In Melbourne, a city full of food and obsessed by coffee, I cook, I eat, I share the good news and the bad. essjay eats

St ALi North : Review

St Ali North Dec 2012 - 01

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….

St ALi North

Heirloom tomato salad with burrata $19.50


St ALi North

Pan fried stone fruit with brioche $16.50


St ALi North

Hot roll with avocado, curd and slaw $15.00


St ALi North

The coffee bar


St ALi North

Poached eggs with bean ragout $14.50


St ALi North

Bircher muesli with lychee, mango and toasted nuts $12.50

St Ali North on Urbanspoon

[googleMap name=”St Ali North” width=”500″ height=”300″]815 Ncholson , Carlton North[/googleMap]


8 thoughts on “St ALi North : Review

  • A thoughtful, considered, informed blog post. Maybe there is hope for food bloggers ( ha just kidding, nice writing).
    Interesting to note some people ARE seeing beyond the Urbanspoon bollocks. What a bunch of babies. ‘Let’s go visit the only place in Melbourne open on New Years Day and then complain about the service. Who cares if they’ve only been open a month’. Sigh
    Urbanspoon has a lot to answer for. Maybe people should only be allowed to post negative reviews once they’ve had something nice to say. About one venue…. Anywhere….!

    Comment from: BB Blocksberg

  • A well written and considered post. It’s a pity Urbanspoon ‘reviewers’ don’t put as much thought into their ‘work’. The heirloom salad with burrata looks amazing. I’d keep it all to myself to!

    Comment from: The Food Sage

  • I think I’ve visited about 6 times now, mostly to get coffee, I particularly appreciate the take away window, which I must say on New Year’s Day handled itself very well considering a trillion hipsters required caffeine all at the one time. I have eaten the pressed potato and house smoked salmon dish and whilst I adored the combination, it’s old school and it works, to me it lacked seasoning and there was too little salmon for the price range the dish was in. I absolutely love the pastries, I’ve had a few with my favorite to date being the chocolate lamington, I really love the way they are presented too, on the concrete bench with glass and nothing else. I love the space and having two young kids like the proximity to the park. I thought the service was ok, but I’m willing to reserve judgement on that front as these things always take time to settle. Nicely written post SJ

    Comment from: Donna

  • Oh also … Where would you say was better in the immediate vicinity to St Ali North? Pope Joan rocks but it’s at capacity most of the time.

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • Hi “Bruno” … So what if Sal bought the brand? Plenty of people buy successful coffee shops and turn them into non-successful ones. Sal has managed to keep the “brand” successful and appears to be successfully expanding it.

    I respect Jesse Gerner’s and Christopher Hamburger’s skills as chefs even if you don’t. I’ve eaten more than half the menu and it’s all been very good – St Ali North seems significantly more food focussed than South.

    Sounds like sour grapes are on your menu.

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • St Ali is a brand that Sal bought out and has made it look like it was his enterprising idea. The gullible masses fell for it. I don’t know any idiot that will pay $21 for an average brunch dish. Possibly just the gullible. There are so many more better places to frequent.

    Comment from: Bruno

  • […] (Thanks to SJ from essjay eats for loaning me a couple of pics. You can read her take on St. Ali North here) […]

    Pingback from: St. Ali North – 815 Nicholson St, Carlton North «

  • Great hand model in the poached eggs pic!

    I had ‘My Mexican Cousin’ for the first time today and enjoyed it, although I felt, even with the kasundi, the overall dish was too dry. Maybe if the poached eggs were a little more on the oozy size (they were a little overdone) and / or some avo mash, it would have been spot on.

    And I wasn’t hungover either!

    Comment from: Paul

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