St Ali : Welcome to Melbourne

Flat white from St Ali

Thank you to Tiger Airways for getting us to Melbourne in perhaps the most cramped and undignified manner possible. At times I felt like I should have brought my own seatbelt along, as it probably would have helped make me feel moderately comfortable about traveling in an over sized chicken coop.

What I was grateful for however, is the lovely and handsome Ben Bicknell of 5 Senses, picking us up at the airport and whisking us back to the place we were staying in South Yarra for some much needed sleep (which was nigh on impossible on the plane) and a chance to make ourselves respectable, before beginning the onslaught that was to be our time in Melbourne. First stop… St Ali.

If you haven’t heard of St Ali and you live in Melbourne, then there is something seriously wrong with you. Mark Dundon’s cafe and roasting operation has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and is consistently named in the top places to visit, and from what I can gather, rightly so.

It’s located in a quiet street in South Melbourne, seemingly away from the hustle and bustle of the city and it’s many laneways. There’s no sign out the front, but it’s completely packed. I have no idea where the people are all from but there are suits galore (and not of your Man to Man / Ed Harry / Insert cheapo guys clothes store name here, variety), happily mingling with hipsters and hippies of all persuasions. It’s a Thursday morning (I think), ok maybe lunch time.

We grab a table by the bar, unlucky not to get a seat at the big communal table, but it does make surreptitious photography more difficult.

Orders are done at the table and so I grab a couple of double flat whites to begin, with a fried egg stack and chorizo for Sharon (damn i knew i should have got that), and some house made white beans with proscuitto for me). The flat whites were superb. Cutting through the milk nicely and balanced sweetness with that chocolately body that’s so inviting for a cold Melbourne morning. The food arrived and was equally great. Though I perhaps felt a bit left out when a group of 4 businessmen all ordered the same dish of Lamb Kofta balls… decadently soaked in a tomato sauce.

Fried Eggs and Chorizo @ St Ali

Still what we had was great. The beans hearty and the proscuitto salty and delicious. I tried not to eye Sharons chorizo, but it soon got the better of me and I caved… it was great too.

Next up another round of coffees, espresso for me, short macchiato for Sharon. While waiting the barista strolled over and surprised me by saying

“Sorry, this is for you, it’s a really nice looking ristretto but too short for an espresso, so I figured I’d give it to you for free rather than waste it”.

How lovely. It was a great ristretto, syrupy and dense with a great smokiness running through it. I thought about asking about the single origin they have on each day, but I was loving the house espresso blend too much to care to be honest. The espresso which soon arrived was equally tasty. More balanced and less syrupy than the ristretto, but a well put together shot. I felt at home.

St Ali oozes so much cool there should be hazard signs out the front when you walk in. It’s just effortless. We thought to ourselves that if the rest of Melbourne was as good as this, we were in for a good time :)

St Ali
12-18 Yarra Place
South Melbourne
Telephone (03) 9686 2990

18 thoughts on “St Ali : Welcome to Melbourne”

  1. Hey Matt, just wondering which camera you use? The pics are wonderfully sharp and clear and it seems to capture ambient light perfectly.


  2. Matt, you’ve just reminded me where I should go for lunch today. I’m in with the beans but haven’t eaten properly at St Ali yet. (Davy, you need to ask him about the lens).

  3. Davy, I shoot with a Canon 350D, and the lens I was using virtually the entire time I was in Melbourne was a Sigma 30mm f/1.4. It’s a lovely lens for portrait type shots, and also works really well in low light. The rest is all magic.

    Ed, try the Kofta. It’s my biggest regret that I let it pass.

    Aun, you don’t know how lucky you are. I’ve been walking around in a t-shirt all week. Melbourne is much more in line with my weather requirements style wise.

  4. No worries mate. p.s – Sorry we didn’t make it into The Commoner during the trip. The only days we ended up having open were Monday and Tuesday, and those are the days you’re closed :( Next time for sure.

  5. No worries Matt, you did have a pretty tight agenda and I guess there’s a fair few killer establishments you’ve gotta try when you’re in town so no dramas. Next time you’re over let me know and I’ll shout you a beer!


  6. Davy: done and done.

    Luca: With the prosciutto and the chorizo, I wasn’t lacking for pig. Still, you have a point… there is something other worldly about bacon that I’m sure the Japanese have thought up another 5 words to describe.

  7. Hey Matt,

    Kind of funny (not funny haha but you know what I mean) that it takes you guys to tell me (a Melbourne person) what’s hot in the food world over there. I’ve got lots to look forward to. Looking forward to your other reviews.

  8. Hey mate! Hope you’re having fun in Melbourne! 10-4 with the Tiger comment – the price was right but our flight over was absoltuely shite. We got lucky on the way back though and had a spare seat between us so Marie and I could stretch out… we’re paying full price next time to avoid the tilt of having an eight year-old kick me repeatedly between 2am and 5am Melbourne-time…

  9. St Ali is gold.

    The coffee at St Ali owned Brother Baba Budan in Little Bourke St (near cnr of Elizabeth) is as good, if not better. Well worth ones time. The lady barista’s have been pulling the best shots (best espresso I’ve had in the last year).

  10. St Ali is awsome. it took me months to find this place, i got lost in the alleys like 5 times before I finally found it, even thought it was just right next door almost. The whole middle eastern breakfest thing is a bit weird week after week, and the bacon thing does get to me from time to time, but the serious espresso is hard to beat, coffee of the day, always a winner. Next to Picnic in south yarra, this is pretty much where Melbournes coffee passion begins and ends with me.

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