Monday, April 2, 2012

My Legendary Girlfriend? Hardly.

My Legendary Girlfriend

Address: 57 Domain Road, South Yarra, Melbourne

Phone: (03) 9077 4863

Open: Weekdays, 7am until 4pm

Weekends, 7am until 6pm

My Legendary Girlfriend is a newcomer to the Domain Road strip, and as with all new relationships it’s probably best we cut to the chase. I won’t be returning. Perhaps my standards are too high, but if the rest of Melbourne cafés can get it right, then why can’t MLG? Unfortunately for this café, there really are plenty of fish in the sea. But let’s start with what we liked…

The coffee here is fine. Damn fine. The barista pours perfection behind the sleek black espresso machine near the door. My velvety Allpress cappuccino was ecstasy. It was on the strong side with a sweet, buttery aroma. Delightful.

The Pearl Royal coconut water was a refreshing alternative to caffeine. It comes straight from the beaches of Thailand (great for the taste buds, not so great for the food miles). It’s so naturally sweet that one friend commented it “tastes just like biscuits”. She wasn’t wrong.

It’s probably not a good thing to prefer a cafés décor to its food. Nevertheless, the interior at MLG is a standout. The wall decorations deserve their own mention: a modern painting of a house caressed by sunset; monochrome wallpaper starring Mambo-esque gun wielding kangaroos; a sculpture made from glass science equipment; a collection of smaller artworks hanging haphazardly along the length of the walls, highlighted by uncovered light bulbs suspended by loops of black wire cord; and the legend herself—a giant image of a girl in glasses reading a book plastered over the kitchen wall. She’s a bit of a babe… maybe she’s distracting the kitchen staff. 

The communal table at the front of MLG shows true craftsmanship—a beautiful, thick slab of dark oak, high enough to be paired with raised metal stools. A smoother, blonder version sits up the back near the kitchen and accommodates eight. In between, kids and couples argue over who gets the banquette seating and who gets the hard, backless stools. There are also bar seats against each wall, although it’s recommended you sit elsewhere if you’re likely to find the mirrors off putting while you eat. 

Vases of flowers and earthenware are scattered on every surface alongside clay salt and pepper vessels. An old set of school lockers houses cutlery, serviettes and water, which the waitress was quick to bring us. 

The music theme is blatant. First there’s the name of the café, named after a ‘90s song by Pulp. A Tim Buckley LP is displayed trophy-like behind the counter and the kind of classics familiar to Gen Y play over the speakers, perhaps a touch too loudly for the more mature patrons. If you venture down the side of the kitchen, you’ll find a wall-sized tarp covered in backwards, green prose. It’s only legible upon peering into the opposite mirror: the lyrics of Pulp’s My Legendary Girlfriend.

Unfortunately, it’s all down hill from there. I dropped in for brunch with four of my own legendary girlfriends, all of which have previously worked or currently work in hospitality and are difficult to please. We chatted and questioned and most probably bothered the young waitress who was extremely patient with us. She was somewhat shy; hopefully she builds up her confidence over time. 

One dining buddy couldn’t decide between the muesli and the “red fruit salad” with yoghurt. After um-ing and ah-ing, she asked for the muesli with a side serve of the fruit salad while the rest of us tried desperately to disappear. The modest serve of muesli was beautifully full of bits: honey toasted oats, shredded coconut, dried goji berries, raisins, pepitas, sunflower seeds and nuts. Accompanied by honey from Melbourne’s rooftop bees and organic yoghurt, it outshone all the meals, including the side of red fruit salad, a colour-coordinated but lifeless combination of juicy watermelon, strawberries and stewed cherries. The cherries tasted tinned, although I admit I don’t know if they were. 

My baked eggs with tomato and chorizo (there is also a spinach and feta version for vegetarians) were tasty enough but TINY. Presented in a blue “mini cocotte”, strips of mildly spicy chorizo and tomato engulfed the baked egg, combined with a decent amount of pepper. A thin slice of white sourdough from Brasserie Bread (if you’re reading, Brasserie, MLG doesn’t do your brand any favours) looked lonely on the side, as if it were longing for the butter that was neither spread on top nor offered. When you’re paying $16 for breakfast, size does matter. MLG needs to step it up or reduce the price. Actually, they need to do both. Needless to say, I was still hungry when we left. 

As for the ‘your way’ Green Eggs from the Grampians, they simply didn’t live up to our expectations. There was nothing ‘my way’ about them. If I had ordered the poached eggs, I would have sent them back, but my less fussy girlfriends seemed not to mind. They resembled combusting comets, their hard yolks splitting from trails of overcooked whites. All four yolks in the two dishes were firm. The side servings for this particular dish were nothing special: just under half an avocado and a decent scoop of seasoned mushrooms. Eggs are a breakfast staple. They’re important and can make or break an experience. At MLG, they broke ours.

A woman next to us ordered the Breakfast Brioche with egg and bacon. Again, it wouldn’t have satisfied my 11-year-old brother. While small in size, the glazed bun gave us some serious food envy (although perhaps that was because most of us were still hungry following our miniscule serves?) The banana bread with espresso butter and the sour cherry loaf with raspberry vodka jam also sounded appealing, although reports of the toast arriving burnt and bitter dominate UrbanSpoon.

My Legendary Girlfriend may do well based on it’s location alone (directly opposite the Botanical Gardens). As for the dishes and the menu, they need a complete overhaul. They need to ditch the chef and collaborate with someone more experienced to produce food that satisfies Melbourne’s standards. While we enjoyed MLG’s coffee, décor and taste in music, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and what comes out of the kitchen.

Sorry, My Legendary Girlfriend, it’s just not working out. But this time it’s not me; it’s you. Please don’t call me.

My Legendary Girlfriend on Urbanspoon


  1. What a shame! Place sounds so cute, but I do agree in terms of pricing, with the number of cafes and what not floating around, it's pretty obvious when somewhere's pushing the price boundary....

    1. I 100% agree with you Ashley. And it really is a shame because the place has everything going for it except the food. Unfortunately for them, food is the most important aspect of a cafe!

  2. Hi Sofia,
    How long ago did you eat there? I went in on the weekend and the menu seems to be quite different to what you have written about. They must have changed something, as it was delicious! They don't have Atomica coffee either, they have Allpress which is just about my favourite (Campos and the Social Roaster being probably just ahead for me!)

    1. Hi Frances,

      I certainly haven't been as recently as you. Perhaps they have acted on the feedback they're getting online? Great to hear if that's the case! Dying to know what you ate!?

      Thanks for the heads-up re: the coffee. Makes sense why it was so good now! Two widely read online publications published the variety as Atomica and I assumed they would have their facts straight! That will teach me. I cross checked just then with the cafe's Twitter account and it is definitely Allpress, so sorry for any confusion!