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Il Fornaio joined the St Ali juggernaut in April and added award-winning executive chef Philippa Sibley to the team a few months later. Sibley will run Melbournes first dedicated dessert bar. Its a fabulous concept. A fading iconic Melbourne bakery turns caffeine and cake palace by day and morphs into a wine and dessert haven at night all in the middle of St Kilda.
Café manager Lucy Ward says the St Ali team is planning extensive renovations, a retail coffee-bean section offering the full complement of St Ali coffee choices and the installation of an antique-look, cast-iron UG 22 Probat coffee roaster.
Owner Salvatore Malatesta says he plans to rid the venue of all dated architectural language and overlay the space with the rough luxe style we do. The changes have begun. Walls have been painted and rendered and Ward is particularly proud of the pinball machine panels that have become boxed wall lights.
Breakfast, lunch, tapas, dinner and dessert will all become a part of the daily mix.
Sibleys dessert menu includes her famous layered chocolate and caramel Snickers, a honey panna cotta with quince and cashew sesame praline and a tarte tatin of pineapple with gingerbread ice-cream.
Since he arrived in Melbourne from France three years ago, Baptiste Kreyder has immersed himself in the citys caffeine culture, with regular Sunday brunches at top specialty coffee spots. He began working at the Brood Box gallery and café in the city, working with St Ali coffee, and joined the Il Fornaio team in late June.
Kreyder says his interest has shifted slightly from espresso-based coffee and the perfection of latte art to the whole new world of filter coffee. But his focus remains on cupping, tasting, assessing and understanding the taste of coffee, albeit in a more formal way than during those Sunday brunches.
Il Fornaio, 2 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone 9534 2922
Barista Baptiste Kreyder
Coffee St Ali
Baristas choice Flat white
Opening hours Daily 7am-5pm; 6-11pm
Once one of Melbournes most talked-about bakeries, this moody two-tiered venue is showing signs of age. Its long past St Kilda grunge chic and is awaiting a revamp. Timber and metal-framed tables, dark plastic chairs and mock-grey leopard-skin banquettes are earmarked for change.
The coffee has improved, too, now that its under St Ali ownership. A doppio ristretto made with the houses champion blend is sharp, clean and acidic, topped with a luscious raft of crema and featuring notes of rich berries and a nutty, caramel finish.
It arrives with a palate-cleansing shot glass of room-temperature mineral water. (A terrific practice happily being embraced by serious coffee venues.) Single-origin blends are also on offer, and beans are for sale.