Pillar of Salt
541 Church St Richmond
541 Church St Richmond
03 9421 1550
An outpouring of great new cafes in Richmond, Prahran and Abbotsford would lead you to believe that business may be a little slower, especially in the not-so-new establishments. However, a recent visit to Pillar of Salt, on Church St goes to show that good coffee and delicious food will reign in the crowds, regardless of lack of novelty. The patronage at Pillar of Salt doesn’t seem to be harmed, despite the opening of Top Paddock just down the road, and this Saturday morning there were queues out the door for a seat in this well known cafe.
Pillar of Salt was awarded a cup at the recent Age Good Cafe Guide awards and its quite clear why. Their 5 senses coffee is served as your regular house blend, or as options of single origin, cold drip, aero press and other ‘coffee snob’ methods (no judgement, I’m also one of them). The waiters also knew what they were talking about in terms of coffee, and I was suggested the Kenyan single origin for my long black, as this is the modality it’s best served. He was right and even I could determine the berry, rhubarb undertones and the long finish the specialised coffee pillar described to me.
They even made a soy cappuccino look drinkable, a feat not easy in itself (my adventures in soy coffees as a lactose intolerant turned me to black coffee, but my friend had not yet been deterred).
The menu has something for everyone, and a little bit more: birchers and poached eggs accompany classics with a twist (like the benedict) and unique dishes (like my own). My friend ordered Pillar’s own benedict, with apple cider hollandaise, fresh Granny Smith, ham hock and poached eggs on toast while I opted for the smashed oven roast tomato with basil, buffalo mozzarella and a poached egg, again on toast.
Pillar of Salt has the makings of a great cafe, with amazing coffee, an attractive menu, a niche location and a gorgeous fit out. However, there is one thing that holds it back from entering the realm of the greats and for me that is the execution of the food. Don’t get me wrong, my dish was great on paper and on my taste buds. However it was served lukewarm, with the cold mozzarella cooling the rest of the dish to lack any depth in terms of temperature.
The same occurred with the benedict. The ham hock looked fresh and full of flavour, yet a cold and somewhat flavourless hollandaise stole away from the perfectly poached eggs and beautiful crunch and sweetness offered by the apple.
The food at Pillar of Salt is by no means bad, and I would happily recommend it to someone who doesn’t frequent Melbourne’s cafes (or who wants to pop in for another coffee). However, to truly contend in this highly competitive city I believe the execution when it comes to food could be better. Maybe it was due to the busy Saturday morning? Perhaps the chef was seriously hungover? I can’t say and a previous visit saw my eggs overpoached (the cardinal sin of breakfast and a relief it didn’t happen again).
In writing this, I have to acknowledge the attentive and lovely staff. At not one moment did I feel forgotten or unwelcome. Coffees and food were brought with gusto, and offers of more coffee were always forthcoming. Service is something often undervalued in these cool ‘hipster’ cafes so I appreciated the attention. I would return to Pillar of Salt, but to truly contend in the Melbourne cafe scene, taking that step further in the love and care of the dishes in both execution and presentation would move them volumes towards greatness.