HOT: Agathé Pâtisserie, Stalls 63 and 64, South Melbourne Market, cnr Coventry and Cecil Streets, South Melbourne

agathe patisserieIf you walked into South Melbourne Market last week your nose will have detected the new aroma of fresh, buttery pastry in the aisles. That’s because Agathé Pâtisserie, a Parisian-inspired patisserie and croissanterie, has just opened a permanent kitchen and retail store in South Melbourne Market.

Agathé Kerr’s pastries have gained a cult following since she started a little Saturday market stall in Prahran Market last year. The Parisian gained her professional pastry chef qualification at the prestigious Ecole de Boulangerie et Patisserie de Paris and had been making all her wares in a pop up store/lab in Windsor.

The new double-sized stall is clean and white, with the exposed kitchen baking fresh items daily behind the tempting pastry counter.

agathe patisserie

I ordered a classic pain au chocolat (with two luxurious sticks of chocolate inside), a brightly striped infused raspberry croissant, a classic escargot and almond croissant.

agathe patisserie

All excellent quality, with a buttery crumb, subtle flavours and airy layers of pastry.

agathe patisserie

There is one must-eat item on the menu. Agathé Pâtisserie’s famous cruffins ($7) are now piped to order with vanilla creme patisserie and topped with your choice of filling – on my visit, Nutella, salted caramel or peanut butter caramel.

agathe patisserie

agathe patisserie

agathe patisserie

For now Agathé Pâtisserie is focusing on their new premises and retail offering so there’s no wholesale orders to cafes. That means the only place to try these amazing pastries is at South Melbourne Market. Warning – on the first day of opening at South Melbourne EVERYTHING was sold out in 1 hour (9am!). So if you want to sample some of Melbourne’s best pastries you’ll have to set your alarm clock and get in early.


 

Agathé Pâtisserie, Stalls 63 and 64, South Melbourne Market, corner of Coventry and Cecil Streets, South Melbourne 0403 222 573

Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 8am-4pm or until sold out.

HOT: Proper & Son, Shop 13-14 South Melbourne Market, 322 Coventry Street, South Melbourne

proper and son south melbourne

Proper & Son is a handsome new market deli and cafe within South Melbourne Market.

The space brings a bit of the country to the city, with modern white subway tiles offset by a provincial-style patterned wallpaper cleverly disguising chickens, pigs and cows.

proper and son south melbourne

The stylish cafe seats around 35 people max and at around 10am on Sunday there was a short lineup before a table become available. Once we sat down everything was brought us promptly.

All the food is made on site (breakfast until 11:30am, lunch from 11:30am) and the owner Eugene Lavery is also behind the stove. A owner-chef tends to bode well for the quality of an eatery, as he/she will really care about what comes out of the kitchen and how the service is managed.

Given Proper & Son’s location it has the privilege of being able to change the menu weekly depending on what’s in season and what’s available within the market. So you can be assured that all the produce is as fresh as fresh can be.

As we were visiting on Mother’s Day we tried their special ‘Proper High Tea’ menu where we received a hot beverage and a selection of sweet and savoury treats for $20.

proper and son south melbourne

Half the fun was discovering what was presented on the wooden platters – a fat brioche bun with smoked salmon and dill, a slice of  creamy pumpkin frittata, a rosy coconut cupcake and some sort of fudgy chocolate brownie. The only disappointment was the flat disc of a scone, though it was served with some delicious house made preserves and cream.

proper and son south melbourne

The creamy coffee was made with Toby’s Estate beans and my hot chocolate was by Mork Chocolate.

In addition we ordered the buttermilk hotcakes, a substantial dish of three fluffy pancake rounds heaped with fresh fruit, pecans and a huge ball of lemon curd ($13.50). A peek at our neighbours indicated that serving sizes seemed to be in on the generous side overall.

proper and son south melbourne

For lunch Proper & Son turns into a carvery, with roast meat rolls made to order and a selection of four fresh salads. I’ve heard lots of raves about their ‘Market Roast Roll’ made with free range roast chicken with a sage, onion and cranberry stuffing or corned wagyu brisket with pickles, cabbage and mustard.

