194 Toorak Rd South Yarra, VIC 3141
Having many-a-time walked past Drugstore Espresso whilst shopping or on my way to another café, I finally decided that I should give this establishment a go and visited with a few friends. Located in South Yarra, it looks deceptively like it only serves take-away coffee from the outside, but there’re actually two levels of seating inside for those wishing to tuck in to something more substantial. The décor is nice and simple, with the exception of a wall of stylised graffiti art inside, which adds a lot of character and interest to the space.
The 4 of us arrived for lunch and walked into the café expecting to be seated, but at least three staff members walked right past us without any form of acknowledgement. We managed to flag down someone who was standing just a metre away to ask for a table, only to be met with an eye-roll and some very reluctant service. Not a great start, but still salvageable.
We ordered 3 coffees and a smoothie between us, before being asked to repeat the order 10 minutes later because they had forgotten. No apology was offered – in fact, the waiter acted as if the mistake was our fault. Three coffees came out, which were quite good and we decided to put the service behind us if the food is good.
Twenty minutes passed, which turned to thirty, then forty. After over 45 minutes of waiting, there was still no smoothie, and no food. Looking around it was clear that everyone else was waiting too – every single table that we could see was devoid of anything except coffee. During this time, our (more than reasonable, I think) requests for more water and the location of the bathroom were met only with rudeness and dismissiveness, not only from our previous waiter, but from at least 2 or 3 other staff members.
When our food finally came out, again there was no apology or even explanation. By this time we were quite hungry and keen to enjoy the food, but unfortunately that aspect was disappointing too.
I will certainly give props where they’re due – the chips that came with K’s burger were top-notch, probably some of the best that I’ve ever eaten. Each and every one was super crispy but fluffy on the inside and well-seasoned too. They were, in fact, the highlight of the entire meal, which ended in the four of us fighting over one small portion of chippies. K’s burger was also decent, with a well-cooked beef patty and very fresh avo salsa that tied it all together.
It’s a nice idea, switching out bread for polenta prisms, but my carb-aholic self didn’t appreciate it, especially when a piece (a single piece!) of sourdough was $4 extra. The avo was superb – very fresh, vibrant and delicious, but the polenta prisms were a miss for me. They were very hard and dry like they had been overcooked, and were not particularly enjoyable. I think $21 was too steep for such a simple dish, especially when there was only 1 egg and the execution didn’t quite meet the mark.
Just from first appearances, not a very appealing-looking dish, and certainly not what I expected the salad to look like from the description. More of a stew than anything else, it was flavourful with a good hit of chilli, but lacked anything else that made it memorable or enjoyable.
An ‘average’ dish, according to my friend who ordered it – so average in fact, that it was left unfinished.
I usually don’t like to judge a café or restaurant based on a single experience, but in this case, I was left with such a poor impression that I doubt I’ll return to give Drugstore Espresso a second chance. We never even ended up getting that smoothie we ordered at the very start of our meal, and come bill time, they even tried to charge us for it – very poor form. The food was largely unimpressive, even though I really wanted to like it in spite of the terrible service. The staff members were universally rude, at least on our visit, and gave the impression that they really disliked their jobs and their customers. With so many other high-quality cafés available in Melbourne, in my opinion there’s really no need to visit this one.