Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saintly St. Ali

I don't usually gush.
But sometimes there's good reason too. You've been warned.
I first fell in love with St. Ali about 2 years ago. I was new to Melbourne and as a Sydney-sider I wondered what all the coffee-crusaders were on about, touting Melbourne as having the best coffee around. I soon found out that they were right and now firmly stand myself in the Melbourne coffee camp.  
Not only does this city take it's black gold very seriously... it has a great time doing it and turns out places like St. Ali in the process. The trick with St. Ali is to make the most of the specailised knowledge on the floor. Staff really know their stuff when it comes to the beans on offer each day, and if you ask them, they can suggest the best bean for your style, from latte to short black.
Since those first wide-eyed days, I've become a regular at this roasting-warehouse come cafe, thinking it nothing to cross the city for a morning brew and a tasty breakky treat. I bring visitors from out of town and send gifts of St. Ali roasted beans to friends far and wide.
It's even survived a change of hands and still comes up with the goods.
Last week I took my mum there for a light lunch and a much needed coffee boost before we hit the South Melbourne Markets, warning her that the menu was full of treats. Still, we were both totally floored by the grilled sardines. 
Rocket, black olive paste, artichokes and pepper spiced mandarin, joined the little fishies on sourdough. At under $20, it's a breakfast/lunch that hits you with a salty-sweet combination that had us fighting over the last crumbs of sourdough to mop up the spicy mandarine sauce.

 Today I stopped by for breakfast- and was taken out by the pancakes. Previous trips have proved that the breakfast platter is a great way to start the day with Middle Eastern flair- think fruit toast, spiced labne, honey and nutty dukkah. Any dish involving their homemade baked beans is also a winner. But today, the pancakes were a new revelation. It's the first time ever that I've been unable to finish a $10 breakfast, and not because I didn't like it. Three thick and puffy pancakes came swathed in citrus scented syrup, with a glop of coffee mascarpone and a topping of stewed oranges. It's a dish to be reckoned with- rich and full of smokey coffee-citrus tones. Every treacly mouthful reminded me why breakfast can still be special without poached eggs and bacon. Washed down with a coffee-of-the-day latte, I was full, happy and buzzing. 
The space itself is also a drawcard. Now I know some people are over the 'converted warehouse space', but I'm not one of them. I love the open roofed, partitioned off, exposed brick, roller door feel of the place. And when the sun comes flooding in through factory style windows on a winter day, I couldn't be happier. 
I was happy to note that there are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu (above and beyond the mushroom offerings that seem to be the usual vegetarian fate) and that a small selection of beer and wines are also available should brunch roll-on into lunch...
And keep an eye out for the St. Ali degustation- I'm told once every three months they hold an evening class with coffee and wine matched to food. The next one is on August 7th, with room for about 100 people. 

Open- Contact: (03) 9686 2990
Mon-Sat; 7:30am-5:00pm
Sunday; 8:30am-4pm

Note: Check the board to see what coffee is on offer for the coffee siphon each day and don't forget to ask your waiter which bean they recommend for the style of coffee you like to drink.  

1 comment:

Katherine said...

yuuum, take me!! sounds delish Jane!! xoxo