St Ali North had quite a following for brunch and lunch, but the regulars that perched in that perfect spot on the grassy corner of Park and Nicholson Streets won't be too disappointed in the cafe's disappearance. Following its September closure, the Carlton North space was rapidly reborn as Green Park Dining: an all-day, eating, drinking, people-watching spot (particularly good for athlete-spotting as they pass by on the Capital City Trail). It's similarly proficient in coffee and brunch, but has the added bonus of dinners, cocktails, live music, events, and beautiful sweet creations from pastry chef Gadi Assayag — all of which seem to be pure art in sugary clothing.
The space has had a makeover yet maintains a similar feel, albeit a little greener. The cycle-by coffee window has been left intact and the weekend crowds remain heavy all day long. The team behind Green Park reads like a short who's who of Melbourne hospitality: owner Jesse Gerner (who also owns Bomba and Anada) is supported by Kris Wood (who started Clement Coffee Roasters) on the espresso machine, Howard Stamp (previously of MoVida and Le Bon Ton) tossing the pans, and Assayag (Da Noi, Vue de Monde) wielding a piping bag. What results is quality output from both the cafe counter and kitchen.
The brunch offering reads like any sophisticated Melbourne menu would: the scotch egg with black pudding and glazed bacon, and the quinoa muesli with almonds, fruit and maple yoghurt make for interesting inclusions. The full dinner menu — Fridays and Saturdays only — is about small plates to share, but evening snacks are available all other nights. Try the fried wild rabbit with tarragon aioli ($16), a selection of cheese and charcuterie, or other options from the wood grill — St Ronin's Cider braised baby pig ($26) and the seriously good rock flathead with kipflers ($28) are two options you wouldn't be wrong to order.
Unfortunately the patchy and often slow service seems to be letting the side down at the moment, but we'll just chalk it up to newly-opened jitters. We're sure they will hit their stride soon, and make Green Park Dining a seamless experience, from morning coffee right through to evening cocktails.
And besides, any place that offers salted caramel popcorn profiteroles at breakfast time is worth a shot, in my book.