Top Paddock | St Ali North
You could call this post is a bit of a ‘bumper issue’, where I’m covering not just one, but TWO recently opened cafes by big players in Melbourne’s brunch industry.
Fakegf and I made our way here right after I picked her from the airport. She’d just got back from Mardi Gras… it was late morning on a Sunday, and after the lengthy drive, we were both pretty hangry. ;)
Sunday waiting brunch crowd
For those who don’t know this, the owners of Top Paddock also own Two Birds One Stone in South Yarra, and they previously ran (but have since sold) Three Bags Full in Richmond. So despite being just a few weeks old, fans were flocking and the place was thumping that morning, with a commensurate half hour wait for our table.
Beautiful fit-out, I saw elements of Two Birds’ fittings here and there, but the whole space here felt a lot more open, bright and breezy. These days, Melbourne cafes seem to go for a clean, modern but warm (and perhaps even botanical) look… the warehousey industrial motif (think Seven Seeds and distressed bricks) feels so two years ago now. Heh…
Single origin piccolo 3.80 (San Pablo, Bolivia)
They’ve remained loyal to 5 Senses when it comes to the beans used for their coffees. I enjoyed my drink – it was smooth and nuanced. They make good coffee here.
Three mushroom omelette (enoki, shiitake, oyster), bean sprouts with toast 16.00
After spotting a neighbouring table receive a spectacular looking steak sandwich, our own brunch dishes arrived.
Fakegf’s three mushroom omelette was nice, but pairing Asian ingredients like bean sprouts, soy sauce and Asian mushrooms with mint leaves and sourdough tasted a little bit odd to both of us.
Gin and lime cured ocean trout with beetroot relish, potato galette, poached eggs, leaves and goats curd with toast 18.50
Three guesses what I got? This brunch combination of cured trout, beetroot and goats curd is my weak spot. We all have our brunch dish weak spots, what’s yours? :p
Each cafe makes a different variation of this brunch combination, but I think the chefs here have hit a sweet spot with this dish, it tasted elegantly balanced. The delicate squares of potato galette went very nicely with everything. I must say the micro herbs made the dish look very winsome too.
Will I be coming back here? Yes siree!
St Ali North
I attempted to visit St Ali North on New Years Day. That turned out to be a foolhardy mission, the throng of waiting customers looked so disheartening that I walked away. Fakegf and I then decided to tackle this fortress on a better day…. a Tuesday that is.
The North branch of this café empire is located along a cycle track and it’s also right next to a cycle shop. They even have a little ‘drive thru’ booth for cyclists to buy takeaway coffees. Fit-out feels cleaner and more eco conservatory like than its warehousey Southern cousin.
Single Origin Piccolo $4.80 (Red Bourbon, Colombia)
St Ali uses coffees by Sensory Lab. My piccolo tasted good, with a leafy tight freshness that’s oddly reminiscent of unripe grapes.
However, I think charging $4 for a piccolo (add $0.80 for single origin) is pushing prices into new territory in Melbourne.
Bone & Brew $19.50
Roasted bone marrow, morcilla, egg yolk emulsion, fennel, capers & toasted brioche…
Served with Black Filter Coffee: a new and different flavour matching experience to die for.That was why the dish also comes with a serve of filter coffee. It was only when I had sips of the coffee along with the dish that it started to make sense. The coffee cuts through the richness very well, and it was also good coffee, with fruity sweet hints.
This is a dish that’s worth experiencing once… like a mini food safari in a brunch spot. But it’s not for the faint hearted.
Ginger & Carrot Cake $5.50 (dessert by Shaun Quade)
We ended brunch nicely with a bit o’ cake… lol Marjorie Dawes much? It went very nicely with my filter coffee.
I’m glad I got to visit North branch finally. The menu’s solid and the coffee’s good albeit on the pricey side. Service at both Top Paddock and St Ali was flawless, and I’m pretty likely to come back. Although for St Ali, I’d stick with its older cousin in the South, since it’s so much closer to home.