Saturday, 3 January 2009

St Ali

“I’m a loser baby… so why don’t you kill me” – Beck

Those words from the wise man hit me like my mum does over the back of the head when I don’t wash up. He might have sang that to himself because he felt he was the worst rapper in the world. I sing that because I was never one of the popular kids like the ones who were invited to secret societies. Grade 6 first team Danish rounders. The Baby-Sitters Club. Bandidos. Why? I guess preferring to spend my spare time on this blog doesn’t help.

Like the song, St Ali is an instant classic and literally a hidden gem amongst the residentials of South Melbourne. It’s like the naughty kid that doesn’t want to be found because they’d split Milo over daddy and mummy’s new lounge room carpet. So quiet it could be mistaken for a library, no signage, just a Colgate white painted shop front, you’d probably drive right through the little lane it lives on if they hadn’t opened up the rollers to allow the exhaust in.

Step inside the converted warehouse, extension cords web the ceilings from which the light globes dangle, the large rustic communal tables provide the eating spaces, a few smaller ones for 2 or 3, the coffee roaster peers from the back where the beans are roasted in house and said to be some of the best in Melbourne. Big call… but more than worthy to the claim with a strong, flavoursome blend that could lead to caffeine poisoning if your discipline is low. Lucky you can distract the brain with the glorious menu that’s heavily influenced by the Middle East that simultaneously floods the conscious with electrical pulses of guilt because you feel like a thief at the prices they are requesting. Those feelings are soon forgotten once you chow into the delicately poached eggs, sesame, white sesame and pistachio flecked on top, slices of fresh tomato on a round Turkish roll and rocket provide the sideshow. A very veggie option comes in the form of sautéed mushrooms and labna on the same roll, more rocket and buttery stewed zucchini with a touch of lime. Ali’s take on the big breaky shows it’s not how big it is but how you use it, again the roll is topped with a sunny side egg, chorizo and a lovely salsa of tomato, Spanish onion, cucumber that’s herbed and a delicate tang. The dish to reinforce the minds of normal people that meat is a good thing, the meatballs, mounds of veal and pork cooked in a tomato based herbed stew that could give nonna’s best a run for it’s money.

Be honest when you settle the bill for the staff don’t record the order (though cheekily later on the computer), but strangely know exactly what you got as they place your dish in front of you. Ali’s is a steal, literally and metaphorically, if so you make it.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne
What? Under $15

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