St Ali North
Address: 815 Nicholson Street Carlton North 3054
Phone: 03 9380 5499
Opening hours: mon-sun 7am-5pm
Breakfast hours: mon-sun 7am-4.30pm
Seating: indoors & outside
Kid friendly: super yes
Payment: Credit cards & cash
Gluten free: yes
Vegetarian options: yes
Vegan option/s: yes
words by Ellie Parker
photos by Albert Comper
Breakfast Out operates on the “two suburbs” rule – as in, the breakfast has to be so good you’d travel across two suburbs for it. Whilst we stop short on saying we’d run barefoot over hot coals for it, we’re really not far from it. We’re hard to please but equally we adore it when we are.
St Ali North is worth travelling two suburbs for, especially if you are with child. It makes for an exceptional café experience with tiny tots, not least of all because you’re eating the type of food you used to eat pre-bébé. By that I mean a civilised meal, rather than some naff semi-toasted cheese sandwich, that some ‘kid friendly’ establishments consider passable because their only claim to fame is a dreary little sandpit out back.
The St Ali brand hasn’t compromised, be it food, coffee, fit out, service. Rather they’ve simply invited an otherwise ostracised clientele (new parents) into their fold. You’ll feel like an adult with a brain holding down a conversation with another adult with a brain whilst sipping a supremely good cup of (hot) St Ali coffee. You’ll even manage to eat the entire meal whilst your child miraculously sits next to you, silently absorbed in the task of colouring in Jimi Hendrix’s head. Failing all of that, there’s a playground adjacent, which means you have options. If the kid won’t come to you, you can take your breakfast to the bloody kid. To some of you this might sound a bit whatevs, but to others it’s nothing short of a miracle.
It should also be said that St Ali attracts normal, non-parental folk as well. Which is part of the wonderment – it bobs along with an even keel, there’s calm despite the chaos, things are achieved and everyone feels loved and included. Much of this has to do with the outstanding staff. They sail through the pockets of frenzy, doing their job with a level head and sometimes even a smile.
The breakfast menu mostly adheres to formula, though it does peep its head over the turret with an occasional flight of fancy: “Pork Terrine Breakfast Sandwich” features bacon-wrapped pork shoulder terrine, fried egg, piccalilli relish with a smattering of candied walnut and Pink Lady slaw. There’s also a “Spanish Mackerel” with vegetable escabeche, poached eggs and house made soda bread for those who like a wack of fish-face.
Despite these exotics, it’s really hard to go past the basics because they’re just done so well. Which brings me to kale – I know it’s having its moment in the sun right now but this ain’t liquidised smush in a jar, this is a braised beauty with lemon, salt and possibly garlic and it really is such a welcome addition to the breakfast scene, particularly when its compatriots are grilled haloumi and a pork and veal sausage that turns up as a slab - let’s call it a meat brick (if you ate a lot of this meat brick you’d get really fat really quickly– that’s how good it is). It goes without saying that the poached eggs are as they should be and the Zeally Bay toast with Myrtleford butter is super duper too.
Cleverly there’s also an all day grazing menu, along with the breakfast menu which means that you can tuck into a great steak sanga if you’ve had enough of the breakfast line up. As for the kids, the dedicated menu itself serves a two-fold purpose, both as a menu and a colouring-in page (thus Jimi Hendrix on the flip-side). There’s a stash of colouring in pencils on most tables and at times the place resembles an Ikea Antilop highchair factory, which is good news or mildly horrific depending on where you stand.
At this point I should gently remind folks that buyer beware, this is a hit with parents for obvious reasons. If the thought of a room full of tots makes running over hot coals sound like fun, then stick to St Ali’s South, or use our app to find another option around the corner.
Check out this cafe and more on the iPhone app http://appsto.re/i6x52Zx