South Melbourne’s St Ali

St Ali is an exciting place located in a side street popular with many people. Even at 10 in the morning, it was heaving with both of their buildings (on opposite side of the streets) full of people. They recently had a street art festival in the street they’re located in, and the spectacular results decorate both sides of the street. Finding St Ali is really easy, since you’ll notice all the people hanging around the only thing that seems to be busy on that street during the weekend. Otherwise, look for the little picture hanging over their doorway (below)

Their breakfast menu on the weekend is nice and varied with lots of healthy options and even the “Big Hangover Cure” (what I had) didn’t feel as bad for you as it could have.

Coffees were perfect and they really should be since they roast their own coffee. It seemed like plenty of people stopped in for takeaway coffees and if I wasn’t so stuffed from the breakfast, the pastry selection looked mighty tempting as well.

Service was brisk but not rushed. I had my order taken and I got to read my newspaper at a communal table of many other diners. It seemed like a great place even if you dine by yourself as many people seemed to be doing that – in addition to a number of couples. The larger groups needed to wait for bigger tables.

Everything about this place is definitely wonderful. The atmosphere is buzzing but not too busy. The coffee is great and I could have kept ordering more and more. The food was pretty good although I have to deduct points because the chorizo wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Name: St Ali
Location: 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne 3205, Australia

Barista Express

I heartily subscribe to the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, although I think it’s more of an excuse to explore new breakfast places. Fortunately Melbourne didn’t disappoint from the first day and I’m glad that I turned down the hotel’s offer to extend a special breakfast rate.

The frist place I tried was down a little alley way off Collins Street (parallel to Queen/King Street) called Barista Express. I’m sure this is one of those little micro-chains but given the number of people and the wonderful interior, complete with Italian deli hangings and a decent looking breakfast, I was more than happy to try it out.

As you can see, they got the coffee pretty spot on and I even surprised myself by how quickly I got rid of it.

Next up was the breakfast items, one of my favourites being the Eggs Hollandaise. Instead of an english muffin, they used an oversized toasted brioche, something I was a little sceptical until I cut in and reaslied they’d toasted it perfectly – enough to keep the crunch but without turning it bitter or drying it out. The eggs and ham were perfect as well – super fresh and my only complaint was really the lightness of the sauce, something I’m guessing has more to do with the yellowness of the yolks rather than the recipe itself.

It’s a breakfast place you order your coffee, breakfast, taking your number and setting to a table although they have a communal table full of newspapers for those people waiting for their takeaway coffee or something else.

A flat white and the eggs benedict rings in a cheap AU$12.10

Gil’s Diner

I love Melbourne for all the little alleyways hiding amazing locations. All it takes to find them is a little exploring or knowing someone who knows where to go. A friend took me to Gil’s Diner, a little place located just off a side street off Collins Street. I’d walked past there during the day, discounting it as a little cafe without much going on at night. Boy was I wrong. Instead, it was quite the opposite with tables filling up quickly until the whole restaurant was full.

Their menu changes daily I assume because its written up on a chalk board. Unfortunately we were sitting on a side wall where it was very difficult to see the menu. Our waiter recited a very impressive specials list including almost all ingredients that went into each of the dishes. After doing some reading, it looks like these guys are champions of local produce and good on them for that. This not only means in season ingredients with low travel but the food is going to taste all the better for it.

picture of RobustProter

They have a decent selection of wine and beer including many beers from local breweries. This one was a Robust Porter, a dark, chocolatey beer. Delicious!

We started with a little bit of bruschetta – not that it was any particular type. This was no ordinary one including some mushrooms, parmesan and roasted zucchini served on a sour dough bread.

The main course, I went the cassoulet, a white bean stew including three types of meat – a home made Toulouse sausage, a pork belly dish, and some other meat that I don’t remember. The pork belly was a little bit tougher than it really should have been although the soft texture of the sausage really made up for that.

Almost full, I still decided to go for their dessert – figuring I won’t be back here for a while. I’m really glad that I did as well. I went for the steamed orange pudding with yogurt ice cream. The perfect tart coldness provided that stark contrast to the sweet, steaming cake moist with orange flavours. It was just the right size as well.

Service was great throughout the evening. Some of the tables were communal but they don’t try to pack you right next to each other. We had a huge lamp providing us with plenty of privacy for our conversations. Their semi-open kitchen was also great to look at. This place also seemed to have no problems seating solo diners as I noticed when we first go there and when we left.

