Sometimes you sit down to eat and you just know it's an off day. You can see the look on the wait staff's faces as they explain why things are delayed, cold, burned or wrong. And you can totally understand that it's no one's fault and that it's the kind of thing that occasionally happens in the hospitality industry. But still, you were hoping for food that tasted good, at the end of the day, and you didn't get it.

Martin Street Cafe and Providore, Brighton.

As you may have guessed, that was the kind of morning we had at Martin St Cafe & Providore in Brighton. From the street, The Providore (as it shall henceforth be known) is unassuming and on the small side. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it opened out into a sizeable indoor eating area and a spacious courtyard complete with outhouse. They did yell at my dad when he took my niece’s pram through the restaurant (“You’re supposed to take prams through the lane way, you great Neanderthal!”) but ultimately it is a really beautiful spot. We were lucky to get a table at all, to be fair, but I’m fairly sure that we became a kind of running joke with everyone else in the place (that happens to my family quite often). “Haha, look at those suckers sitting in the full summer sun getting all skin cancery! Let’s make them wait as long as possible for everything so they burn and die!”

Customer service is beyond inconsistent here. We had one waiter who murmured from underneath a floppy Bieber fringe, but two others who galloped toward us and stood right in our faces until we caved and agreed to more water. It turns out that this was a delay tactic, but more about that later (Gaz said ‘Maybe they have a tap they can’t turn off?’ and we all laughed while our bellies sloshed).

The menu is remarkable. It has items like two eggs baked in tomato sugo, canellini beans, chorizo and a crusty bread side and poached eggs, bulgarian feta, spinach, honeyed pumpkin finished with tomato aioli and watch me whilst I wank into the dream of fine dining*.

Smoked salmon and dill on potato rosti with poached eggs and lemon aioli

I went for the less obnoxious smoked salmon and dill on potato rosti with poached eggs and lemon aioli. The rest of the table had variously the pumpkin eggs, open omelette, French toast and eggs Benedict. Easy.

Or … difficult?

It was really, really hot in the sun, but we waited ever so patiently as tables around us were served. We even managed to keep a smile on our dial whilst the waiters asked us time and time again whether we wanted more water. “Would you like more water?” “What we’d really like is our food.” Smile. “So, more water?” “Fine, more water.” Eventually one of them ventured out to tell us that our food was ‘five or ten minutes away’ but eased our woes with further hydrating. By the time our food arrived at the table, a couple of the people who arrived after us had finished their meals and left. Obviously something had gone wrong in the kitchen, but it was frustrating nonetheless.

The other meals all looked and tasted delicious, and I was truly glad for my family, but mine stank. As you can see, that is not lemon aioli, but tomato aioli, and as I don’t like tomato I unfortunately had to leave that to one side (except that it was all over the plate, so I didn’t quite have the option). The rosti was cold and the eggs were overcooked – one of them was actually hard boiled. I can only assume that it had been sitting out for some time while the rest of the dishes were prepared/fixed?

Worst of all, it actually tasted pretty great. The flavour of the rosti was excellent, it was just that they were a little like mouldy coasters in their texture. The eggs were dark orange, but hard and spherical like wee planets. The salmon was fine, but it cooked in the sun. On the whole, a disappointing meal and not one that was worth the very long wait.


My meal was $16.50, and I’m afraid I have had much more satisfying breakfasts for less than that.

* Not really.

Anna Spargo-Ryan

About Anna Spargo-Ryan

I'm Anna and by day I am a digital strategist, running around town strategising heaps of digitals. By night and occasionally morning, I eat things, write things, berate my children, walk my dogs and hug my chocolate. Find me on Twitter | Get some digital


    • Anna


      It was just such a shame – everything else looked golden, and I’ve heard so many nice things about it. It may have to go in the ‘return for a second try on a weekday’ pile.