My first pilgrimage of the year to the shrine of good Melbourne coffee is chilled out and relaxed. What a different place St Ali is late Wednesday morning, without the weekend hordes spilling out of its doors.
I marvel at the new super expanded menu, which also includes some cheeky selections in the "I'm still out" section, such as a bloody mary and a "dentist recommended toothbrush with Winnie the Pooh toothpaste". Perfect for when you've just finished partying at 7am in the morning and need some hair of the dog, and also a brush to get rid of that dog breath.
It's even got main dishes. Which is a good thing, since I am in need of a good feed after a big night out. So I order the Lizatron, a Black Angus steak sandwich served with gruyere, rocket, caramelised onions, tomato slices and the special house chipotle sauce. As you can see from the photo, it's two big triangular sandwiches served skewered together on massively thick slices of warm brown bread. It is just what the doctor ordered. The steak itself is perfectly cooked - medium rare. You so often get indifferent chefs who overcook sandwich steak to buggery; just because it's going into a sandwich doesn't mean you shouldn't take the same amount of care in cooking it.
I also get a syphon coffee to accompany my meal. It's supposed to bring out the true flavours of a single origin coffee, but I must admit that my untrained palate is not really getting a lot of enjoyment out of this. It just feels like normal drip filtered coffee to me (apologies to those syphon coffee fans out there - I will gratefully take lessons in how to appreciate this stuff if anyone is offering).
And of course, what is a place without the atmosphere? I sit outside in the terrace overlooking Yarra Lane and indulge in some people watching. There's a family at one of the big tables happily entertaining their little girl; next to them, there are two women having a serious looking chat over a notepad full of handwriting; and there's a dad at the other big table trying to eat his meal, while his 4 year old hyper-inquisitive boy keeps pestering him with questions; and there's this young couple next to me who appear to be in the music industry - they're talking about a friend who might be doing some mixes with Mark Ronson, another friend doing gigs, and getting industry backstage passes to music festivals. She's from Auckland but loves Melbourne (who can blame her?), and he's from Melbourne, but they appear to be just friends, both having recently split up with their partners and tentatively seeing other people now. Well what do you expect me to do when you're talking so loudly?
Another pleasant visit to St Ali. And the special bonus is that I can pick up a couple of new single origin coffees to replenish my depleted stocks at home! There's a Honduras Cup of Excellence #3 which is looking very enticing indeed ...
By the way, St Ali is now open from 5pm till late Wednesday to Saturday nights - one of these days, we'll have to come down for cocktails and a taste of Asia for St Ali Nights!
Again, photos to come.