I was a pretty average student in school. Even in university I was rubbish. I would study around 30 hours a week and still wouldn’t remember what room I was in let alone what subject I was studying. Sometimes I’m reminded of how dumb I am, and in those moments I try to prove I’m not dumb by surrounding myself with smart stuff. Like books. I figure if I’m seen around books then people will automatically think I’m clever, which is why I popped into Mr Tulk recently.

Mr Tulk is this awesome cafe attached to the side of the State Library in the CBD. It’s super rad and groovy and arrogant all at the same time and offers a variety of places to dine. For example, you can sit outside to allow for a lung full of city street fumes whilst sipping on your latte, inside near the food prep area, where you can read a magazine and pretend you’re in hot demand and don’t possibly have time to sit down at an actual table for service, or in the dining area which boasts an impressive share table in the centre of the room, walls lined with books (books! Look how smart I seem now I’m sitting next to books!) and some impressive arched windows, which works out perfectly because I always chose the arch windows over the square and circle. Square and circle windows can kiss my arse. It’s all about arched.

There was, like, three people in the cafe so I asked the vehemently disinterested waitress if I could sit at a table of four (so I could spread out a dozen books and impress everyone with my speed reading skills). “Sure”, she said. “But I’ll probably have to move you anyway”.

“Oh! I’ll totally take a smaller table now then to save you the hastle” was my response.


“No, don’t worry about it. I’ll just move you later”.

Umm. Ok.

Anyway, I moved myself to a smaller table (and for the record, no one sat at the table of four) and browsed the menu that I had heard a lot of good things about. I always thought Mr Tulk served only sandwiches and toasties etc, but the menu is actually quite extensive and would cater to anyone’s tastes. Except my ex, who hated everything, including me. There are heaps of vegetarian options too. Another thing the ex hated.

There’s stacks of egg options, so I opted for the fried egg bruschetta with feta and crispy shallots. While I waited I checked out the groovy Tolstoy quotes that were written along the walls. There were actually more quotes from other famous peeps, but Tolstoy was the only one I remembered thanks to that Seinfeld episode.

I started noticing that, unless you’re a regular or they know your name, they wait staff are really not that keen on looking at your stupid face. I tried all the tricks in the book to try and subtly reminder her that it was her job to be nice to me, (ie, the ‘I’m a businesswoman and have lots of money and powerful friends, so you should just pull your head in and serve me’ look, the ‘I could totes be your friend. I love your shoes – we should go to Future Music Festival together!’ look, and even the ‘You don’t know what I’m doing, I could be doing anything right now…including writing a review on your shitty service. Jokes on you!’ look), but none of them worked. They didn’t want me there, and they showed how much respect they had for me as a customer by dumping my meal at the other side of the table from where I was sitting (see below).


On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being ‘holy Hell you’re blowing my mind! Come to my house and let me cook you a roast to show how much I appreciate your rad service!’ and 1 being ‘what, do you think I slapped your nanna or something?’, this place was hovering around the 3, but because the venue was so beautiful I decided my lasting impression would hang on the quality of the food.

Luckily the meal was pretty great. There were no surprises or parties in my mouth, but I didn’t order a party – I ordered fried eggs on toast with feta and shallots. And that’s what I got. The feta was really great and although the shallots tasted like the dried bag of whatever it is you get when you buy an instant Mee Goreng packet, it still tasted good. The fried egg was perfectly cooked and oozed everywhere. It came out and didn’t have that layer of snot on it that makes most people avoid fried eggs. There was no butter on the toast (because we’re in the city and as we’ve already ascertained people in the city don’t believe in spreadable fatness), but the feta worked well to make the whole dish that little bit creamier.

I left feeling pretty small and insignificant, but luckily I’m fairly shallow and was able to shake it off by the time I got to work. I wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re looking for some kind words and sincere service, but if you actually are a busy and important business person and have some kind of clout then you’d love it here.

And if you don’t there are, like, 3,023,981 books to steal.

Books! Booooooooooks!

Robyn Box

About Robyn Box

I’m Robyn – a typical 30-something Melbournian. Most of my time is taken up being a Government office drone and an apathetic TV watcher, but occasionally I break out of the excitement of everyday life to dress my cat up in humiliating costumes, buy my niece and nephews expensive gifts in the hopes they pin me as ‘best Aunty’, wear amazing shoes that render me cripple within 60 minutes and eat foods that will no doubt bring on early cardiac arrest. Then occasionally I write about it. Find me on Twitter


  1. Kat

    They take surly to a new level, they have always been surly since they opened. The food is nice though, and they on’t seem to care if I take my laptop there and work (though I honestly couldn’t tell if they minded or just had their normal faces on).

    Moat cafe on the other side of the library is friendlier and also has books.

  2. Hannah

    So, as someone who totally sometimes even reads the books I surround myself with to look S-M-R-T, I’ve just finished The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, which was a genius of a book where you’d be pottering along, reading about the main family’s doings, and suddenly – WHAM – an incredibly satirical/sarcastic/hilarious comment would appear out of nowhere and make me snort with laughter.

    You are up there in Nancy Mitford’s league. Loved this post.

  3. Helen

    Look… yes – it’s a very hipster place! And I’m talking about the waitstaff, not the customers. But it’s one of the few decent places in the CBD that open at 7am!! And, they’re like a block from where I live – so occassionally I drop in!! I totally respect your experience though… and love your story-telling! And I hope Mr Tulk sit up and take some notice – because your experience is pretty accurate! But they do pull off the “keep it simple” breakfast pretty well and do good coffee. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to smile every now and again – and try to treat customers like they’re special.. what’s the harm! C’mon Mr Tulk – pull your head in! Let your service match your food!! Robyn you keep calling it out!!


  4. Vien @ We Dare Food

    I’ve always wanted to brunch there but the place intimidates me! hmph.. service’s pretty important when you’re running a business! but I might give the food a try someday.