According to a piece in The Age a few weeks back, the ‘laneway’ eating and drinking experience has arrived in South Yarra with a number of new foodie ventures opening on Yarra Street (off Toorak Road, next to South Yarra train station). It’s certainly true that this strip is fast becoming a cosmopolitan cafe, restaurant and bar destination, but it definitely doesn’t have the grit, grim and grunge of the CBD’s popular Degraves Street and Hosier Lane, to name two of Melbourne’s many labyrinthine back alleys. This is a sleek, modern space – it’s verging on corporate austerity, but luckily the places opening here seem to boast enough character to make up for the slightly sterile-looking strip.
Outpost Cafe opened around 18 months ago – when renowned coffee kings St Ali were at the helm (btw, their London venture on Clerkenwell Road looks like it will be a success – this part of London is really waking up to the good coffee renaissance, also worth checking out is Climpson & Sons on Dalston’s Broadway Market – actually – I could do a whole piece on this London Fields gem, but will save it for another time and instead suggest that, if you are ever in the big smoke, you visit on a Saturday for the street’s local produce, independent designers and vintage clothing market). I digress.
Inside, it looks great – especially the tiled flooring, exposed light bulbs and open kitchen, allowing people to see their food being made as well as all the takeaway items, such as the insanely large sandwiches.
There are a number of dining spaces – within the main cafe-kitchen area you’ll find squat stalls and a wooden ledge that runs the length of the room, there are metal tables and chairs arranged outside under the covered walkway that is Yarra Street, and then there’s a kind of anteroom situated next door, where the dimly lit, simple decor houses a stainless steel bar and a long communal table in the centre with smaller tables around the sides.
Service when we visited was a bit all over the place – I guess it is difficult to keep track when people are sat in all these different places – but friendly and helpful nonetheless. The breakfast menu has loads of (predominantly egg-based options, of course) while the lunch menu, which kicks off at 12noon, is a pretty grown-up affair.
When we were scouting out the best bunch places in London, eggs royale was always my dish of choice, so having compared and contrasted variations on the smoked salmon, poached egg and hollandaise sauce stack, I am a tough customer to please. Incidentally, the best eggs royale in London are to be had at The Ambassador at 55 Exmouth Market. The verdict on Outpost’s version? Good but not nearly enough hollandaise. Not that I am overly greedy, but I think the whole point of this dish is that it should be pretty much smothered in the stuff, so that the yolk of the egg mingles with it and soaks into the muffin / brioche / sourdough it is served on, coating your mouth with a delicious tangy-yet-creamy velvet feeling. I asked for more and a little more came in a small ramekin, but it still wasn’t really enough. The smoked salmon was lovely, however, it was too chilled. This is a common gripe of mine when it comes to the dish – the salmon should be at room temp otherwise it is too much of a contrast against the warm egg (perfectly cooked) and toasted bread (crunchy and fresh). It kind of goes hand-in-hand with the hollandaise problem – more sauce would have warmed the whole dish up. On the whole though, a tasty plate of food that was lifted by the sweet flavours of a pea shoot and watercress salad.
My other half, let’s just call him photo monkey, ordered the pulled pork. A huge toasted ciabatta with a generous serve of pork perfectly complemented by the Asian salad and punchy chilli jam – a great combination.
As my first Yarra Street eating experience I would say this little strip looks set to shine – offering a great alternative to some of nearby Chapel Street’s faded venues.
Monday to Friday 7am–5pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am–4pm
9 Yarra Street
Tel: (03) 9827 8588