Proper & Son is an exciting addition to an otherwise lacklustre food court in South Melbourne Market and you could visit it weekly without eating the same thing twice. It’s a great place to stop with before or after your shopping.

Proper & Son, Shop 13-14 South Melbourne Market, 322 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 9699 7057

Wed, Sat-Sun 7:30am to 4pm

Fri 7:30am to 5pm

Proper & Son on Urbanspoon

HOT: Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot is a dessert boutique, artisnal paitisserie and gelateria that’s just opened in South Melbourne thanks to the creative team behind Chez Dre.

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot is located next door to its sister cafe, with entry from Coventry Street. From the plain glass outside it’s hard to imagine all the amazing sweet things but once you step inside the room expands out into a Alice in Wonderland/Willy Wonka fantasy of chocolate, cake and ice cream.

I was invited to the preview night and returned on Mother’s Day of my own accord to try their high tea.

bibelot south melbourne

It’s hard to know where to start. On the right there’s a whole wall of artfully presented chocolate bars, packages of enrobed fruit and nuts, buttery biscuits, preserves and coffee and teas.

bibelot south melbourne

On the left is the gelati station, with a changing rotation of house made gelati and sorbets housed in pozzetti tubs – plus TWO chocolate taps.

bibelot south melbourne

I highly recommend the pistachio gelati, which is creamy, flavoursome and studded with real nuts.

bibelot south melbourne

Top it with some dark chocolate sauce that crackles as soon as it hits the cold and you’re onto a winner.

bibelot south melbourne

Head along the patisserie for delicate and beautifully presented jewels of cake, rows of pastel coloured macarons and hand made chocolates.

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

At the back of the store is the ‘high tea salon’ though you’re welcome to sit for a drink and a cake there as well. The plush emerald velvet banquettes and armchairs and matching greenery give it an opulent yet inviting air. If there’s no space left in the salon then you can still enjoy your treats on the outside tables or standing by the narrow bench, European style.

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot’s Mother’s Day high tea offering was a test run for their future high teas, which will start Thursday to Sunday from June. For $95 (kids under 7 are free) I received a platter of gourmet savory treats with a bread basket filled to the brim, a mixture of French and Australian cheeses, Istra charcuterie and Mt Zero olive tapenade.

bibelot south melbourne

Next up was a pretty strawberry pot au creme then a quick roll into a platter of petits gâteaux (miniature versions of what’s available in the cake cabinet) and curiously flat miniature scones.

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

To end, two handcrafted bonbons plus throughout there was tea, coffee and a glass of champagne.

bibelot south melbourne

I was bowled over by the quantity and quality of the food – but at $95 I thought it was expensive compared to other high teas around town which are equally fancy. Other than the price my only other misgiving is that high tea at Bibelot is not a quiet, restful experience as the salon is at the back of the busy shop.

Bibelot brings the sensibility of a French patisserie to South Melbourne and it’s my new favourite destination for all things sweet. Judging by the roaring trade on Mother’s Day, it may already a favourite for other Melbourne sweet tooths (teeth?).

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne

Open 7 days, 10am – Late

Bibelot on Urbanspoon

HOT: South Melbourne Market tour, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne

south melbourne market tour

During Markets of Melbourne’s Market Week 2014 I took the opportunity to take a guided tour of South Melbourne Market.

south melbourne market tour

South Melbourne Market is not a market I frequent often so the tour was a fun and delicious way to discover interesting gems and meet some of the stallholders and characters behind the long-standing market. Here are some of my favourites:


south melbourne market tour
Georgie’s Harvest is one of the market’s favourite stallholders. It’s run by a husband and wife team and they specialise in spuds and vegetables generally. I’ve been to a cooking class run by Georgie’s Harvest and learnt all about the different ways to prepare potato!

south melbourne market tour

At St George’s Sourdough Bakehouse we tasted some of their organic sourdough bread. I highly recommend the seeded loaf and to avoid the stodgy looking  pastries (which aren’t organic).

