space
If your study and research in the beautiful State Library of Victoria leaves you parched, help is close at hand. Incorporated into the building is the popular cafe and bar, Mr Tulk. If you think it's a curious name for a cafe, you may be interested to know its historic significance; Mr Tulk, or Augustus Henry Tulk to give him his full name, was the State Library's first Chief Librarian, and is credited with helping build the library's impressive collection during his 17 years on the job.
The baristas in Mr Tulk working flat out. Mr Tulk sources its coffee beans from local roaster Madamimadam.
Another link with the State Library's historic past is the fact that Mr Tulk occupies what was formerly the Library's locker room. If that conjures up an image of a poky little room, think again; Mr Tulk is a large space, with a split-level format. Upstairs (just a few steps) is the main dining area, while the downstairs area is for drinks and snacks, and it's where the baristas work non-stop trying to keep up with the coffee orders. Taking their coffee seriously, Mr Tulk sources its beans from local roasters, Madamimadam.
Outside, on Latrobe Street, there are more tables, with jaunty umbrellas; popular on the day we visited, despite the threat of rain.
Outside tables at Mr Tulk. (There are more to the right of the entrance.)
We felt welcome from the first moment we entered Mr Tulk. There is a buzzy, electric feel to the place, and yet, because of its size and the configuration of the tables, patrons were still able to find a space to quietly sit and relax while sipping a coffee and browsing the newspaper.
Arriving at 'brunch time' (10am), it was difficult to know whether to choose from the breakfast or lunch menus - so we tried a dish from each: mushrooms with crispy polenta and a poached egg ($16.50), and the broccoli salad with toasted almonds, currants, feta, freekah and a lemon dressing ($18).
The broccoli looked fittingly festive, piled high on the plate, featuring contrasting colours of the ingredients, right down to the sprinkling of 'snow' (crumbled feta) on top. It is a healthy, yet surprisingly tasty dish. There are great contrasts in the textures and flavours.
The mushrooms with polenta and poached egg looks a deceptively simple dish on the plate. But everything was cooked to perfection and it was delicious! I don't know how the mushrooms had been prepared, but they were just so tasty and more-ish. The polenta was perfectly crisped, and it was a great contrast to the softer egg and mushrooms. The generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese gave the dish flavour cohesion.
Mushrooms with polenta and poached egg - dish of the day
Everything served at Mr Tulk is made on the premises. The sweet tooth amongst us (okay, me!) couldn't resist trying something from the inviting selection of cakes and sweets in the display cabinet ($2.50 - $5.50). The chocolate and raspberry brownie was a wicked indulgence, rich and moist, and it melted in the mouth. Wonderful.
Chocolate and raspberry brownie - all dishes served are made on the premises
Overall, we were most impressed with our visit to Mr Tulk. Its menu has interest, and the dishes we tried were beautifully prepared and presented. It's a place I have a feeling we will be returning to, quite soon.
Mr Tulk is located at the State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne (entry is on Latrobe Street).
It's open from 7.30am to 5.00pm on Monday to Thursday, 7.00am to 7.30pm on Friday, and 9.00am to 4.30pm on weekends.
To make a booking, give Mr Tulk a call on (03) 8660 5700.