South Melbourne brunch: St Ali v Chez Dré

St Ali is a South Melbourne brunch institution after several years in operation but now there is a contender to St Ali’s crown with newcomer Chez Dré located right next to the South Melbourne market.  Chez Dré boasts a sunny courtyard, an onsite bakery and serious coffee but can it compete with the legendary St Ali?

My Mexican Cousin at St Ali

St Ali
On a recent visit to St Ali on a sunny Saturday there was the standard wait for a table and then entry into the buzzing warehouse space which houses the cafe.  Music was pumping, the waiters were almost dancing from table to table and it felt a bit like MTV and I had just stepped into a giant, coffee fuelled party.   
People waiting for a table at St Ali
Before we had a chance to even look at our menus our waitress took our coffee orders.  I liked this, speedy coffee is good after all, and I also liked her suggestion to try the bean of the day which she said would go well with the milkiness of the latté and cappuccino we had just ordered.  What I didn’t like was then opening the menu to discover St Ali coffees are $4 a pop with an additional 80c charge for the bean of the day.  We had just been shamelessly upsold McDonalds style.  Yes the coffee was good, but as it did not come sprinkled with gold I did not think it was $4.80 good.  
The St Ali coffee which should have been sprinkled with gold
Probably the most famous dish on the menu at St Ali is My Mexican Cousin ($18.50), it’s so popular they have even named a restaurant after it.  The dish is a great combination of fritters topped with an egg and a slice of gooey warm haloumi.  It’s seriously addictive stuff and the reputation of the dish is well deserved.

Omega Love at St Ali
The Omega Love ($18.50) is not as well known but it is equally as good.  A sort of warm salad it features pastrami smoked salmon on top of tiny roast potatoes with the runny poached egg yolk acting almost as a dressing to bind the dish together.  Maybe you can complain about the price of the coffee at St Ali but it is probably the only thing to complain about.  
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Details: St Ali, 12/18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne (Ph 03 9686 2990)
Damage: Reasonable

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Chez Dré
Also set in a converted warehouse space in a back alley of South Melbourne the feel at Chez Dré is a little more refined and a little less funky than St Ali.  The music was quieter and the waiters seemed to love their job a little less.  However the cafe instantly won me over with its more reasonably priced coffee ($3.50) which everyone apart from the most hard core of aficiondos would find hard to distinguish from the St Ali brew.  
Herb crepe at Chez Dré
The menu is French influenced (its petit dejeuner at Chez Dré not brunch) with lots of patisserie items and some classic dishes to win over Francophiles like Nicoise salad and Croque Monsieur.  Sticking to the French theme I tried the herb crépe ($12.50) which was stuffed with a mixture of ricotta and sun-dried tomato and served with a green salad.  Unfortunately the crépe erred on the side of lukewarm and so I had to hurry to finish it before it cooled down completely.  
What Chez Dré does specialise in is patisseries so it is worth picking up a pastry or macaron here post brunch.  While Chez Dré offers a cheaper alternative to St Ali in a less frenetic setting but for me it lacked St Ali’s atmosphere and the food was good rather than great.  
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Details: Chez Dré, 287 Coventry Street (rear), South Melbourne (Ph 03 9690 2688)
Damage: Reasonable

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon


  1. i would love to go there.

  2. I’ve had the My Mexican Cousin in the London St Ali and it is something pretty special (now it’s no longer St Ali, they’ve kept the dish but changed the name, incidentally).

  3. What a great story comparing these two Melbourne offerings, all the food looked delicious. I will have to try and make the crepe myself as it seemed like something I would really like. Having said that the meals at St Ali did look by far the nicest!

    Although I would have been so peeved at being duped into the coffee upsell !!!

  4. Still need to try something, ANYTHING from Chez Dre. Might got there soon, have to go to Dahon Tea Lounge to try new item menus, go to the market and Made in Japan outlet 😉

  5. Dear Cara,

    I was pretty impressed with the quality and competitive prices of cafe and restaurant food in Melbourne during my recent visit. Looks like St Ali is no different.

  6. Oh to be so spoiled for choice… good problems to have. Can’t wait to get back to Melbourne sometime soon.

  7. Love 2 Dine – Both were great but I preferred St Ali

    Katy Salter – I did hear that had happened – good to hear they have kept the menu similar though

    Gourmet Getaway – Yes it did take the shine of things a bit

    Andi – You must come to Oz and check out the cafes here

    Iron Chef Shellie – Sounds like a perfect South Melbourne day you have planned there

    Chopin – I have heard that things are more expensive in Sydney…

    Tori – I know Melburnians are very spoiled for choice.

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