Clerkenwell Antipodean Oasis
23rd December 2011
It was Christmas Eve’s eve and what more could a girl want, than a big cup of freshly roasted coffee, namely the ‘ Cult of Done’, but I’ll get to that later. I felt like a treat and I knew Workshop (Formerly known as St. Ali’s) was the place, as I had a sneaky breakfast with the Boss, the week before. Hailing from Melbourne (Australia), where the St. Ali’s crew have their first outlet, they have brought their love of great coffee and great antipodean ethos to the heart of Clerkenwell (London).
The decor is relaxed, downstairs with communal tables and a large island bar, which you can prop yourself at and while away the day with a decent cuppa. There are two things of beauty here, the roasting machine, which has an active daily grind and a beautiful living wall. I was really pleased to see the plants thriving on the wall, with such vibrance after seven months. I’ve seen other examples all around the world and they don’t cut the mustard after just a few months. Upstairs, is a bookable space for larger groups or initimate tables. It’s here that you stumble across their teal coloured, skull wallpaper (a cross between a 1970’s Indian restaurant flock paper and a Damian Hirst exclusive). Not sure where St. Ali’s got theirs, but I did find some online, to take a peek here.
On my 2nd visit, I dined with a friend… as a Burger fiend I opted for the Workshop (St. Ali) special, named ‘Dexter’. Served ‘medium-rare’ to my pleasure this was a tall cheeseburger with Comté cheese and a Pain de Mie bun. The bun glistened and was a sweet contrast that mopped up juices from the burger. There was a little overkill on the red onion, a little was good for crunch, but I had enough rings to win a hula hoop contest. The Ratte potatoes, were roasted to perfection, with crisp skins and a fluffy centre. My dining companion, opted for a far healthier option, fearing what she had ahead with Christmas meals. Healthy it may have been, but it was a seductively looking and tasting salad, with figs and Bresaola salad dressed with sprinklings of hazelnut dukkah.
Now onto the business of Coffee… ‘Cult of Done’ is Workshop’s (St. Ali’s) ‘manifesto’ of striving to create the perfect coffee, of that moment (evolving with bean and seasonal variations). I had the pleasure of sampling this, in their Latte (on my 1st visit) it was a 50:50 mix of Hebazu (Costa Rica) and Acatenango (Guatemala). It was quite a medium rich affair, but I guess I ‘chickened’ out by opting for a Latte. Espresso’s scare me somewhat, one day when I grow up, I’m sure I’ll learn how to drink coffee ‘properly’. Accompanying my Latte, was a delicious breakfast dish of banana bread with a mascarpone laced with ‘Cult of Done’ espresso. It was a sticky and moist mess with rich textures of smooth mascarpone and crunchy sprinkled nuts. This was disguised as a sumptuos dessert, I came to the conclusion that if this was breakfast, it was ‘Breakfast of Queens’!
Until Workshop (St. Ali’s) popped up, my favourite Clerkenwell brekkie spot was The Modern Pantry and for coffee, a trip down Leather Lane to Prufock. Workshop (St. Ali’s) won’t necessarily usurp my trade from them, as all have their own brilliant traits and showcase each owners quest or ‘manifesto’ for a quality offering, but it does give a girl a wonderful choice, to pick from.
Please note: St Ali’s changed their name to Workshop in April 2012 and are now open eveningsWorkshop (St. Ali’s), 27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN Website: http://stali.co.uk/