Monday, September 19, 2011

Pillar of Salt, Richmond by Big Fil

Everywhere you turn in inner-city Melbourne there appears to be another modern Australian style café. Even in the midst of current economic uncertainties these seem be flourishing. Of course not all are successful and even a good café can fail because of poor location or timing. Last weekend there was an interesting article in the paper that suggested that these cafes were performing a dual role, having a utility aspect (everyone needs to eat) and a social aspect, a way to entertain oneself and to catch up with friends. In contrast to high end dining this makes them fairly recession proof - even if you need to cut back on other luxuries such as shopping and overseas travel, you can always find a few dollars for a coffee and a chat at your favourite local meeting place.

Pillar of Salt certainly seems to fit into this category, a favourite meeting place for friends and locals. It falls into a familiar pattern with its open kitchen, wooden tables, exposed brickwork and courtyard out the back, but does a better job of it than most. Inside I think it's one of the prettiest cafes I've been to recently and while I wouldn't do it again soon--because by the time I finished eating others were waiting for a table--it's certainly comfortable enough to just sit and talk and let the outside world pass on by for a while.

While the menu seems predominately based on the usual café fare it does include a few interesting options. One of these was a pear and blueberry bread with vanilla bean mascarpone, spiced poached pear and toasted oat crumble. Nice to see a variation on the more typical banana bread and delicious if possibly a little sweet for some, with the oat crumble providing great texture to a dish that could otherwise have been a little soft. I also loved the mascarpone, which is proving to be one of my favourite breakfast accompaniments.

I was even more interested in my omelette with zaatar and Persian feta. While I'm not the biggest of fans of feta in omelettes, as I like my eggs light and fluffy and the addition of cheese can turn them a bit heavy and gluggy, I am a big fan of zaatar. Knowing when I ordered that this could go either way I liked it but not as much as I'd hoped. For my personal taste I would have used more zaatar and less feta, others could find it the other way around. No problems with the generosity of the size of the omelette though, the way it was cooked or the beautiful golden colour.

Behind the front counter was a small but interesting selection of cakes including one I hadn't seen before, a hazelnut and cranberry meringue muffin. While taste wise the flavours didn't quite do it for me (hazelnut and chocolate would have been more my thing) the texture was intriguing, much lighter and fluffier than your normal muffin. I'd be very keen to try it again although possibly with different flavours.

Finally, to finish off a hot chocolate with little slivers of chocolate on top, just how I like it.

A very pleasant café even when full and with good choices in background music. The staff to customer ratio was high and the staff attentive to customers, although I did hear some miscommunications between staff. While Pillar of Salt did feel a little generic, in that there is a very definite inner-city Melbourne style that it falls squarely within, it also does a very good job of it. Not much you can point to that is unique or out on a limb but very little to find fault with either. It's just a very good café that it would be hard not to like.

Food - 8
Ambience - 8
Service - 8
Price - 7

541 Church Street
Richmond VIC 3121
Tel: (03) 9421 1550

Pillar of Salt on Urbanspoon

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