Outpost, one of the beloved offspring of South Melbournes St Ali café, is smart, sophisticated and clearly well educated a child to be proud of. Open since late last year, and nestled beneath the Nine Yarra office and apartment block, its a pleasant nook with obvious appeal for its fortunate locals.
That its so close to public transport will make it a natural drawcard for tourists and travelling coffee lovers, too. There are two additional outposts, or dining rooms, one with five small, round tables and another seating up to 30. But the central kitchen contains most of the colour and movement. Five to six staff members work in the tight space, and they appear to do it with excellent cheer. Chef Paul Jewson (ex-Soho House, London) heads the cooking team, producing a snappy, innovative menu. The baristas station is well set up; two-tiered shelving provides maximum space for coffee paraphernalia and speedy service. A house-blend ristretto positively sings. Its light and bright with notes of strawberries, oranges and cloves. The gorgeous cold-drip coffee filter in its glass, brass and timber stand adds the final touch of timeless elegance, even before you taste the rich, dark brew it produces.
Shaun McKinlays dalliance with the barista competition scene was brief, ended by a shaky hand and a desire for less-harried coffee perfection. The former golfer, who honed his caffeine-extraction skills in Port Macquarie, London and Edinburgh, is more at home operating an espresso machine in South Yarra. Owner Salvatore Malatesta has given him a free hand and McKinlay experiments with beans and blends from varying roasters to supplement the top-notch beans from St Ali. Coffee-making accessories such as the syphon, cold drip and filter options are all on offer, but the regulars mostly queue for McKinlays espresso-based brews.
Outpost, 9 Yarra Street, South Yarra
Phone 9827 8588
Barista Shaun McKinlay
Coffee St Ali
Baristas choice Short black
Open Monday-Friday 7am-5pm; Weekends 8am-4pm
Some interesting found objects grace the kitchen-focused hub at Outpost, but the overall mood and atmosphere of this cafés interior is so seamless that they become peripheral rather than curios to be admired individually. The impression of a French provincial kitchen comes from the stunning royal blue Lacanche stove, the soft green, black and white checkered floor tiles, herbs in glossy white pots, bowls of pulsating red tomatoes and the cast-iron utensil rack that sits above a central butchers block bench. Its confirmed by the colourful array of cakes and baguettes and the appropriately accented, rather merry staff. The charming package, just a hop from South Yarra train station, is smartly wrapped in huge glass walls that capture the rays of the late-autumn sunshine.