Monday, May 07, 2007

St Ali, South Melbourne

Such an appropriate name for a cafe don't you think? Personally I still find Melbourne's back alleys a novelty so I can't resist taking visitors down as many random streets as I know (the ones that I know lead somewhere funky that is). So when N1, my roommate and best friend from boarding school, and her boyfriend, N2 came down to Melbourne I took them here for lunch.

St Ali seems to be a known gem for South Melbourne's coffee lovers however I first heard about it only 2 weeks ago, over a few Friday night drinks. When I bumped into some fellow drinkers the next morning at the gym we decided to check it out over a post-gym coffee. I only stayed for coffee but I was most impressed, not to mention pleasantly caffeinated as I made my way home. (Note: Saturday gym is not a habit of mine. I often talk it up the night before over a wine or two but rarely do I back myself up!)

N1 & N2's visit seemed the perfect excuse to have lunch here. The atmosphere is great, with high warehouse ceilings, cement floors and clever usage of coffee sacks. I was particularly taken with the hessian mounted on wooden frames and hung as pictures. N1, who owns a homewares store in Goondiwindi, laughed and said she'd never be able to sell pictures like that because all the farmers would turn around and make them themselves. Still, how often do you see things at the market and say "I could make that" and then never do it! A few louds bangs echoed across from the walled-off half of the building just as we were ordering however the waiter managed to downplay the noise with his sense of humour.

Apparently St Ali takes a lot of influence from Yemen, including their namesake. There's a definite Middle Eastern and North African feel to the dishes but I would've never picked Yemen. Check out their website for more info on the namesake. I ordered pork and fennel sausages on pide, with tomato relish, chilli and roquette. The sausages were sensational. I thought the chilli overpowered some of the flavours however my tolerance to chilli can fluctuate so perhaps my tastebuds were feeling a little sensitive.

My fellow diners all had lamb. S'bo and N2 both had the lamb pizza (pictured) and thought it was good, quite a compliment from N2 really, who's mother has a lamb feedlot business in Goondi (check this link to abc). N1 had lamb kofta which looked great and was apparently delicious, although the portion seemed a little on the small size, perfect for a raining afternoon snack perhaps?
The prices for lunch are very reasonable, but I'm simply excited to have found a place in Melbourne where the coffee is comparable to my favourite roaster in Sydney, Campos. And, just round the corner! I hadn't even had a chance to look for somewhere yet, so the stumble-across makes it all the more sweeter!
St Ali
12-18 Yarra Place
South Melbourne
Ph. 9686 2990
Open for breakfast & lunch, 7 days.

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