Name: Gil’s Diner
Found at: Gills Al (Off Little Collins St) (rear of 360 Little Collins St), Melbourne 3000 VIC, Australia
Website: (none that I could find)

Brother Baba Budan

This tiny cafe on Little Bourke Street turned out to be one of my regular places to go for my afternoon macchiato. My work colleague, Charlotte put me onto them and I can’t thank her enough. Plenty of trendily dressed Melbournians frequent this join and even the baristas up the game – one of the females definitely dressed to impress.

When I mean this place is tiny, I really meant it with a small square table, shared by the communal coffee drinks and a small bar at the back for the lucky few to get a seat. On the ceiling they’ve got an impressive number of chairs hanging from the ceiling and while it doesn’t really help make the place look any bigger, they’re an eye-catching attraction.

This is a coffee shop that focuses pretty much solely on the coffee. The only sorts of foods you can pick up here are the pastry, cake and muffin varieties. The coffee here isn’t the cheapest in the city at AU$3.50 for any coffee (including a macchiato). Then again, you’re placing yourselves in the welcoming hands of some great baristas. I believe their last sentence on their website information page, “We love coffee.” They do and you will too after having one here.

Name: Brother Baba Budan
Found at:

Degraves Espresso

Degraves Espresso, just like its namesake can be found on Degraves Street, a bustling side alley way that seems to be a main thoroughfare for those going through Flinders Street Station. The mornings I walked through this street, it always seemed one of the busier ones.

Degraves Espresso

Order at the counter for a takeaway coffee, or if you’re lucky to nab one of the tables inside the store, where someone comes along to take your order from their daily chalkboard menu. For those inclined to dine or drink coffee al fresco, they’ve also got plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy at your leisure. Both areas seemed to be constantly busy all the time.

Bench View

I’m often made conscious, sitting at tables with larger capacity than needed when dining on my own but they surprised me by not even blinking when I took a four seater rather than the rather cramped-looking solo bench (pictured above). I ordered the fruit toast that came along with Marscapone Cream and some honey (although I’m not quite sure it really needed the honey with the fruit adding plenty of sweetness). Perhaps the idea was to cut through the tartness of the cream but then I though the toast was fine.

I have to admit I think this fruit toast was most disappointing. It seemed to be very good quality – the denseness of the toast and the plumpness of the fruit. It reminded me of the fruit loaf I’ve bought from St Johns before. Unfortunately type of toast takes a long time to toast properly, not really suited for their fast burning grill where the outside sugars caramelise too quickly without the heat getting inside. The result? Toast charred on the edges and barely warmed throughout without any of the crispness one would expect from toast.

Flat White at Degraves Espresso

Fortunately the coffee helped save the breakfast from going wrong. Look at this latte art for instance. Nice crema and the perfectly formed milk leaf in the top. Care and pride. All up though I think it was a pretty expensive combination for a coffee and fruit toast (AU$10). Given all the other places in Melbourne, I wasn’t tempted to try it again.

Name: Degraves Coffee
Found at: 23 Degraves Street, Melbourne, Australia
Website: (none that I could find)

Brisbane’s Cloudland

Cloudland is the oasis that sits in the ever changing Fortitude Valley, providing a distinctly different bar and dining experience to those venues sitting around it. During the day, their exterior shows rows of rings, each growing their very own potplant that I will imagine add to the jungle-scaped interior.

As you can see from the photo above, the interior is intricately detailed, with a set of booths upstairs for the casual drinkers and the tables and booths downstairs for the people watching diners. They have an extensive cocktail list (with accompanying prices) although their menu also looks really great combining Australian produce definitely influenced by asian spices and flavours.

The dish above is the Humpty Doo Barramundi. According to their website, it was served with spring onions poached in
red chili butter, Mooloolaba spanner crab & ginger fritter, five spice and wakame spinach, carrot & daikon pickle (AU$34.90).

I ordered a couple of Australian oysters shucked yet served with their entire shell and served fresh with lovely zesty lemon juice. They tasted exactly as they should, fresh and of the ocean without any strange after tastes. The citrus notes cutting through, adding yet another dimension to some fresh seafood flavours.

Looking back at the photos, I thought the above dish was a beef fillet, but then I remembered it must have been the Moya Valley Chicken, “Free range ‘Moya Valley’ chicken roulade, Bowral tunnel mushrooms, Ajo Blanco, flat parsley gremoulata, tarragon jus, confit of shallots, garlic & smoked pork belly” at AU$28.90.

