St. Ali North

A whole lotta hype but not much to write about.

The whole of Melbourne raves about St. Ali.

I don’t so much.

Yeah they make a decent coffee but unfortunately you have to deal with all the other crap and that really takes away from the enjoyment. I compare the experience to visiting that one friend that everyone has, that you are always competing with and trying to out-do. You would never visit that friend in your track suit pants unshowered would you? No…. It’s the same with St. Ali North. You put in a lot of effort for not enough in return.

The menu is lacking in variety and does not offer a single breakfast option (A build-your-own list of ingredients does not count! Any peasant can write a list). You have to contend with a decent wait on a table and then deal with an array of screaming kids, mentally withdrawn wait staff and high expectations.

You leave St. Ali North with the same thought in your head that you also have after a drawn out, but competitive, game of oneupmanship with that friend. ‘Why?! Did I win?’

Yes the Ek-Mitondo Kenyan Single origin was pretty darn good for my double espresso but was it worth the hoo-ha? I just don’t know.

This rant won’t stop the locals from religiously returning and may provoke bearded screams of hipster kind but seriously if I’m investing 90mins and $29pp you have to offer me something more than a nice espresso with a hyphenated foreign name.

My rating 4/8

St Ali North
815 Nicholson Street
Carlton North VIC 3054

St Ali North on Urbanspoon

Pope Joan

Fun cafe with good coffee and better food. Simple.

Very happy to visit Pope Joan on the weekend and have yet another awesome breakfast experience. No slop or average crap served here, just interesting and delightful dishes served efficiently by staff who don’t hate the world.

I was deceived by the enormity of this place. The 3 Nicholson Street frontages are nondescript to the outside world but on the inside there is plenty of seating and character.

Breakfast was great, and a relief to be handed a menu with actual imaginative breakfast options on it for a change….

-Yes I’m looking you St Ali North, believe it or not people want to be provided with inventive breakfast options, not just build-your-own,…  lazy bastards- 

The Black Pudding option was accompanied by white beans, smoked beef, a fried egg and potato bread. It was good but I felt somewhat indifferent with the quality of the key ingredient, the black pudding.

Salvation  was found in the Pumpkin & Haloumi tart (see what I did there).  That’s where it’s at. I may have been guilty of letting my fork stray across the table to frequently sample that delight. Luckily there was no divine intervention on the day (bang! promise that was the last one).

The Allpress espresso was pleasant also but had it’s characteristic earthy after-tones which may leave some drinkers wanting a palette cleanser.

Would highly recommend going to Pope Joan, you get the quality without copping the arrogance.

My rating 6/8

Pope Joan
77-79 Nicholson St
Brunswick East VIC 3057

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

He Says, She Says

Located at the ‘hard to park, easy to drive past’ intersection of Toorak Road & Camberwell Road (1101 Toorak Rd, Camberwell VIC 3124), ‘He Says, She Says’ is a (huge) place to escape on the weekend.

I do hope this place is making some coin. Whenever I have visited on the weekend, it has been completely empty (not a huge issue though if you are after some peace and quiet). The problem has to come down to the location. The foot traffic is minimal and the facade is quite harsh and uninviting. It would be a shame as it is a very nice fit-out and overall is a pretty good place to have a coffee.

My criticism having visited numerous times would be that the quality of food has declined slightly. At its inception the attention to detail was meticulous, however now, I feel there is an air of ADHD surrounding each dish. The coffee has remained consistent throughout. Not brilliant but consistently ‘OK to Good’. In the beginning it was the coffee that let this place down as the food was just that much better. Now, I believe they are on more of a level playing field.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t visit, but rather, be selective of when you want to visit. If you want some quiet time and not get hassled every 3 seconds because the staff want to turn over the tables, then you should go.

OK, maybe I will put it this way. If you are hungover and feel like death after a massive Saturday night, go to He Says, She Says (with some really dark sunglasses) and enjoy some quiet time.

My rating 5/8

Have you tried He Says, She Says? Let me know your thoughts.

He Says She Says on Urbanspoon

Crabapple Kitchen – Cafe & Wine Bar

Crabapple Kitchen is one very cool cafe located at 659 Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn. This place is simply a must for people to visit. This well-oiled machine ticks all the boxes; coffee, food, service & ambiance.

The service is spectacular and would easily rival many top restaurants. I have always been shown to my table and waited on professionally on each of my visits. However, typical of many currently popular restaurants, if there inst a table immediately available for you, your name will be added to the list and you will be asked to wait and/or dine at the bar area until such time as a table becomes available. If there is no space at the bar you will have to wait outside, and become increasingly jealous of those seated within. My suggestion, just call ahead and book a table. Simple.

