St Ali, South Melbourne – brunch & coffee goodness

Melbourne has become a wonderful place for breakfast/brunch and of course coffees. The coffee culture here is amazing but it’s unfortunate that most of the popular and good places seem to be congregated in the CBD or inner city suburbs such as North Melbourne, South Melbourne, St Kilda and Richmond. However, I live quite far away, it takes me about half to one hour to get to the city and travelling there is a time consuming task. Which is why whenever I’m in the city for other reasons, I will always try to fit in brunch and coffee as a side activity.

Yesterday, I went to the city for a friend’s pre-wedding video shoot which started in the afternoon. This was perfect timing for brunch and as I don’t go to the city often, there were many places I wanted to try, one of them being St Ali. St Ali has been talked about for quite some time and I had many friends tell me the coffee there is superb.

Similar to Three Bags Full and Hardware Societe, there was a line at the door and we were put on a waiting list. Luckily, the wait was only about 10 minutes, although we had to share tables with other people. St Ali’s atmosphere is similar to Three Bags Full which has a grungy, warehouse decor and was buzzing with people’s chatters and laughter. The photos above actually really reminded me of Thailand or some other tropical Asian country.


Beautiful flowers by the door gave the place a fresher feel and along with the beautiful afternoon sunshine, I was reminded that the festive and hot season is fast approaching.


Water was served in a Coopers Ale bottle and I noticed that all the bottles had different labels! That made me a bit intrigued and almost wanted to go read all the labels on the counter. Someone would definitely have looked at me weirdly.


Yuye and I both ordered coffees to start the meal. I ordered a latte as usual while Yuye ordered a cappuccino. I liked the presentation of my latte, it was clean and there was just the right amount of froth. However, I did find the coffee a little on the weak side, perhaps I was too used to getting double shots.


Yuye’s cappuccino was even prettier than mine which was to be expected since the colour of cocoa powder makes it more defined and clear. Yuye, however, also found his coffee to be a bit weak. What a shame as we were really looking forward to this long awaited first grade coffee the whole of Melbourne has been talking about.


Our meals actually took quite a long time to be brought out. I think we waited for around 20-30 minutes and had to check with the waitress twice. When it finally came out, I was starving. After reading the review on I’m So Hungree and a few other blogs that morning, I had already decided what I wanted to get – My Mexican Cousin – secret recipe corn fritters, baby spinach, haloumi and kasundi with poached or fried eggs ($17). I thought corn fritters would go very well with my love for poached eggs and of course, who doesn’t love spinach.


I usually find haloumi too salty but here it was just right as the rest of the dish would have been slightly bland without it. The corn fritters were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and while I was eating it, a few juicy corn kernels popped out. Not the most traditional corn fritters but I still enjoyed it immensely. Maybe I was very hungry. Yuye on the other hand didn’t think too much of the dish, commenting that it was too bland (I hope it wasn’t because I ate most of the haloumi).


Regardless of what the dish tastes like, as long as it has poached eggs or any form of eggs with runny yolks, I’d be a happy person. Look at that yolk! It’s always the happiest moment when I cut the yolk open and the gooey golden goodness flows all over the dish.


Yuye’s order was a great surprise to me as he usually loves his eggs and savoury dishes, especially as a first meal of the day. However, he actually ordered the Napoleon Complex – brioche french toast with coffee mascarpone, chocolate soil and cranberries and blueberries ($18). It was a sweet dish! He used to always tell me off when I try to do the same and as expected, he regretted his choice. This wasn’t because it was bad, in fact it was quite the opposite.


The presentation took me by surprise and even the patrons on the next table were eyeing Yuye’s plate for quite some time. It was simply beautiful and appetising. It was covered in a layer of thick chocolate sauce which made the dish a bit too rich. The main reason Yuye regretted getting this dish and probably the only fault I could find was how eggy the french toasts were. I think too many eggs were used when making the toasts and as a result, it tasted a bit like an overcooked custard or something similar. Yuye and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (although I love ordering desserts just to look at them) so can’t consume too much rich and sweet things in one go. Regardless, we finished the whole plate.


We also ordered a Beatle Juice ($7.50) – watermelon, strawberry, apple and mint, during the meal. It came in a tall glass like that of Three Bags Full and it was delicious. Often when restaurants list the ingredients, I couldn’t tell them apart but I could distinctly taste the watermelon, strawberry and mint flavours in this juice.


I still had a little bit of time before I had to go to the video shooting so I decided to order another coffee. The syphon ($6) on the specials board sounded quite interesting so I thought I’d give that a try. I never had syphons before and according to the menu, a syphon is “a clean delicate brew that will enlighten you to the intricacies of specialty coffee”. The coffee of the day for the syphon was from Guatemala called El Limonar. It has “cherry acidity balanced by a cane sugar body”.


The coffee was a clear, lighter shade of brown and was very very hot. The waiter suggested to wait for it to cool down a little before consuming so that the flavours are stronger. I distinctly tasted the acidity, yes it was very sour, and frankly, it wasn’t my kind of coffee. I guess there’s a first for everything and maybe I’m just not a specialty coffee kind of person. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting experience.


Would I return to St Ali again? Absolutely yes even with the little flaws we found. However, next time I will try to sit at a table with better lighting (although given its popularity, I probably won’t get a choice) and will definitely be ordering two savoury dishes between us instead.

St Ali
Phone: (03) 9686 2990
12/18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne VIC 3205

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9 comments… add one
  • Catherine @ The Spring December 12, 2011, 11:58 pm

    When I first moved to Aus, I was blown away by cafe culture here. There are so many amazing cafes in Australia doing breakfast really REALLY well… but I can't wait to get down to Melbourne where I hear it's the best of the best! Great post, and I'm so happy to have stumbled across your blog!

    – Catherine @ The Spring (in Brisbane)

  • Akika (Ichigo Shortcake) December 13, 2011, 4:40 am

    @Catherine, I totally agree, the cafe culture in Australia is amazing. Melbourne's great for it and the food, there's just one dilemma though, which place to choose! 😀 Thanks for visiting and for your lovely comment. 🙂

  • Carolyn Jung December 13, 2011, 5:12 am

    French toast with coffee mascarpone?? OMG. Now, that's how I wish I could start every morning. 😉

  • bunnyy December 13, 2011, 8:26 am

    oooo the lunch food does look pretty good….. had the dinner there and the wait was too long. maybe i'll give it another shot for lunch 😀 then Geoff can enjoy his coffee

  • Akika (Ichigo Shortcake) December 13, 2011, 10:49 am

    @Carolyn, I know right? It was great! Although a bit too rich for me 😛

    @bunnyy, it was pretty good, although Three Bags Full is still better I think. We were going to invite Geoff along but I was running so late in the morning I didn't have time to pick him up 🙁 Next time!! 😀

  • Eva December 13, 2011, 8:50 pm

    Your egg dish looks amazing! I'm with you about the sweets, a little goes a long way!

  • Akika (Ichigo Shortcake) December 14, 2011, 10:17 pm

    @Eva, the egg dish was pretty good, although probably not the best I've at a breakfast/brunch place. It's a shame I can't eat much sweets though, because they always look so pretty!

  • Anonymous December 16, 2011, 12:16 pm

    Thank you for the review will have to try this place out.
    But I think that a 20 to 30 minute wait is a good thing it means your meal was cooked fresh to order and not slapped out of a hot box.


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