At 12-18 Yarra Place in South Melbourne is a hidden gem. I say hidden because unless you're in the know, it's not obvious to a passerby looking down this street that there's a great little coffee place just a few steps and a skip away.
St. Ali occupies a converted warehouse with wooden tables and mis-matched chairs. Yes, this place is certainly quirky, but oh so good quirky!
I arrived at one o'clock today and was instantly greeted by a wide eyed and smiley waitress. I instantly saw my friend sitting at the end of one of the communal tables and went to sit with her.
Another waitress came and offered to get us some coffees right away. Again, with a lovely huge smile. Wow, with the amount of smiles we were getting in such a short space of time, we were becoming instantly enamoured with this place.
We both ordered flat whites ($3.80 each); except I ordered a 'skinny' as opposed to regular. There were a couple of coffee makers with brewing looking contraptions to the side, it all looked a bit like a potions class going on in the background.
The flat white came with a lovely fir tree pattern on top. It was beautifully smooth and oh so yummyliciously creamy. Mmm, I think I fell in love with this place from the sip go!
This place has a breakfast menu as well as a lunch menu. We decided to share a couple of dishes. From their 'kitchen confidential' section, we chose the 'my mexican cousin' ($14.50) which is their secret recipe corn fritters with baby spinach, grilled halloumi and kasundi with our choice of poached eggs.
From the 'between the sheets' (sounds a little naughty), we chose the 'morrocan spiced chicken thigh burger' ($16), stuffed with tomato jam, tomato, avocado salsa and rocket.
They both arrived at the same time. The burger came in toasted turkish bread - one of my favourites.
One can see the yummy filling - chicken, lovely fresh green avocado salsa, plenty of crunchy rocket and big beef tomato slices with lovely sweet tomato jam. The ingredients were all fresh and tasty and after a good morning workout, it felt indulgent without being too glutinous (apart from the white bread...)
The corn fritters came with two lovely poached eggs on top with kasundi on top (sliced mango pickle). The halloumi wasn't salty as some that I have had before, and the corn fritters were delicious and very non-greasy. The poached eggs were just about runny, with the edges of the yoke cooked - a little more done than I prefer. But all in all, a well rounded dish which hit the spot.
We polished off the meal with a chai tea latte ($4.80 each). The spices had been ground up and topped with hot milk in a one handle jug. I asked for honey on the side and they gave me a generous shot glass of honey. The chai latte was delicious, but it could have done with more oomph if I'm honest.
Staff here are so super friendly. We were made to feel welcome from the moment we set foot inside the place to the moment we left.
St. Ali is just brilliant. I love the concept and I love the fact that they take such pride in their coffee. I think I've been persuaded to make the effort to come back here just to buy some ground coffee beans. After which, I will just have to try to emulate their great coffee back home!
12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Tel: +61 (0)3 9686 2990