South Melbourne Market tour

We dived into the deli aisle and to Alka Polish Deli where we tried a variety of different cured meats. I doubled back later on to stock up on pierogi, ham and sausage – the owner was very helpful about helping me choose what to buy from the large range.

south melbourne market tour

At Rita’s Nut Shop we met jolly Rita herself who sliced pieces of her giant handmade Turkish delight for us to try. I highly recommend the almond Turkish delight studded with fruit and nuts.

south melbourne market tour

A unique space within South Melbourne Market is SO:ME Space with clothing, art and lifestyle retailers plus pop up stalls. I bought a quirkly paper towel dispenser from The Supercool, a shop where you can find things to make you and your home nice! The Supercool recentlywon Best Trader in the Melbourne Market Awards.

south melbourne market tour

After the tour I headed to Simply Spanish for paella. You can smell the food as they cook up huge paella pans on Cecil Street and I got a generous helping of Valencian paella for $14. The rice was a bit overcooked for my liking and there was no crispy base at all, so I didn’t love it. On the Spanish waitress’ recommendation I also ordered the croquettes ($6). They were beautifully crisp morsels ejecting an oozy mass of cheese, potato and pork inside.

south melbourne market tour

For dessert I visited Pardon My French, a mobile creperie serving freshly made crepes. They source their ingredients from the market and being strawberry season I decided to deviate from my usual Nutella to add strawberries. A huge triangle of sweet crepe for $8. They’ll be setting up a permanent stall at the market once a site is finalised.

Even though Market Week is over for 2014 you can still join the same tour of South Melbourne Market every month. To Market To Market tours run on the third Saturday of every month and the next tour is tomorrow, Saturday 20 September. A ticket is $35 and includes a coffee, tastings and a market bag. Sign up or give a tour voucher to a food-loving friend or family.

South Melbourne Market tour, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Market open Wed, Sat, Sun 8am-4pm, Fri 8am-5pm

To Market To Market every 3rd Saturday of the month 10am-11:30am

HOT: The Kettle Black, 50 Albert Rd, South Melbourne

kettle black

There’s been so much excited press about The Kettle Black that at 8am on Sunday morning the early birds were already queueing up. And the queues had only grown bigger by the time I left at 9am, not even the brunch happy hour.

The question is, does The Kettle Black live up to the hype? The answer is yes.

The cafe’s pedigree is strong as its owners have at times owned/operated/are still owning and operating Three Bags FullTwo Birds One Stone and Top Paddock. As a result just only a week after opening my experience was immaculate.

kettle black

The architecture and interior design by Studio You Me is striking as the cafe straddles a beautiful Victorian double story terrace and the modern residential building next door. The mix of old and new means that inside there’s an ornate fireplace, a bay window and leadlight glass adjoining a lofty, floor-to-ceiling glassed lobby.

kettle black

The interior design has been tied together by a soothing Scandi palette of mint green, white, marble and birch. I’m particularly struck by the beautiful rings of Saturn lights designed by one of the owners Nathan Toleman (an interior designer by training) and Fitzroy lighting designers Christopher Boots. The whole feel is elegant and sophisticated, which is reflected in the food (and commensurate prices).

kettle black

kettle black

The menu is not run-of-the-mill at all so the staff automatically ask whether you need help with the menu (but not in a condescending way). Judging from social media and countless Instagram images, already some signature dishes have emerged.

kettle black

To whit, the King Island crayfish in an ash roll. The light bun contained generous chunks of fresh crayfish, springy in texture and clean in flavour. The lightness was enhanced by a small swirl of yuzu mayonnaise and some crisp salad leaves (apparently native coastal spinach).

