Pillar of Salt

Pillar of Salt
541 Church St
Richmond VIC 3121
03 9421 1550
Open: Mon – Fri  7:30am – 4:30pm;  Sat – Sun  8am – 5pm
Website

Café cycling is one of my favourite things to do.  What’s better than getting up early, going for a spin on your bike, and rewarding yourself with some great coffee and an amazing breakfast offering from one of Melbourne’s many cutting edge, gourmet cafés?

So, in keeping with this theme, this post is the first of my series on the Capital City Trail (CCT).  The CCT is a fantastic shared cycling and walking path that encircles the city of Melbourne.  It is about 30 km long, and takes you along three of Melbourne’s waterways – the Yarra River, Merri Creek, and Moonee Ponds Creek. It is quite flat for a lot of it, but there is a stretch that’s undulating, and yes, there’s a few steep pinches in there.  But if I can handle the profile, then I would think most people can.

You can take it as slow as you like – and may need to, because it’s a very popular shared trail (emphasis on the “shared”).  So, during the weekends, it can be full of families, joggers, strollers, and even school rowing teams crossing with their boats!  If you want to do it at a pace, the best thing to do is get up early and tackle it.  However, if you do want to take your time, and perhaps make a half day of it – taking in a couple of cafés along the way – then this will be the guide for you.

This first café comes up early on the trail if you’re leaving from the CBD.  If you’re leaving from Fed Square, the turnoff is only 3.75 km out (I’m using Taxi/Transit in Fed Square as my starting point). It requires a short detour off the trail, but there’s only a couple of cafés on the actual trail (Collingwood Children’s Farm Café and Fenix).  Most other cafés require you to leave the trail – but only for a short time. My criteria being that:
1) they’re less than a kilometre or so off the trail, and
2) they’re worth the detour!

Cycling directions off the trail…

Cycling outbound from the city you will come up to a concrete pontoon section with black bollards…

Then you will see a sign saying 1km Swan Street…

You need to turn left at the sign (you can probably see, it’s a bit of a hook turn).

There’s another sign at the intersection letting you know where to go…  The left path takes you to a little tunnel that takes you under the freeway and up onto Mary Street. Keep going straight until at least Burgess Street, and then take any left.  Keep following the streets through til you make it to Church Street. There will be a bit of a dog leg through there, whichever way you go, as none of the streets runs all the way through.  Turn left again, and trundle down Church Street til you find Pillar of Salt, on the corner of Willis Street (opposite Fitness First and the old Redheads Factory, where the red star is on the map, and also my little “pause” icon – thank you Garmin).

Alternatively you could exit the trail at Barkly Avenue – where there’s no nasty hook turn (but there is a bit of a gradient), and then go through the park – you’ll end up at Mary Street anyway.

Now… back to breakfast…

Today I was cycling and breakfasting with my great friend Rowena, from SheRides Cycling.  Of course, when she cycles with me, it’s more of a recovery ride for her!   We have a great tradition of cycling and breakfasting which usually involves an hour or so on the bike, and about three at the café – but we love it!  And generally, we have a lot of catching up to do.

This is a really cute café – and they serve 5 senses coffee, which is really good.  So, we ordered our drinks while reviewing the menu – and debated the merits of a healthy breakfast that may not be exactly what you are craving for, and a not so healthy breakfast that you feel guilty about.  But, as we discussed it – we made a decision that guilt was a worthless emotion, and if you’re going to eat something – then do it with gusto!!  So, with that in mind I ordered the pear & blueberry bread (with a side serve of guilt – damn it!); while Row ordered the healthier option of poached eggs with a side of avocado.

For the uninitiated – remember to look at the specials on the blackboard above the back door out.  We noticed this after we had finished breakfast, and saw that there was a really good breakfast special! D’oh!!

House baked pear & blueberry bread, with vanilla bean marscapone,
spiced poached pears & toasted oat crumble

The pear and blueberry bread was an impressively plated dish, with the bread sliced as thick as a doorstopper, and gently mounded with marscapone cheese.  I found the bread a little firm and crumbly though, and if it wasn’t for the lashings of marscapone it would have been too dry. As it was, when you cut into the bread, it crumbled so much, you needed the marscapone to meld it back together again.  The poached pear and blueberries on top were beautiful, and helped with the moisture factor – but the dish needed a little more of the fruit component to balance it out. Nonetheless, it is a beautifully prepared dish, and if you’re in the mood for a sweet start to the day, it could be the fix for you.

 Poached eggs, and avocado, with tomato and fruit relish

Rowena’s healthier option looked just that, but she felt it was a little simple in its presentation, particularly the avocado. Alas, the eggs, were a little overdone, although they had a gorgeous, orange yolk – attesting their free range status. Apparently the tomato and fruit relish was really delish, but the toast was a little tough – with Row saying she needed a steak knife to get through it!  Just as well she’s gone gluten free now!

Loving the colanders that serve as light shades over the communal table!  Very cool.

You’ll note that there’s an outdoor courtyard – which we didn’t venture into (so we could keep an eye on our bikes parked out front), but would be lovely when the conditions are right.

Lunch

In addition, last month, I visited Pillar of Salt at lunchtime with my good friend S.  At that sitting, we decided on the healthier options and went for a couple of the salads.

Coconut Poached Chicken Salad

Moroccan Lamb Salad

These were amazing salads – I had the chicken salad, which was served with chunky, juicy, torn pieces of chicken meat, shredded vegetables, vermicelli noodles, asian herbs & nahm jim dressing. Every mouthful was a taste explosion, and had all those thai flavours that we love.  It comes highly recommended and I believe it’s considered something of a signature dish for the café. Both of the ladies on the table next to us ordered it as well – and I got the feeling they were regulars.

If the sighs and moans were anything to go by, the lamb salad must have been equally as good. It certainly looked lovely, and had a great mix of chunks of slow roasted lamb shoulder, chickpeas, sultanas, heirloom tomato, carrot, sesame seeds with a cumin & lemon flavoured labne, and was served with a wedge of lemon so you could up the flavour factor.  My mouth is watering thinking about it!!

There’s also a great range of sandwiches and rolls, as well as some dessert offerings – such as slices, cupcakes and croissants to seduce your sweet tooth.

Overall, a really lovely café with a great range of dishes on offer, and really good coffee. It does get busy, so it’s best to get there early or be prepared to wait.  I enjoyed my lunch there, more than my breakfast, but that might simply be a case of ordering the right thing.  Service was really good, with constant top-ups of our water, and no pressure on us to leave, even though there were people waiting.  They don’t split bills though, so do your mathematics at the table.

Cyclists Info

There’s no official bike parking available, so you might need to be prepared to improvise, and bring a lock, so if you need to leave it out of sight, you can do so with confidence.

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