One of the latest in the the tide of Antipodean cafes in London, St Ali, at 27 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1M 5RN is the UK branch of a Melbourne cafe established 11 years ago. I went a few weeks ago with 2 friends and as an "appetizer" had an astounding banana bread dish - 2 slices toasted and topped with date-orange jam and coffee mascarpone, served with maple syrup on the plate and large twirly sesame tuiles. I would normally never order banana bread as I make it myself, but the toppings made it outstanding, and it was around £4.50 - great value. I'm not a coffee expert, but my friends are and rated it. Apparently it is "Cult of Done" - love the name.
The savory selections were not as outstanding as the banana bread, but reasonable. 'My Mexican Cousin' was the best - corn fritters with poached eggs, halloumi and a tomatoey relish, salty and sweet flavors that made interesting mouthfuls. The Dutch Oven - house-braised beans on toasted sourdough with salted ricotta, lemon and mint was underseasoned and unwieldy - beans and salad leaves piled on one chunk of bread that was difficult to see, let alone cut. Still, I'd go back for more mexican cousins and to try their other dishes - but mostly to get banana bread. As of June 13,2011, they don't serve food all day and have just tapas platters in the evenings, but they plan to expand their menu and kitchen hours. It's packed for brunch - try to arrive before 11 - but spacious and not terrible noise-wise. I'm moving to Clerkenwell next month and can't wait to try local places like Dovetail & Bistrot Passage Cafe - more posts to follow.
69-73 St. John Street, London EC1M 4AN, GB