At $21 it is not a cheap roll nor a cheap breakfast dish. But I figure if you’re a seafood fan then it’s worth it. It’s not as if you’re likely to crack open a crab for your next breakfast at home (which is why I’ve never understood why people order muesli or toast at cafes – things you could easily make at home).

The dish that is winning everyone’s heart is the ricotta hotcakes ($18), a version of which is a best-seller at Top Paddock.

kettle black

It is a Renoir painting on a plate. A dinner-plate sized disc of cake, fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The hot cake was embedded with chunks of melting housemade ricotta and oozing blueberries and finished off with an artful scatter of more berries, edible flowers, maple syrup, seeds and a dollop of double cream with violet sugar. It’s as delectable as it looks and very filling that it’s best shared between two.

kettle black

In a stroke of genius the cash register doubles as the cake counter – so you can hardly leave without taking something sweet for the road. I tried the house made chocolate gateau, an incredibly rich layered mousse cake with salted caramel and crushed hazelnuts and a bargain at $6.50. They also have a limited supply of Doughboy Doughnuts for sale.

The Kettle Black is a winning combination of beautiful design, smart food and friendly service. Even though it’s located in a rather barren part of South Melbourne it’s close to the Botanical Gardens and Albert Park plus a host of office buildings, so I imagine the queues will still be operating for a while yet.

The Kettle Black, 50 Albert Rd, South Melbourne 9088 0721

Mon–Fri 7am–4pm

Sat–Sun 8am–4pm

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

HOT: Spud Heaven – Amazing Tasmanian Potatoes, LG Kitchen Cooking School, South Melbourne Market, Shop 90 Cecil St, South Melbourne

Who knew that there could be more to the humble spud than a white potato?

I love potatoes but I’m not knowledgeable about them – I just know that there are some potatoes which are better for roasting and some are better for mashing. So I was excited to receive an invitation from Georgie’s Harvest, a South Melbourne Market specialist potato, root vegetable and herb seller (her stall’s tagline is ‘All that’s good from the ground’), to attend a cooking class at the South Melbourne Market’s LG Cooking School to learn all about the potato.

Similar to the Electrolux Cooking School at Queen Victoria Market and the Essential Ingredient Cooking School, the South Melbourne Market’s LG Cooking School runs demonstration classes and hands-on Master Classes with Melbourne and Australia’s leading chefs. Compared to the other two cooking schools the South Melbourne Market cooking classes are held in a more intimate space, giving everyone a great view of the activities in the kitchen and with lots of interaction between participants and the teacher. And based on my experience with this class, you leave with a very, very full stomach.

This particular class was unique because it was run with chef Emma Mackay in conjunction with Georgie Dragwidge, owner of Georgie’s Harvest. While Emma prepped in the kitchen, Georgie gave a brief talk about the differences between a Dutch cream, Blue Zhar, Pink Eye, Viking, Nicola, Pink Fur Apple Potato, Desiree and the white potatoes you often find in the supermarket.

Basically, it’s all about flavour, colour and texture – there are different spuds for different purposes. For instance, Nicola potatoes are good all-rounders which are neither waxy or floury and are normally presented brushed to distinguish them from Dutch creams (which can sometimes be sold as Nicolas depending on supply). Dutch creams are similar in texture to Nicolas but are more yellow and sweeter in flavour. It’s often called the King or Queen of potatoes because it is so flavourful and versatile and is Georgie’s number 1 seller. Compare these potatoes to the Pink Fir Apple Potato, which are interchangeable with kiplers (the German variety of the same fingerling potato). It has a slight tinge of pink and is very waxy so it’s the kind of potato that you can boil dry and it won’t turn to mush.

