Address: 9 Yarra St, South Yarra
Phone: (03) 9827 8588
Open: Weekdays 7am – 5pm, Weekends 8am – 4pm
Don’t be put off by Outpost’s mantra: “Big Flavours with Rough Edges.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with the second part. In fact, our Outpost experience was very much refined in terms of flavour. They have it down to a point. Down this South Yarra laneway, parallel to the train tracks and underneath an office/apartment building, it’s not as hard to find as it sounds. If trendies from nearby Chapel Street, young designers and business folk can seek it out, so too can you.
In my opinion, there is a huge plus as well as a significant minus for Outpost. Let’s start with the good news.
Upon walking into this bright, airy space, you are greeted with the register-cum-display, white tiled bench top. Home to delicious looking cakes, quiches and tarts, as well a vase of summery pink blossoms, your mouth is instantly fileld with saliva.
Little touches like a large antique clock, hanging baskets of oranges, and slabs of netted salami all add to the atmosphere. Suspended from the ceiling you will find a collection of tins, cans and pans, which add to the homely feel. Behind, a complicated coffee station alerts you to one undeniable fact: Outpost is serious about coffee.
Using St Ali’s finest Cup of Excellence and single estate coffees from all over, you can chose from a pour-over, siphon, cold drip, or a classic espresso. If it is all too much, the friendly and knowledgeable baristers will be more than happy to lend a hand. Or you can pick the easy option and go with the Estate of The Day, profiled in detail on a blackboard near the entrance. If you like what you taste, all coffee is available to take home in retail packs.
The menu also changes daily so there is never an excuse not to come back. Not only that, but you can see everything being prepared in the open kitchen just next to the tiled counter. The chefs, lead by experienced and renowned UK master Paul Jewson, certainly know what they are doing. They were happy to chat while they cooked and helped me decide between meals.
I was feeling adventurous and on the chefs recommendation I took a leap of faith and had the smoked eel, quinoa and beetroot salad. It tasted like it was doing my insides a world of good, and not in a way that implies it tasted nasty. In fact it was quite the opposite. Flavoured with parsley and a sweet zesty dressing, I would recommend it for those with ‘mature’ tastebuds only. For me, it was a treat.
At the other end of the scale we also ordered the French toast with Istra Daylesford smoked bacon, maple syrup and caramelized walnuts, a good choice for those with strong arteries and a mouth full of sweet teeth. There was a hint of disappointment in that, apparently, the bread wasn’t soaked enough before it was cooked. While it lived up to its reputation on the outer layers, a chomp revealed plain bread closer to the middle.
Another healthy option was the Israeli Chop Chop Salad served with an array of vegetables, a pile of tuna and a dollop of cottage cheese. With a drizzle of oil, a rainbow of colours, and separate piles of ingredients, it is the perfect choice for the health-conscious, gastronomic, obsessive-compulsive, if you know anyone who happens to fit that category.
Lastly, a rich winter dish of melted cheese, beetroot and cauliflower was soft and scrumptious, served in a sturdy, stone coloured pot.
Now for the bad news…
Although the room that makes up the entrance is full of colour, freshness and an all-round buzz, we sat in the unique but uninspiring ‘lobby.’ Because Outpost finds itself on the ground floor of a high-rise building, they took some initiative and made a seating area next to the elevators. While it sounds like a good idea, the tiled grey floor and black and silver surroundings make the space cold, hard, and uninviting. A big round table in the centre looks impressive, but the draft that found its way to our table and the contrast between this area and the entrance was incomparable.
With this in mind, it is worth sitting along the bench near the open kitchen to get some sunshine and atmosphere, or if you can find a table in a tucked away corner of the lobby you can give that a try also.
Unfortunately, after being totally elated at the initial prospects of this cute local luxury, the lobby aspect brought the experience back to earth for me, pulling the rating down to 3.5 kisses. That being said, the perfected coffee and fresh, changing menu get a big fat pash.
Drop in and see what you think.