Coffee: St Ali
“It was 6:30am and the alarm had gone off. The sound blared through the still room as I awoke to find myself in unfamiliar surroundings. My bed was softer than usual, the doona was light and fluffy yet warm. I had, of course, just awoken from spending the night at The Olsen.
Usually I would try to sneak in an extra 15 minutes of sleep, but on this occasion I was too excited – I was meeting home cook extraordinaire Maggie Beer! The woman who commercialised Verjuice and became the go-to source on how to roast a pheasant.
Breakfast was served at Spoonbill in a private space upstairs. The ambiance of the restaurant was immediately intimate with dim, warm lighting. There was a large table setup for us upstairs and as I sat down and perused the brunch menu, I ordered a St Ali double espresso [$3.50] to start the day.
The menu at Spoonbill is seasonally fresh but relatively stock standard options like Smashed avocado with hazelnut dukkah, baby spinach, feta, on sourdough [$16] and Buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, creme friache. Chatting away with Than (I Eat Therefor I Am), we both decided on the Sweetcorn and zucchini fritters, soft poached egg, spinach, bacon, Harissa mayo [$16].
The table began to fill as anticipation started to rise. I found myself talking to the marketing managers of The Good Food & Wine Show. As one of Melbourne’s older food festivals, we talked about the changing perception of the festival over the years and the need to keep up with changing consumer needs.
“Cheese is really big, particularly in Melbourne. Last year we introduced Cheese Alley – it was a total hit! This year we will see it reappear. Needs vary between states and so we have to change our vendors and stalls in each city. Sweet wines are big in Perth, whilst ginger beer is big in Queensland.”
As the conversation flowed the lady of the moment arrived – and sat next to me! She ordered a single espresso (of about three in total!), and began telling us stories of her past, present and the soon to be future. As breakfast was served, we discussed her love for freshly pressed olive oil and a good drop of wine, “Life is too short for Sauv Blanc!” She exclaimed with a riotous laugh.
My fritters were soft, melting in my mouth. The Harissa mayo was tangy and sharp, bringing the fritters to life. I have to hand it to the chefs at Spoonbill – they threw away my preconceived notions that hotel restaurants can’t make a cafe style breakfast. The eggs here were perfectly poached and oozed yolk once pierced.
“So what made you all want to write about food?” quipped Maggie in excitement, looking around the table with her eyes beaming.
“I guess it comes from a real appreciation for food,” I thought aloud, speaking in behalf of my fellow bloggers.
“Are you OLD enough to know what’s good and bad?” Maggie asked. Swallowing my wounded pride I considered her question.
“Well, I guess we know what we like and what we don’t like. And we’re opinionated.”
Swiftly changing the subject, we started to discuss Maggie’s part in the upcoming Good Food & Wine Show. Maggie will be doing two main events – a Celebrity Theatre show [$33+bf] on opening day 7 June and the Maggie Beer at the Yalumba Y Series Restaurant where she has created a menu worth tasting for guests to gorge themselves on. Yum!
So. How was the experience? The food and coffee at Spoonbill was of a much higher quality than I anticipated and I found the venue very well suited as a place for Friday night drinks. I came out if the experience really excited for the Good Food & Wine Show which is on this Friday 7 June – Monday 10 June. Ticketing options and prices vary so be sure to check it out.”
Final thought: “A hotel restaurant that lifts the brunch standards to match those of Melbourne’s competitive cafes”