Emma then started work at a cracking pace, demonstrating an ambitious number of recipes over two hours (and in fact, the class ran over time by an hour and we never really got to the skordalia recipe). Emma had two general tips about cooking potatoes 1. always boil potatoes whole with the skin on so they’re not waterlogged and you retain the flavour; and 2. as soon as finish prepping potatoes put them in cold water or the sugars will turn the potato brown. The longer you leave them in water the more they will lose flavour and starch, so she didn’t recommend peeling potatoes and leaving them to soak for hours on end.

We started off with a French-style seafood chowder using Pink Eye potatoes. This was a hearty, creamy soup with a base consisting of semi-mashed chunks of potato, fennel, white onions (apparently quite hard to find) and a variety of seafood. It was the perfect luxurious winter starter (or a meal in itself with lots of crusty bread) and the reason I eat in restaurants – so I don’t have to deal with all the pesky prepping myself!

For a more summery dish, Emma demonstrated her twist on the classic nicoise salad. A handful of Pink Fir Apple potatoes, boiled, peeled and confit, was presented with a colourful melange of blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, anchovy fillets, boiled eggs, black olives and a white balsamic and olive oil dressing.

Instead of including the tuna in the salad they were featured as a side of tuna patties using Dutch cream potatoes. A really delicious way to dress up canned tuna if you’re not so keen on eating it straight from the can.

My favourite dish of the night was the gnocchi with napoli sauce. While most of the class was spent watching Emma in the kitchen, there was a fun activity when we each learnt to make gnocchi using Blue Zhar and Viking potatoes. Given that ten different pairs of hands made the gnocchi it was really interesting to compare the difference in the end result when the dough had been overworked or underworked as well as the difference in flavours and textures due to the different varieties of potato (Blue Zhar gets my vote for better gnocchi).

The gnocchi was paired with the simplest Napoli sauce ever – a bottle of good quality sugo, two cloves of crushed garlic, brown sugar, fresh basil and grated parmesan. An easy and warming meal and a recipe I’m going to try to replicate at home.

By now we were all groaning about being too full but still managed to sneak in a couple of mouthfuls of lamb moussaka using sliced and blanched Nicola potatoes and a bechamel infused with bay leaf, clove and shallots. Again, a filling dish perfect for a cold winter’s night, though quite time consuming to prepare.

If all that food wasn’t enough, we each received a jar of Georgie’s grandmother’s skordalia to take home. This extremely garlicky concoction is made with Blue Zhar potatoes and Kolymvari Extra Virgin Olive Oil which Georgie considers the best olive oil you can get in Australia other than olive oil pressed from olives grown from your grandmother’s tree! The skordalia is perfect on toast.

I will definitely be returning to South Melbourne Market’s LG Cooking School – the class I attended is normally $85 and I think it’s great value for the enjoyment of the experience, the chefs tips and tricks, all the food you get to sample and then all the food you get to take home!

To find out more about potatoes and Georgie’s Harvest, check out this blog post.

Spud Heaven – Amazing Tasmanian Potatoes, LG Kitchen Cooking School, South Melbourne Market, Shop 90 Cecil St, South Melbourne

HOT: SO:ME Space, South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne

South Melbourne Market has moved out the dollar stores and moved in some hip wares.

Under the big shed they’ve created a space for small shops and pop up sites called SO:ME Space. It’s filled with clothing, accessories, artwork and bikes – a fun place to browse before or after your market grocery shopping.

Some of the designers include previous blog favourites Wet & Wendy and Skinny Nelson at Jane, plus cool bikes and accessories from Bakerlite and a very eye-catching shop display at Stone Glint and Bone.

SO:ME Space, South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Wed 9am-4pm
Thurs 5pm-9pm
Fri 9am-5pm
Sat 9am-4pm
Sun 9am-4pm

 

HOT: Chez Dre, Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Happy Bastille Day! While it’s not our national holiday, why not use it as an excuse to pop into new French boulangerie and patisserie Chez Dre?

