St Ali North is a cafe that ticks all the boxes for me.
In fact, it’s almost as if they gathered a focus group of one (me) and asked what I wanted from a cafe. Let’s see now…an easy distance from my house via public transport or bike, an interesting menu using good quality produce, friendly helpful service, early opening hours (they open at 6am and serve breakfast from 7am), bike parking and kid-friendly facilities. Tick, tick, tick.
They get special bonus points for having a convenient bike-through where you can draw up your treadlie at the window to grab a drink, a sweet or a quick bite to eat. Oh, and if your bike needs some attention you can get some free air from Velo Cycles or book your repairs at their workshop.
AND if you have kids the outdoor seating area segues seamlessly into a patch of lawn overlooking a (council) playground where the rugrats can run riot.
I’ve been there several times and been impressed with every visit. The large rectangular space is light and comfortable, with seating of all shapes and sizes to accommodate singles or a group just as comfortably. When the weather’s warm the prime location is actually on the grass by the bike path I think, otherwise the bench seats by the communal tables provide just as good a view of passing traffic with the benefit of shelter.
I don’t usually order porridge when I’m out as I tend to make my own, but I couldn’t go past ‘War of the Roses’ – thick and creamy organic rolled oats decorated with a pretty drizzle of strawberry and rosewater compote and sprinkles of hazelnut praline for sweetness and textural crunch ($14).
Another sweet breakfast option is ‘Sweet 16 and Never Been Kissed’ with brioche topped with pan-fried peaches and bacon ice cream ($17.50). I was expecting the ice cream to be like a Heston Blumenthal-esque bacon-flavoured ice cream but it is in fact a rich vanilla bean ice cream topped with a sprinkle of bacon bits. So it’s a little less avant garde – I was disappointed but those with more cautious palates may not feel the same way. For that price I would also have hoped for more than one slice of brioche.
If you’re looking for something more filling I recommend the St Ali Breakfast Sandwich, a hefty handful of meaty pork terrine topped with a fried egg and with that richness offset by a picalilli relish and a crunchy walnut and green apple salad ($16.50). You can always finish off your savoury dish with one of the delectable sweets made onsite in prime position tempting customers at the cashier.
As you’d expect from a cafe headed by coffee maestro Salvatore Malatesta there is a strong focus on high quality coffee (they even roast their beans in house), though being a non-coffee drinker I also recommend their iced and hot chocolates ($4).
While the prices are a couple of dollars higher than the usual cafe prices I think the overall dining experience is worth the extra money for the occasional visit. The food is creative, the mood is relaxed and there’s plenty to keep you busy, whether it’s people-watching, paper-reading or keeping an eye on the kids at the playground. Bike down and linger for a long stay.
View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map