Mal Gill and Bec Saul have had a dream run since being participants on reality cooking show My Kitchen Rules in 2011. Mal won the Great Australian Sandwichship in 2013 and a culinary trip to New York to discover its food culture as part of his winning prize. But, at the heart of their success is Lady Marmalade Café.
Located in an 1930s heritage-listed building, the site was once a canary house and bird hospital, then a record shop. Now it’s the perfect café establishment, which Mal and Bec opened in August 2010.
“It’s semi industrial and we’ve added our own touch with antiques and collectables for a vintage look,” says Mal.
Lady Marmalade Café serves Genovese Coffee’s flagship blend to its customers. “Coffee is one of the hardest things to get right in any business. Thankfully we have our Barista Candy Smith to lead the way on our La Marzocco machine. I’ve been in hospitality 20 years and she’s taught me more about coffee than anyone else I’ve met,” says Mal.
Vietnamese ice coffee with water sugar syrup and a double shot has also become quite a favourite at the café.
The small venue hosts two Sunbeam grills, a microwave, and oven. Mal says the restrictions in the kitchen are part of the overall appeal. “It’s forced us to be creative with what we serve,” he says.
The result is an American-influenced menu that Mal describes as “fairly healthy and light”, besides the house-made bacon and cream corn waffles. “We try to incorporate a mix of flavours, but at the end of the day we serve clean, delicious food,” Mal says.
Must-try menu items include the Gringo baked eggs with Mexican spiced wagyu and a hint of dark chocolate.
To encourage better eating habits at schools, Mal is also the 2014 Queensland Tuckshop Ambassador. He still puts his award-winning sandwich on the menu every Friday. It’s a berbere-spiced, shredded beef brisket wrap and a San Fran chicken triple-decker toasted sandwich.
He got a job in hospitality on his 15th birthday and he’s never looked back. “I like the camaraderie and group involvement in hospitality,” says Mal. “It’slike being in a sports team. There’s this family vibe that we’re all in this together.”