Right near the bustle of South Melbourne Markets and down a bluestone laneway you’ll find a little bit of pastry heaven. Chez Dre is a large space which makes good use of its slightly awkward layout and lack of natural light by splitting the seating into two areas plus an outdoor courtyard, with a busy open kitchen curving along one side. I also admired the red spray-painted stencil floor which lent the mainly concrete and brick interior a welcoming warmth.

I was hoping to sit down for lunch on my weekend visit but obviously word has got around about this place already as there was not a spare seat to be had and a line up to boot. No matter, I just ensured I worked my way down the pastry cabinet. Total bill $56!

Baguettes: The bread is made in house and is an authentic French baguette – crunchy crust, chewy centre. To leave room for sweets I only had a half-size of the smoked salmon baguette with fresh dill cream ($6.50). While I liked the bread I didn’t particularly take to the filling as it was overpowered by wet slices of  too-sweet pickles. Little cornichons or just capers would have been a better match.

Lemon tart ($7.50): Ooh la la! This is a seriously good lemon tart. A light buttery pastry with a beautiful crumb encased the vibrant yellow curd (not too tart and not too sweet). I liked that instead of swirling the whole tart with meringue there was just a single stripe of soft marshmallow which had been torched quickly on top for presentation.

Yoghurt mousse with apricot jelly ($8.50): This was a set yoghurt mousse with a neat filling of apricot jelly inside and lightly dusted with desiccated coconut. I did not like this cake but I think it just wasn’t to my taste – to me it was eating yoghurt set in to a shape and I would have preferred eating plain ol’ yoghurt.  The pistachio cake base was also quite bland. Maybe one for the non-chocolate lovers out there (though in that case I’d steer you towards the lemon tart).

Chocolate eclair ($7.50): A tube of choux pastry split with a creme patiserrie studded with nuts – an unexpected yet delightful twist on the original. The eclairs come in chocolate, vanilla and coffee.

Chocolate cassis mousse ($8.50): While the chocolate mousse encasing a rectangle of cassis jelly and sponge was delicious, the most delightful part of this dessert was the hazelnut wafer base. No picture sorry, devoured too quickly!

Macarons ($3): When I asked the waitress which macarons to choose, she told me that the passionfruit was very popular and the must-try was the salted caramel. Both of the macarons were amazingly intense in their flavouring and showed good ‘feet’ but were inconsistent in their texture. The salted caramel was perfect in terms of lightness but the passionfruit macaron was too wet and cakey in its interior. The miniature macaron on the cassis had two large air bubbles in it.

Madelaines ($2.50): Fragrant with the heady scent of honey, these delicate shell-shaped cakes would be perfect sweet treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

Croissants ($4.50): Apparently the pastry item to try at Chez Dre is the flaky pastry croissant encrusted and stuffed with almond frangipane. I had that as well as a pain au chocolat. Both croissants were excellent but still not to the gold standard of the croissants at La Tropezienne.

Chez Dre is an indulgent refuel stop after a visit to the South Melbourne Markets. One of the pastry chefs there has assured that during the week it is less packed and it is  a much more relaxed experience – oh, and I have to try the chocolate tart.

Chez Dre recently won ‘Best Bakery Cafe’ in The Age’s 2011 Good Cafe Awards. Have a look at the other award winners here.

Chez Dre, Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne
+61 3 9690 2688
Mon-Sun 7:30-5pm

HOT: Madame Truffles, 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne

Melburnians are often tagged as being the shoppers and foodies of Australia, so a pop up shop selling fresh Australian truffles is a most genius idea for our city.

Madame Truffles has set up shop Thursday to Sunday 10am-6pm for the whole of July ie prime truffle season. Simon McCrudden and Bernadette Jenner are the brains behind Madame Truffles and both have other jobs, which makes their wee shop a project of love.

