Lawson Grove Shop
Lawson Grove, sandwiched between the south side of the Yarra and a hill climbing up to Domain Road, is a magical little part of Melbourne. A tiny little cul-de sac that carves a valley through crumbling pre-war 'Hollywood art deco' apartment blocks, you wouldn't know it's there unless you set out to find it, much less the Lawson Grove Shop.
About halfway up the street, tucked away underneath Warrick House and behind a couple on unassuming umbrellas, is the Lawson Grove Shop and Cafe. Designed years before as the communal kitchen for the dense residential block above it, it later became a kind of corner-store and was revamped by restaurateurs Benjamin Canavan and Terry Strudwick into this wonderful cafe.
Past the sleepy entrance, the cafe opens up into a worn, wooden vista with an atmosphere that teeters between convivial and chaotic. Noise from the open kitchen drifts mixes with the bubbling undertone of conversation and children playing. Serious looking arty types tap away at laptops while young parents wolf down meals with one hand as they rock their baby to sleep with the other.
The menu is fun and free of pretention. You order at the counter and wait while sipping water that you pour yourself from a cooler in the corner. Cafe favourites are well catered for. You can pick up a reasonably priced plate of eggs done anyway you like, brimming with extras like thick curls of hand-cut bacon, or enjoy the Mediterranean flourishes like confit tomatoes with feta. The real star of the show is the blackboard that sits in front of the kitchen offering daily specials.
On the day we visited, there was a decidedly Iberian kick to the dailies board, as well as playful experiments with Thai flavours. We enjoyed a bowl of buttery-soft handmade gnocchi just set off with a light tomato sauce and a scattering of basil and fetta. What was really nice though, was a chorizo sausage and corn frittata, a salty treat set off with a garnish of spinach lightly macerated in a vinegar dressing.
Everything coming from the kitchen was well done. The virtuosity of the chefs is compounded by the generally homely atmosphere of the place. There's a real homely feeling in the Lawson Grove Shop, helped along by the fact that it still functions as the local corner store. The back-wall of the cosy basement is lined with muesli and quality produce to stock the shelves at home, and fridges by the door are stocked with products and readymade dishes to take home. Many of the curries and pies made inside the kitchen are available for take away, making a trip to this shop well worth it, if you aren't lucky enough to live above it.
Lawson Grove Shop is at 1 Lawson Grove, South Yarra, 3141.