There’s no such thing as a soft opening my friend far from famished observed at breakfast the other morning, especially if you have a reputation like St ALi. We were at St ALi North, and discussing the reaction on Urbanspoon to Sal Malatesta’s latest coffee haven.
Seems like the plans have taken a long time to realise a coffee shop behind Velo Cycles on the Capital City Trail (Park Street) near Nicholson street. What was once dead space and an old shed is now a light-filled, slick cafe -bigger than I expected – that is making the most of it’s surrounds.
I’ve visited four times now and you know, it’s fine. I like the space – though it’s polished concrete floor and large rectangular form makes the noise levels pretty ridiculous when it’s full. It’s already been colonised by the mother’s group who have been hanging out for a reprieve from the “not-anywhere-near-as-good-as-it-used-to-be” Birdie Num Nums around the corner. The outside area overlooks a playground so in fine weather I’m hoping the little darlings will burn off their energy out there.
The coffee is as you would expect from this team and the food is tempting me back time and time again. Co-owner Jesse Gerner has tarted up the menu and broadened it’s appeal (to me anyway – I was never a fan of the carb/spice loaded hangover cure that is My Mexican Cousin – Sorry Sal) Ed was quite enamored by the idea of eating a hamburger made by Chris Hamburger … meh – he’s easily entertained.
I absolutely loved the Heritage tomato salad served with an entire burrata. Appropriately decadent for this time of year, I ate it all myself (it’s probably designed to share) practically slurping down the perfectly ripe tomatoes with subtle seasoning which let them shine. I also really enjoyed the bircher muesli. For some insane reason, I haven’t had eggs with house smoked bacon yet – guess I’ll have to visit again.
There is the beginnings of a kitchen garden outside and even some guerrilla gardening happening around the place which along with some delicious small cakes from desert-meister Shaun Quade, makes me warm to the place even more.
Large windows open up to grass areas making the place dog friendly, and I think we all know by now that it’s bike friendly too. A few more bike racks are coming and the place will need it. There are a few kooky touches (like the up-cycled post boxes for coffee pick up), but it is a not a clone of the South Melbourne site and I’m bemused by people who seem to think it should be.
It’s not he first place to get slammed by both punters and Urbanspoon users in it’s first week, and it’s not he only place that I’ve seen where the score doesn’t match with my experiences. Some 180 people have voted on Urbanspoon and I reckon St ALi North has easily fed and watered that many on a single day in their first week.
Wait to be seated, make eye contact with waitstaff and you’ll have a fine time. Maybe not as quick as you’re used to, but take into account that it’s the new kid on the block (and lots of other places nearby are on Summer Sabbatical). Play nice North Carlton / East Brunswick corner otherwise you may not get anymore nice things.
So. What can you take from this? I guess Urbanspoon reviewers are a demographic on their own – a particular subset of the population who use it, and a smaller subset who write “mobile reviews”.
I hope the location encourages cyclists to head along this way then down Canning street into the city instead of dicing with death on St Georges Road, Nicholson and Brunswick streets.
St ALi North is sure to become a hit stop for the Sunday morning MAMIL’s so just remember to avert your eyes at crucial times, or suffer the consequences. Look at the nice bikes instead….