Update 31/12/2014: St Ali North has closed and been replaced by Green Park Dining. We visited Green Park for an excellent dessert night, but have yet to check it out for brekkie.
December 25, 2012
Every family has its own Christmas Day traditions - we were always up bright and early, just getting breakfast out of the way so we could get on to present opening. It was always time spent at home, gearing up for the big family shindig at lunch. So I felt vaguely guilty when Cindy and I headed off to have breakfast out on Christmas morning this year. It felt like I was breaking an unwritten rule, to be heeded even when not spending Christmas with my family.
Still, there was something exciting about it too, and the lure of the inner north's newest cafe was enough to have me rebelling. St Ali is something of an institution - it's been serving up fancy coffee and trendy cafe food in South Melbourne for years now. For some reason we've never dragged ourselves over there to check it out, so we were quite excited to watch as their outpost in the north popped up alongside the Park St bike path. It's a lovely place - light-filled and airy, with the coffee machines taking pride of place and a combo of communal and smaller tables. It's heavily bike-focussed, luring in riders from the bike-path or getting them to stop at the 'ride-through' coffee window. It must have been one of very few places doing brekkie on Christmas morning, yet we had no problem nabbing a table at 9am.
The menu is long and mixes together standard breakfast dishes with a range of more innovative options. It's not the most veg-friendly menu in town, with the terrific-sounding pan-fried stone-fruit spoiled by the addition of bacon icecream. Vegans will be able to eat but won't have much to choose from. I eventually decided to try the 'My Mexican Cousin' dish, despite it coming in at a whopping $21.50 (surely a where's the beef? breakfast record).
It was impossible not to order it though, with ingredients like poached eggs, haloumi, fried sweetcorn fritters and kasundi. And it didn't disappoint - the fritters were wonderful, the eggs well-cooked and the kasundi spicy and rich. One little sliver of haloumi seemed a bit pointless, and I think in an ideal world you could drop it, one of the fritters and have this as a $14 brekkie.
Cindy ordered "Grandpa Pat's brown sugar and salted butter porridge" ($12.50). It was heavy on the brown sugar and swimming in butter - not really the healthy option you imagine when you order porridge. Cindy didn't think it would be too everybody's taste but she was pretty happy with it.
As you'd expect, the coffee is excellent and there are loads of fancy-schmancy dishes if you want them. The staff were lovely and friendly, especially seeing as they were all stuck working on Christmas day. St Ali is a welcome addition to the north - it's going for a slightly fancier and more expensive version of breakfast than some of our local favourites, but it provided a great start to Christmas day and is well worth checking out.
St Ali North has been enthusiastically reviewed by Peach Water, PETIT MIAMx, Ess Jay Eats and Samson Girl.
St Ali North
815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North (on the Park St bike path)
veggie breakfasts $7.50 - $21.50
Accessibility: St Ali has a flat entryway and reasonably well spaced out tables. We ordered at the table and paid at a lowish counter. We didn't check out the toilets.