Saturday, 8 December 2012

St Ali Revamps the North Side

To say that I've merely been looking forward to the opening of the St. Ali North would, quite frankly, be a big fat lie. I followed its progress, watched the YouTube clip, penciled in the date of its opening and was even loosing sleep for excitement! Ok, scratch that last part, that's just a bit much. But it's not too much to say I was anticipating my first lunch experience there not even a week after its opening. I hadn't heard all that many reviews about it, so I went without knowing what to expect. I'm glad I wasn't disappointed, that would have just been so very sad...seriously, all that sleep deprivation for nothing.

When you stumble upon St. Ali North you almost have to do a double take. It's not all that obvious to the untrained eye, but when you look closer, through the windows of the simple cream, rectangular building, one can see happy people sipping on coffees and a queue of cyclists lining up for a latte from the take-away window. The layout is much more simple compared with it's Bo Ho Brother in South Melbourne, with lots of windows, an open and central bar and beach house-blue walls. Honestly, I liked it. I didn't feel like they were trying to shove the idea of 'hipster' down my throat...and if you've ever tried to shove a hipster down your throat, you'll know that that thick framed glasses are tasteless and not so kind to your esophagus.

I especially like the central bar because it makes the coffee here such an important focus in the cafe. I saw this too when I noticed that filter coffee was a mere three dollars (as opposed to the often seen seven or eight...I mean come on, am I supposed to be rolling in dosh?!), making it much more accessible to the general crowd. Then there was the menu. I've already concurred that i'll have to go back at least five or six times in the next week (that seems reasonable) in order to try everything I wanted, because it all just sounded so good! I'm pretty sure I freaked out the family next to me by drooling on the menu. They left quite promptly. After much procrastination, my cafe companion chose the corn fritters which seemed to be flying out the kitchen faster than you could say, 'holy crap, is that a flying corn fritter?!'. This was the original St. Ali's most popular dish and Matt Perger told me that alone it would make them 16,000 dollars a week. The new ones, according to Perger, have been 'sexed-up' for SAN, and my god were these indeed some sexy fritters. Three super crunchy sweet corn fritters, topped with a delicious tomato and halloumi salsa and two poached eggs so oozy I could have bathed in them. I decided to go for the grainy panini with braised kale, saffron chickpeas and sumac onions. Very flavour-filled and very scrummy. The rest of the menu sounded great with offerings such as the heirloom tomato salad with burrata and olive oil dust and the bone marrow with morcilla, coffee, egg yolk emulsion, fennel and capers. Though the idea of jelly-flavored meat freaks me out a bit (let's not kid ourselves, that's essentially what bone marrow is), my companion almost fainted with joy at the sight of this dish on the menu.

So far, so good on all accounts! I think there's a lot of pressure on this cafe to do well (like, really well) and so far it seems to be creating happy campers, or coffee drinkers really, across the North side. It's about time we had a place like this over this part of town, and now that my sleeping patterns are all back to normal, I shall indeed be back.

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