Big Fil and I have taken to walking from the city to South Yarra station after work (actually he shows me the sights and I follow like a novice being instructed by a master of local knowledge), and the area around Lawson Grove is one of those places through which we seem to be walking regularly.
And it’s not surprising. The Lawson Grove shop is located in the basement of the Beverley Hills apartments in Lawson Grove, South Yarra, one of a series of buildings designed by architect Howard Ratcliff Lawson in a style described as “Hollywood art deco”. Now the tour guide stuff is out of the way, I can say I admire this style and the way the apartments seem to mould themselves to the hill they’re built on. Another interesting anecdote too, before I make this review more about the building than the food, is that the Beverley Hills apartments were designed without kitchens and instead a communal kitchen was set up in the basement … and this is now the home of the Lawson Grove Shop. Cool huh!
The Lawson Grove Shop is another of those stores off the main strip that are popular with the locals because the food is good: think Grigons & Orr Corner Store in North Melbourne and red door corner store in Northcote. In keeping with its niche in the market, the Lawson Grove Store has that dressed down feel, interesting design elements and an eclectic seating arrangements that caters for anywhere between one and a dozen. And a menu that focuses on fresh produce in season, and I almost forgot its array of ‘homemade’ frozen takeaway meals and a few staples for when the locals run out.
Big Fil and I turned up early, as we generally do, although there were a few people ahead of us who were known to the staff and seemed to have been there for a while. I like arriving early. The most obvious reason is to be able to sit where you want. But the best reason is to see how popular the place is by how early people turn up and how quickly the place fills up, and to see how the place responds to the crowd. We arrived about 8am, people starting turning up around 15 minutes later, the place was virtually filled by about 8.45am.
The menu wasn’t as varied as some, and with Big Fil looking for a change to his usual French Toast he opted for the baked eggs with meatballs with smoked mozzarella in a basil/tomato sauce. I was jealous I didn’t get this although I did get to try it. It was generous for a start, with two perfectly cooked eggs sitting on a tasty sauce. And it came with two pieces of Philippa’s bread, which Big Fil didn’t waste but instead used to sop up the sauce. That Big Fil finished his meal last supports the size, given he always (now bar one) finishes his meal first no matter what the size.
By contrast my omelette with cherry tomatoes, feta and macha (lamb's lettuce) felt pedestrian, although it wasn’t really. It also looked small in comparison with the baked eggs although I’d deliberately chosen the omelette because the serves for the rest of the choices seemed small. Despite this, the omelette was cooked perfectly and nicely balanced with the cooked tomato, with the feta adding a subtle touch of salt. Not something I’d pick again because neither Big Fil or I are big omelette fans, but a good omelette.
Instead of the usual T2 (and only Earl Grey and English Breakfast on offer in the black teas) I opted for a fresh Mint Tea. Mint tea is so easy to make, but so refreshingly drinkable and perfect for the early morning. Definitely something I’d try again although $4 for something I can make myself with fresh mint from the garden seems a little steep (no pun intended!). Big Fil went with a hot chocolate he described as slightly bitter, and not the sweet hot chocolate most places serve.
I was predisposed to like Lawson Grove Store, given the number of times I’ve walked past the Beverley Hills apartments and admired them. I like corner stores: their vibe, relaxed feel and warmth are all part of their charm and the reason why so many people go back. It was also very clear the Lawson Grove store was popular with the locals given the several conversations I saw between staff and customers that made it obvious they knew each other well. I think I've also got a little caught up and forgotten to mention our friendly helpful waitress who was quick with our food and helpfully checked the answers to my questions with the kitchen. But there were pros and a couple of minor cons with the food: it was well cooked, well presented and tasty although not as adventurous as I usually prefer and a little more expensive than I’d expect based on its lack of complexity. On balance, however, the Lawson Grove Store is another local store it’s easy to understand why the locals keep going back, and I’d return too if there weren’t several hundred other places on my list of places to go.
Food – 7.5
Ambience – 7.5
Service – 7.5
Price – 7
1 Lawson Grove
South Yarra VIC 3141
Tel: (03) 9866 3640