Leading up to my trip to the UK I couldn’t stop hearing about St. Ali. Tweets, blog posts, recommendations from friends- all my sources said that St. Ali had it going on in a culinary sense. But surprisingly, the most repeated theme in those sources was not just that St. Ali has great espresso (which they do), or that their Synesso is sexy (which it is), or even that they roast their own beans (a rarity in the UK) – instead, everybody couldn’t stop talking about the food.
According to the Antipodians good coffee and good food go together. It sounds simple enough, but in reality it’s something like a snow leopard-you know they exist but you never see one in the wild. Heck, even Planet Earth had to use special motion detector cameras to get footage of them. In other words, my favorite restaurants have wretched coffee, and most coffee shop food barely constitutes a snack.
However, I was excited to discover that St. Ali, a recent import to the UK from Australia, is the metaphorical snow leopard. They roast great coffee, their baristas are impeccable, the staff is friendly, and their lunch menu is fresh and creative. The selection is particularly good for celiacs, with a gluten free bread option for sandwiches and a couple of gluten free pastries. Considering that I had just arrived from Turkey that day, the “Proper Ham Sandwich” was looking particularly appetizing and did not disappoint.
After lunch I had an excellent flat white, made with the house espresso blend. The blend is made up of 50% Herbazu Costa Rica and 50% Asatenango Guatemala and the result is delicious. In fact it was my favorite shot of espresso I had in the UK (though that particular shot was at an affiliated store, Sensory Lab. more on that later).