St. Ali is short for Ali ibn Umar al-Shadhili. Otherwise known as the patron saint of coffee.
There's nothing like having your great expectations met, but sadly this wasn't the case for me when I visited one of Melbourne's most popular and buzzing coffee houses. It's tucked away in the back streets of South Melbourne so can be a little hard to find if you haven't been their before — especially for an out-of-towner. There's plenty of seating inside but it's still hard to get a seat when it's busy. Milk crates are available across the road for those waiting for seat but even these are mostly all taken. I try their beautifully presented flat white ($4 I think) which was smooth enough and not too bitter but I found it lacked depth of flavour and is perhaps a little on the watery side — perhaps I'm missing something here. It wasn't bad but just nothing special or unique as well. It didn't help being seated outside on the small balcony in direct sunlight which made it particularly uncomfortable due to the heat and glare. The Sweet French Toast ($15.50) was a large serving of balsamic glazed strawberries, fresh mint, vanilla bean mascarpone and almond granola. This was quite tasty and the refreshing mint seemed to work well amongst the flavours. Trying to finish the whole thing was a little bit of a challenge but an enjoyable one.
PROS: Efficient and down-to-earth service, Interesting coffees and dishes available
CONS: Hard to get a seat due to it's popularity, Balcony seating can be hot due to direct sunlight, Hard to find for first timers
MUST TRY: Other dishes on the menu when I revisit Melbourne
Sweet French Toast: Balsamic glazed strawberries, fresh mint, vanilla bean mascarpone and almond granola ($15.50)
Service counter and baristas
Single-speed bicycle — oh how Melbourne.