The pop up, in a garage annex of St Ali, has been designed and constructed by Melbourne creatives Greg Hatton and Leila Sanderson. and has a glamorous yet rustic feel to it. I loved the crystal chandeliers hung inside a wall-papered room built of corrugated tin, the lovely flower-bedecked vintage bike and the cute terraniums.

The shop has also been decorated with flowers by Katie Marx including the most velvety deep purple calla lillies.

The shop stocks three types of truffles from Tasmania, Western Australia and New South Wales, each of which has a slightly different aroma to it. The truffles are sold by the gram ($2.80-$3.50) and to make these little jewels go further you can also invest in a truffle cutter imported from Italy. Each truffle come packaged in a glass jar for storage (up to 7 days) and a little tag telling you the name of the dog that nosed the truffle up from the ground for you (my truffle is thanks to Izzie). Gives my little blog of earth a sweet backstory!

I’ve popped my truffle into a jar of arborio rice and will be using it to make the most decadent toasted cheese sandwiches (organic sourdough, gruyere, truffle shavings) and mushroom and truffle risotto.

If you can’t get to Madame Truffles, you can also buy fresh Australian truffles from Fresh Generation at Queen Victoria Market.

Madame Truffles, 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne +61 430 017 480
Thursday to Sunday 10am-6pm
July only

HOT: St Ali, 18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne

No doubt many of you have heard of St Ali, the cafe and specialty coffee purveyors who are one of a handful of places responsible for Melbourne’s love affair with ‘third wave’ coffee.

Well, I don’t drink coffee, so this puts me at a disadvantage when a reviewing a place such as St Ali. However, I’m comforted by the fact that there have been lots of good words written about St Ali‘s coffee already (Eat Drink Stagger, Eating Melbourne, Melbourne Gastronome to name a few) so here is my non-coffee-drinker’s guide to St Ali.

First of all, LOVE the space. Tucked down a laneway, away from the often middling cafes on offer on Clarendon Street, the plain whitewashed wall declares ‘we’re so cool we don’t need a sign’. Inside is a high-ceilinged warehouse space complete with retro posters, industrial winches, exposed steel beams and a behemoth coffee roaster taking pride of place in the corner. All that unpolished brick and metal, plus the constant stream of customers, makes it a buzzy, noisy place. Not so noisy that you can’t hear a conversation, but certainly the reverberations of dozens of conversations and the hissing coffee machine can rise to nightclub levels at times.

During my lunchtime visit the place was so busy that the attractive, skinny-jeaned waiters were almost jogging from table to table. Nevertheless, they were super friendly as well as being efficient and the meals were brought out during the lunchtime rush with impressive speed. That might explain the clientele – not just your expected hipster coffee drinkers and young mothers with prams, but also besuited business people from nearby offices.

Instead of coffee I order a Peace & Light chai with soy ($5). Creamy and fragrant and served in a cute pot-bellied saucepan, it was the perfect antidote to the blustery cold outside.

The food menu is surprisingly extensive, covering breakfasty things, a whole section devoted to eggs, pizzas and ‘not just a breakfast chef’ items including my choice, High IQ – roast ocean trout, quinoa, currant, cranberry, mint, pistachios with tahini yoghurt ($18.50). It turned out to be several super-sized slabs of seasoned fish balanced on top of a healthy mix of nuts, seeds and fresh salad leaves. Brain food indeed and excellent value for money.

Desserts were lined up neatly in the counter by the cashier and I choose a neat rectangle of pistachio, cardamom and yoghurt cake ($4) with a side of marscapone ($3). They only had coffee marscapone that day and I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed it as it was too solid and bitter for me – would have preferred the vanilla option. The cake itself with deliciously moist and lightly fragranced with cardamom.

So the moral of the story? There’s lots of love about St Ali, even if you don’t drink coffee. And if you do drink coffee – well, it’s probably going to be a match made in heaven.

  • St Ali, 18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne +61 3 9686 2990

St Ali on Urbanspoon