Pillar of Salt

September 3, 2011

541 Church Street, Richmond
It’s ridiculous how often I’m in Richmond these days. I feel like I’m practically living there, although blissfully through my own choice. This particular foray into the tram-heavy suburb was to check out Pillar of Salt, a relatively new cafe on Church Street. I was joined by E, who was kind enough after our meal to model the cafe sign and the white fixie bike outside (which didn’t belong to either of us but hey, props never fail to make things more interesting).
Arriving a few minutes late, I found my eating companion studiously reading a book and sipping a coffee in the middle of a bustling courtyard. It’s a very relaxed, casual atmosphere, and there were plenty of young diners and families, which was good to see. All in all a rather pleasant place for brunch. It’s also, I will note, a good choice if you have a slightly larger group. SO many cafes elsewhere struggle to fit in more than two or three at a table, or they rarely have tables larger than four, and even then sometimes that’s a stretch.
First coffee: latte. Done very well. Love the accent red coffee gear.
I quite liked the menu, it has a few of the stalwarts of a brunch menu, and then a few different dishes, but quite unlike others that I’ve seen in cafes in Hawthorn or Fitzroy, which was nice. Variety is always pleasant. I liked the sound of the pear and blueberry bread with vanilla bean marscarpone, spiced poached pears and a toasted oat crumble.
I also thought that “The Cure” would be fantastic; an open fried egg and bacon sandwich with dijon, Jacks mature aged cheddar, HP sauce (a hark back to my time in the UK), and a berocca. What an awesome sounding, and aptly-named dish! I think it would really deliver on what it promised.

I ordered the homemade smoked borlotti bean bruschetta with avocado and persian feta puree, served with a poached egg, parsley dressing and shaved grana padano. The waitress turns to E, “oh, I was going to order the same thing”. She did (fair enough!), though I felt a little like I’d violated a blogging edict: never order the same dish as someone you’re eating with. But honestly, if I’d come here by myself I’d have only ordered one dish and you (the reader) wouldn’t be any worse off.

For some reason when I read this dish on the menu, I imagined green broad beans, so was slightly shocked when the dark red of the borlotti showed up in front of me. Nonetheless, E and I both really enjoyed our fancy beans on toast. I loved the tang from the feta and the avocado that cut through the thickness of the beans. I was also expecting more of a paste rather than whole beans, but upon consideration, I liked the texture. But my egg was overcooked, shame.

E and I spoke of friends, of school, of studying law, of food and of Fitzroy. One thing we did find remarkable was how the waitresses were all dressed so similarly. In most cafes it’s easy to pick the waiters, they’re the ones looking absurdly hipster and detached. Pillar of Salt wasn’t really hipster-esque, but certainly uniform, although not of the traditional kind. Every single waitress, I kid you not, had long mousy brown hair that was out and straightened, and they were wearing casual-looking skinny jeans and an over-sized knitted cardigan in earthy tones like green, beige and brown. Coincidence? In any case, it was easy to pick them out, once you had sussed out their “uniform”.

Here’s my second coffee for the day, a single origin flat white (yeah yeah, I should have been a proper coffee drinker and gotten an espresso, but I like it with milk, ok?). The single origin that day was a Brazilian blend which was very good, it had a lovely nutty taste, not particularly strong but very well rounded.

As we passed back through the inside dining area I managed to stop in a corner and observe the room (having been too focused on getting through the crowds on my way in). Inside, again, is a pleasant, simple fitout with exposed brick walls, a large communal table (seriously, which cafe doesn’t have a communal table these days?), and more seats along the front window.

The area around the coffee machine is tiled white, and the shelves are lined with pickled olives, sauces, mineral water and bags of coffee beans.

I smiled at these colander light fittings, very cute, and again following the red theme.

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Filed under: Brunch, Coffee, Richmond