Square and Compass

East Melbourne just got a little bit more hospitable.
Libby Curran
Published on May 27, 2015


Poor old East Melbourne is a bit of a hospitality dead zone, so locals are surely jumping for joy at the arrival of the suburb's newest addition, Square and Compass.

The three folks at the helm this one are some of the same names behind cafe favourites Touchwood, Barry and Pillar of Salt, and all that experience tends to show. The production feels tight, the kitchen's turning out a menu full of colourful crowd-pleasers, and the Seven Seeds coffee is on point.

Refreshingly, the decor here stands out from the rest of today's cafe crowd, with block pastels and black edging giving the space an understated art-deco feel. Out the back, you'll find a semi-enclosed, heated courtyard space that looks set to be a coveted hot spot even throughout our chilly winter.

Fans of the owners' other endeavours will be familiar with some elements of the menu, though this new kitchen's lending a fair splash of its own creativity too. It's a big nod to fresh produce and flavours, so you can expect to find kale aplenty, a few nourishing salad options and that increasingly popular raw zucchini pasta.

Breakfast-style dishes and lunch offerings are mingled together, with everything available from open until close. If you're after a morning savoury hit, go for Square and Compass' version of an avocado smash. Here, it tops a wedge of pumpkin loaf, alongside goats' cheese, heirloom tomatoes and a raw beetroot relish ($16.50) — and you can add a poached egg for a couple of dollars extra.

Working just as hard at breakfast as it is at lunch, is the ancient grains salad: piled on top of creamy, avocado labne, it's mixed with cauliflower rice, toasted sesame seeds and fresh herbs, and laced with tangy barberries. Crown it with a poached egg ($16) or a generous chunk of melt-in-the-mouth, seared cured trout ($20). Further down the menu, dishes like housemade gnocchi with lamb shoulder ($18) and a herb and parmesan schnitzel ($19.5) are sure-fire winter favourites, while the S.A Rock lobster roll with sriracha mayo and green papaya is already causing a stir.

There are plenty of fresh drink options to back up the food offerings, with chai from Chai Boy ($4.5), 70% cocoa hot chocolate from Mork ($4.5), Ayamo cold pressed juices ($8) and a housemade smoothie ($9).

This 60-seater is already buzzing on a daily basis, but looking around, there seems to be a pretty solid crew in place; with affable, unpretentious floor staff that know the menu inside-out, an air of smooth efficiency emanates from the service area and open kitchen.

The East Melbourne of past years may have boasted much more in the way of hospitals than hospitality, but with any luck, this new offering — along with other East Melbourne venues, Persillade and Hard Pressed — will start to point things in the opposite direction.


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