Lets be honest, Glenferrie Road has a plethora of crap and fast food joints. Alright, … OK … they do have a couple of popular cafes around but exactly that …. they are popular …. and filled with the wannabe displaced hipsters. This place adds a little of the necessary class to the area, to which, all the upper class Hawthorn residents thank-you.

Coffee, coffee coffee. Crabapple Kitchen use Campos Specialty Coffee which provides for a very consistent cup every time. This blend may not be for everyone as it proves to be earthy and quite robust so just be weary if you are accustomed to weak imitations. Basically, if you like your espresso you’re golden but if you prefer your tall soy mocha, go to 7-11.

The food is amazing. Definitely places Crabapple Kitchen above the rest. In my opinion, a must try are the pancakes, and if you are asked if you would like a side of bacon with them don’t even contemplate saying no. The menu is diverse and offers a wonderful selection from across the globe. If you are feeling adventurous then visit on a Friday night where Crabapple Kitchen hosts Friday Night Flights, which is a one-stop culinary themed excursion to menus from around the world. But do you know what makes it even better..? A glass of wine.

Do yourself a favour, skip the garbage and try it out.

My rating 6.5/8

Have you tried Crabapple Kitchen? Let me know your thoughts.

Crabapple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Forget About Malvern’s Cafe Fergus

I know hospitality, I have worked in it for 10 years and I believe that I am very understanding when things go wrong. But Fergus was the first place that I have ever been so disappointed with, that I have sent back food and refused to allow them to make amends.

Good location, nice fit out & the right idea just isn’t enough these days. I really wanted to like Fergus, I tried so hard to like it, I even gave it a second chance but both times I left bitterly disappointed.

Fergus located at 301 Wattletree Road, Malvern East, an ideal spot that has been desperate for a cafe. The demographic is perfect for a new business as the locals are more than willing to spend a little coin. All this cafe has to do is keep it on the tracks and it would be a huge success but in both my visits all I saw was a train wreck in motion.

If you have more staff “working” (term used rather loosely) than customers or occupied tables, it usually means:

  1. You aren’t out to maximise profits but would rather ensure high levels of customer service;
  2. You can cope with high turnover and are able to absorb a sudden influx of customers at peak times; and
  3. No attention to detail is lost when attending to a customer’s order.

If this was a report card Fergus would fail dismally. In fact, fifth grade would probably be the longest three years of their life. Safe to say that Fergus rubbed me the wrong way as I will now explain.

On both occasions it took time to be seated, which is fine, however when you are seated on a dirty table when the cafe is half empty and have staff twiddling their thumbs and discussing Gossip Girl, I take issue. When it also takes a further 15 minutes to clean the table and take a coffee order I usually get grumpy. It’s hospitality, you are meant to up-sell, and increase customer spend. Cafe 101 people! On the first occasion it took 30+ minutes to receive our food after ordering. They must have had to wait for the chicken to lay the eggs.

The second visit would be the last. I now knew that they took their time to bring the food, ask for the coffee and provide any form of service so I basically ordered everything whilst being walked to the table. But alas, this was still not enough time for the million staff members to break from comparing their latest inkings to provide me with the bare minimum of service. On this occasion the food took 40+ minutes to arrive to which I sent it back immediately. The poached egg I received was stone cold and hard boiled but it was the reaction from the maitre d’ which astounded me.

“Oh, did you want that more runny?”

You’re kidding right? Since when has a poached egg meant to be rock solid?…. and frozen? More so, why can’t you apologise for the mistake (albeit not yours) and offer a solution to the problem instead of standing there and proceeding to question my intelligence?

Forget about Fergus people. Allow Fergus to succumb to Darwinism. Hopefully sooner than later.

My rating 0.5/8

Have you been disappointed by Fergus? Let me know your thoughts below.

Fergus on Urbanspoon

The Old Chamber

The Old Chamber is located at 395 Collins St in Melbourne and is a brilliant spot for your next city coffee. Located in the beautiful old BNZ building, this busy cafe is the best place on Collins St to get your next coffee. There is no shortage of coffee dispensaries on this city corner but, having tried almost all of them, many times over, I would only recommend The Old Chamber.

Their house coffee is consistently well done and is strong vibrant for the coffee enthusiast. The offer special blends on a good rotation also for all of those who prefer the exotics. If you need that hit during peak period however I will give you this little bit of advice; elbows up!

They offer a nice selection of breakfast and lunch meals at a very reasonable price also. Make sure you head on in for your next coffee meeting, it wont disappoint (unlike the surrounding sorry excuses for cafes).

