815 Nicholson St
Carlton North

Opening hours:
Mon – Sun: 6am – 6pm
Kitchen hours: 7am – 5pm

Coffee: St Ali

Mr LB:
Segregation [segriˈgāSHən] Noun – The action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things being set apart.

Melbournians can be a loyal bunch in odd ways. During my Father’s youth, there was something called beer brand loyalty. If you decided to drink Melbourne Bitter, then like a devoted football follower you drank Melbourne Bitter to the day you died. While some traits die as new generations question the previous ideals, others can’t be broken. For our generation the ‘which side of the river were you raised and currently reside in?’ question is a pivot point in any conversation. If you were raised in Broadmeadows, you were presumed to be trouble and, conversely, if you were from Brighton you might be seen as a Brighton snob. While segregation from a dirty river drives Melbourne to be diverse, we are no longer afraid to check out the new thrills that the other side has to offer. The latest thing to take the big jump over the river is St Ali, recently launching St Ali North.

Finding St Ali North requires some brain power. Upon arriving, Miss SL had taken navigation instructions from her smartphone. While the map location was correct, by reading the address we thought it was on the shop-front of Nicholson street. However, we were wrong. Your best starting point to finding St Ali North is by locating Velo Cycles store on Park Street and find the gigantic dinosaur graffiti art. Once found, you must head away from Nicholson Street, down Park Street. What you will find is magnificent architecture that is inviting, large and warming.

The space is smartly designed and has a large barista station against the outside wall to allow takeaway orders for those making a pit-stop. There is also a long, large communal table that caters for large groups amongst other well-positioned seating options. Natural lighting acts as a running theme, blending well with the deep aqua-coloured walls. There are cleverly designed sky lights and large windows that open up completely, giving a great summer vibe. The architectural design creates a great distinction for this cafe and is not only aesthetically pleasing and practical, but it creates a special vibe when you enter. It’s the best new café space I have seen in a while.

St Ali was arguably the Melbourne coffee mecca when it first setup shop. It was the place that guaranteed not just good – but out of this world coffee. As it’s been around for a long time, I’ll admit that lately it hasn’t been my all-time favourite coffee blend. Ordering my long black [$3.50], I had rediscovered my love for the St Ali blend. It was hands down a high quality coffee with a good-looking tan head, a lovely sweet, sharp taste and had a smooth aftertaste on the palate. I would recommend a little extra water to reduce the sweetness, but it’s a long black worth the travel time.

The menu selection was quite difficult with several innovative dishes as well as some old favourites to choose from. With all my dish selection time exhausted, I went for the Pressed potato, house smoked salmon, summer greens and cream friache [$18.50]. If a fresh, clean taste with pan-fried potato is what you’re craving, then this is your meal. The pressed potato was lightly panned fried with butter, with some bits of it being slightly firmer than expected. The smoked salmon and green salad was the perfect addition and brought a fresh taste to the dish. The red cabbage and dill herb was an excellent combination and mixed with the cream friache gave the salad more texture. Not to mention a perfect excuse to mop it up the final scraps on the plate. The meal was well-executed and was full of fresh, summer flavours that must be tried during summer. Even Miss SL agreed on this point.

Pressed potato, house smoked salmon, summer greens and cream friache

St Ali and St Ali North, prove that no matter what side of the river you situate yourself on there is room to make a successful brunching establishment. If you’re keen on brunching, then St Ali North must be on your 2013 list of things to try. It’s a must do for any brunch lover.”

Miss SL:
“Melbourne’s brunch scene is as fickle and incestuous as they get. Every couple of weeks there’s a new cafe popping up, each one more exquisite than the last. As the scene gets more and more competitive, the focus of the owners changes. Outstanding coffee? Tick. Delicious food? Sorted. Architecturally breathtaking? Complete. Hidden enough for our Melbourne hipster market? Planned from the start.

Melbourne’s latest cafe creating all the buzz comes to you from the Al Capone of the brunch scene, St Ali.

Unlike other cafes that had smooth transitioning from concept to completion, St Ali North got a little bit of a rough welcome to the North side – before even opening their doors to the public, their $45,000 Synesso Hydro coffee machine was stolen! We’re unsure if this ever got resolved but this article on Broadsheets was a very interesting read for us!

We’d arrived around 1pm, missing the morning brunch crowd and were quickly welcomed to our seats. Our waitress was a familiar face from South Melbourne’s original St Ali, so like the pro she is, she offered to take our coffee orders and provided us with water, leaving us to decide on our order.

I was not very hungry on this occasion but was craving a bit of a sandwich. Being the optimist to try something new, I decided to give the Braised kale sandwich with saffron chickpeas, sumac onions and a green salad (on gluten free bread) [$16] a go. Kale is supposed to be an extremely healthy superfood, containing lots of Iron, vitamins A, C and K as well as containing a great level of flavonoids and carotenoids (antioxidants which are good for you!). More importantly, I’ve never consciously chosen a meal that touted kale as the star of the dish, and I was interested to see what the chef whipped up.

Braised kale sandwich with saffron chickpeas, sumac onions and a green salad (on gluten-free bread)

When my dish came out I was intrigued. The braised kale looked less like its cabbage heritage and more like cooked seaweed and the gluten-free toast didn’t look like regular gluten-free bread (it actually almost looked like normal multi-grain!). The first thing that I noticed when digging into my sandwich was the bread, which had a strong wholesome, multi-grain flavour.  The kale itself seemed to have a slightly salty flavour and firm texture.

The next flavour to hit the palate was the saffron chickpeas, which were presented as both smashed and whole within this dish. The whole chickpeas created a new layer of textures to this dish and were simply gorgeous – they were soft and easy to spear with a fork (not usually a simple task!). The sumac onions were hard to miss and added some real va-va-voom to this dish. They seemed pickled and were lightly dusted with sesame seeds. The onions burst with flavour and added a crunchy texture, almost like pickled cabbage. YUM!

Overall, the sandwich provided the light meal I was hoping for. Despite being content with my main, I couldn’t go passed a little bit of brunch dessert. The counter-top was full of goodies to be enjoyed and I was caught between a berry tart and a lemon meringue [$6]. We decided on sharing a lemon meringue because, well, they looked so darn cute! It was artfully caramalised on the top, creating textures of mid to deep caramels tones. The effect? Pure desire.

Lemon meringue

The meringue on top of the sponge was light and pillowy, like melted marshmallows. What I really liked about the meringue was that it wasn’t too sugary to be enjoyed. The sponge itself was dense, sweet and centered with caramel and lemon curd. YUM!

Lemon meringue

It looks like the mobsters of the coffee and brunch scene are looking to extend their territory from the South to the North. Their coffee-fueled guns are firing, they’ve brought their best men and women to battle and are looking to show everyone who really owns this town. St Ali North lives up to the hype – they offer some of the old, the new and something just plain refreshing. Well worth a visit whether you’re a foodie or just out to impress.”

Final thought: “A refreshed version of St Ali for the North side – something old and something new”

St Ali North on Urbanspoon


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