St Ali North is the younger, Carlton North sibling of South Melbourne’s very popular cafe St Ali South. I’d not been to either of the St Ali cafes before, so decided to head to St Ali North to find out just why St Ali is so popular.
I really like the space that St Ali North occupies. Located behind Velo Cycles on Nicholson Street, the cafe spans a decent distance along a cycle path on Park Street. There’s a take-away window facing the outside, and the cafe very family friendly with loads of space outside – in fact there’s a children’s playground right next door.
Inside is a homage to all things coffee. Almost every piece of coffee related equipment that you could think of is displayed and available to purchase, and there is an assortment of more industrial coffee equipment scattered around. Not all of it is for show – I saw a staff member grinding some beans using the grinder in the photo following the one below.
St Ali North roasts all of its coffee beans on-site. They are pretty serious about the quality of their beans and where they are sourced from.
St Ali North gets very busy. My wife and I went on a Sunday morning at around 10:30am and there was a line. Our name was put onto the waiting list and 20 minutes later we had a table, which, for a Sunday morning, was not too bad. The weather was nice as was the vibe outside with all of the families and cyclists.
For a cafe that is so well known for its coffee, the espresso did not disappoint. A season blend of beans is used, with the beans roasted on site and the coffee prepared perfectly.
The cappuccino was also perfect.
As well as the seasonal house blend, there is the option of using the “coffee of the day” for 80c extra. The coffee of the day can be a bean from a particular microlot, a competition winner, or just something that the cafe thinks tastes great.
Service was excellent, and our orders were taken quickly with a nice level of friendly banter for good measure. Shortly after we had finished our coffees, our food arrived.
The menus at St Ali North and South are identical, and there are some really tasty sounding flavour combinations on offer.
“Braised Pigs Head & Smoked Hock Croquettes” with truffled cauliflower, poached eggs and sautéed radicchio” ($18.50)
This was a very tasty dish. The eggs were poached perfectly and the croquette was full of flavour. All of the flavours of the individual components worked very well together.
My criticism of this dish was that the croquette was very heavy. Despite being deep fried, the best croquettes that I’ve tried manage to be light and fluffy with a nice level of crispiness forming the outer shell.
“My Mexican Cousin” Corn fritters with greens, tomato, grilled haloumi and poached egg ($21.50)
There was a lot on the menu that I wanted to try, but I couldn’t go past St Ali’s most famous dish that has been on the menu for 8 years.
As with my wife’s choice, the flavours of My Mexican Cousin are brilliant and work really well in unison. A bit sweet, a bit savoury, a bit of tang – it’s all very delicious.
Again as with my wife’s choice however, I found the dish to be very heavy. I couldn’t finish eating it as I was beginning to get uncomfortably full. One less corn fritter and a bit more haloumi would be a much better balance in my opinion.
The cakes on offer all looked really tasty and I really did want to try one however I was too full from my main dish to contemplate eating anything more. It was mother’s day when I visited, hence all of the paraphernalia in the photo below.
I loved the space and the vibe of St Ali North, and the service was excellent. The coffees were amazing and the flavours of the 2 dishes that my wife and I tried worked really well.
The prices at St Ali North are higher than other great cafes in the area and I would have preferred it if the serving sizes were smaller, with accordingly reduced prices. This would have meant that the heavy dishes could be enjoyed and finished without becoming uncomfortably full part way through the meal.
What I’d probably do would be to share anything that sounds like it could be heavy, leaving room for a sweeter option afterwards.
Will I be back again? Yes. The coffee was great and I’d love to grab some beans for my home set-up. Also, there was a dish that I really wanted to try that sounded amazing – maple poached pears with toasted brioche, chocolate cookies crumbs and bacon ice cream – sounds delicious right?
St Ali North
815 Nicholson Street (Behind Velo Cycles)
Telephone: (03) 9380 5499
Mon – Sun: 7:00am to 6:00pm