Smashed Avocado with Tomato, Feta and Fennel

Smashed Avocado with Tomato, Feta and Fennel

The Old Chamber on Urbanspoon

Red Brick Cafe – Cafe Formerly Known as Quality

***UPDATED***

This is what happens when you establish something wonderful…. You sell it for $$$ to somebody who has NO clue! Red Brick Cafe was well planned, thought out and what the locals wanted (I guess that’s why it would have been a good business to sell). It was a great cafe where the staff smiled and the quality was high. Now I assume it was bought by yet another mid-life-crisis cafe-owner-wannabe that has instantly tried to save a buck. Service has gone downhill, previous staff now write angry posts on reputable review websites and the quality of product has been disregarded. One positive I will say was that the coffee was still ok, however I have no doubt that it will be the next to go! Simple message now, stay clear, don’t waste the dollar in your back pocket.

Please let me know about your recent experiences at Red Brick Cafe.

My rating: 1/8

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Chimmy’s Bakery Cafe – You Can Do Better .. Really

***UPDATED***

The world is a safer place now that this hovel has closed. That is all.

***UPDATED***

First impressions do count and in this instance they last forever. I made the unfortunate decision to stop at Chimmy’s Bakery Cafe on Bridge Road in Richmond on the way through to a nice weekend away.

I felt for the poor waitress because it wasn’t her fault that the quality of the food they were serving wouldn’t be fit for aid work in war torn Somalia. She tried her best, and she was polite enough but that wouldn’t rescue the quality and my opinion of the bucket of slop I had been served.

It was slop, that was the best way to describe it. It melded together on the plate like warmed ice cream. A swirl of rainbow colours from the remnants of what was once passed off as food.

I take issue with paying a premium for food because of location. This is definitely the case. You pay the Bridge Rd tax at this hovel. Don’t get me wrong, if the food is brilliant I don’t mind paying a premium but when you get served dog food you should pay accordingly.

The coffee was marginally better than the food. Your average attempt at caffeine distribution.

You just expect better in Melbourne today, we are demanding but there are those who are dedicated to the craft and those we consistently love to frequent when in need of a coffee. For those people, we are thankful.

Couldn't tell you what it is or was

Couldn’t tell you what it is or was

Chimmys Bridge Road on Urbanspoon

Mr. Percival

This quiet little cafe has had it’s ups and downs. It began with a flourish and the locals were taken for a ride with the hype.

However there were sad times when this cute little little cafe suffered from the second year blues. This is clearly evident from urbanspoon reviews which fluctuate from horrid to amazing. The problem I believe has been the constant change. Owners, staff, chefs, menus, decor, floor plan, hours of operation have all been rejigged at some stage. As the saying goes, people are afraid of change and consistency is paramount in any good cafe.

Having said that I do believe that they are beginning to finally re-establish themselves, their food, coffee and clientele. It was a shame to see it slip the way it did but I always had hopes that it would get back to its former glory.

Their coffee is now back in my favourites. Striking but still able to accommodate those who require the smoother blends. More importantly it is consistently better than the now distant past.

If you are in the area and are in need of that coffee hit and need to satisfy a sweet urge, please don’t let urbanapoon deter you. The homemade cakes and sweets are guaranteed to impress.

Located at 272 Waverley Rd, Malvern East VIC 3145, stop in for your next strong latte.

Mr Percival on Urbanspoon

Livingroom Restaurant

This place made me smile on the weekend. Livingroom Restaurant, located near Malvern Station at 12-18 Claremont Ave, Malvern is a wonderful experience & a must for anyone in the area.

Situated in a booming coffee, restaurant & hairdresser hub. This place is the clear front runner for coffee, food, ambiance & service. Before having finished my first coffee I had already ordered the next. It is always evident when care and pride (and skill for that matter) go into making your coffee which no fancy single origin organic gimmick can compensate for.

Equally as wonderful was the food. I had the Maple syrup baked beans on toast with 20yr old balsamic and parmesan. A great healthy and real twist on the canned classic. Admittedly I did order an additional side of smokey bacon which I believe rounded out the meal perfectly but it was needed on a cold and rainy Melbourne morning.

Feel free to get sucked into the hype of the surrounding coffee culture but you will not do better than the Livingroom Restaurant. Highly recommended!

Maple Syrup Baked Beans on Toast with Balsamic & Parmesan w/ Sneaky Side Bacon

Maple Syrup Baked Beans on Toast with Balsamic & Parmesan w/ Sneaky Side Bacon

Livingroom Restaurant on Urbanspoon