I had the Reef and Beef option, that included a perfectly cooked steak and a huge lobster ravioli. To be honest, I definitely had some trouble finishing this meal and we couldn’t finish the accompanying side of cooked greens that we shared between us all. I can’t even remember the price but I’m guessing it would have been around AU$40. The food was very well seasonsed, all elements very well balanced and I remember leaving Cloudland a very happy person.

I’m glad to see venues like this crop up in Brisbane. Though I question how sustainable they will be, it’s nice to see a few more interesting dining and bar options open up.

Name: Cloudland
Found at: 641 Ann St, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006, Australia

Regatta Boatshed

The Regatta is a bit of a Brisbane institute – it used to literally be an old boat shed until it got turned into a pub and became a regular scene for the UQ crowd of students. When I lived in Brisbane, it underwent a renovation and turned the outdoor boatshed into a more upmarket steakhouse with the rest of the venue a bit more of a nicer pub. I caught up with some new and old workmates working in Brisbane where we had a couple of drinks before settling in for dinner.

What’s really nice about the place is that the CityCat (think Brisbane river public transport) now drops you off literally right in front of it. This is definitely the best way of getting to the Regatta from the city if you’re not in a rush.

The menu actually provides a lot of choice but I think their best dishes are the fish or the steak. Despite having steak for lunch that day (another post to come) I couldn’t resist ordering one of their nice Australian grass-fed steaks. The picture above (click it for a larger picture) is the 300g eye fillet ($39.50) that also includes a number of sides (mine with salad, steak fries and bernaise sauce).

Service was a little on the slow side although they did well we turned up with 18 hungry mouths without a booking and they still managed to seat us (barely) and serve us drinks. The steak (cooked medium rare) was wonderfully juicy with that delicious char on the outside. The bernaise sauce, a little bit on the thicker side than I’d like but served with the super fresh crisp salad and perfectly cooked steak fries went down a treat.

As you can see we didn’t have any problems with the venue, although I was surprised by how quiet it was for a Thursday night around this area. You can see us being one of the last ones to leave (photo taken sometime around midnight) – they turn down the lights and start rolling up the boatshed doors.

Name: The Boatshed @ Regatta Hotel
Address: 543 Coronation Drive Toowong QLD 4064, Australia

Reef N Beef

We’ve been staying at the very convenient The Square Hotel, literally on one of the main squares in Copenhagen. It has a room service agreement with probably the only “Australian” restaurant in Copenhagen, Reef ‘N’ Beef. Unlike the trashy (though sometimes convenient Walkabout), Reef ‘N’ Beef is a higher end restaurant, serving dishes all based around Australian foods.


The restaurant has many tables, and it seemed very popular with many other tables full of Danish people. We didn’t really get a chance to look at the wine list before ordering the beers, and it seemed like the owners might have come from South Australia with beers like VB, Crown Lagers, Carlton Cold, Little Creatures, and Rogers Dark.


As you can, we got to sample most of them throughout the night.


The menu isn’t particularly vegetarian friendly, with only one main, “The Vegetarian”, a tomato tart providing any options with a number of salads and appetisers allowed. I started with the Ibacus Peronii Tempura (a dish based on a Moreton Bay Bug served with a green papaya and passion fruit dressing). Being a salad, it included a variety of greens and then accompanied with a shot of lusciously sweet mango foam. Beautifully presented, and extremely tasty, it didn’t take too long for me to finish it.


I couldn’t but help but have the seafood medley, the “Gold Coast Fishernet” (Aussie seafood and shellfish selection with fish soup, Tasmanian saffron aioli and croutons). The dish arrived with the large variety of pan roasted seafoods, and then, table-side, covered with the saffron soup. Each piece of seafood was perfectly seasoned, and amazingly remained crispy skinned for most of the dinner. The croutons were less memorable and my only real complaint was the aioli served with the dish seemed out of place when the seafood was already swimming in the soup.


We finally finished off the dinner, unable to resist the dessert. They had pavlova for goodness sake! A very big twist on the classic Australian dish, the pavlova ended up served as a trio of desserts, the first a soft pavlova rolled around a pistachio cream centre, a white chocolate (?) slice and then a spoonful of raspberry sorbet, the perfect palate cleanser for the end of the night.


I can’t say that the dinner was particularly cheap (considering beer is guaranteed expensive in Denmark), but the food was great quality and presented beautifully each time.

Name: Reef ‘N’ Beef