19 Jul Square and Compass, East Melbourne
It was freezing. It was just under 1C, apparently felt like -4C and even though I was in a rush to get out of the house, I had to defrost the thin sheet of ice that had formed on the car’s windscreen first. We had just woken up to the coldest morning in Melbourne in 18 years, and I thought, ‘Surely there won’t be many people out for brunch today. Normal people would be trying to hibernate under the warm covers of their beds…right?’. Wrong. There was still a queue outside Square and Compass a short while later. It seems nothing can get between Melburnians and their voracious appetite for cafes.
Behind Square and Compass is the experienced trio of Kael Sahely (Pillar of Salt, Touchwood, Barry), Matt Stribley (Porgie & Mr Jones) and Jeremy Fraser as co-owner/head chef (ex-Barry, Porgie & Mr Jones). A quaint red-brick exterior with custom-made wrought-iron fencing fronts a simple and bold black, white and pale wood-themed interior created by Therefore Studio.
Upon entering we were immediately confronted with an enticing spread on the sweets display counter. Featuring Doughboys doughnuts, raw slices from Raw Galore, salads, bircher and rolls filled with poached chicken, pork belly and lamb shoulder ready to go, the cabinet was quite impressive and those doughnuts were disappearing rapidly.
I was told the wait would be 10-15 minutes for a table for two, but literally a minute after we stepped back out to join the other hungry brunch-goers, a table was ready for us. The menu covers oaty, eggy and toasty options, as well as lunch-type dishes like pasta and the lavish lobster roll with sriracha mayo, green mango, coriander and lime. Drinks include Seven Seeds coffee and Mork hot chocolate, smoothies, kombucha and cold pressed juices by Ayomo.
A2 opted for the omelette with salad. Buttery leeks, plump mushrooms, crunchy hazelnuts and glistening, just-cooked eggs made this one satisfying meal. I would recommend the toast over salad. I think toast would have complemented the moist eggs and leeks perfectly, but then again, I love my bread.
I really wanted to try the ancient grain salad with cauliflower rice, poached egg and seared cured trout, but it had just been swapped out for the broccolini salad in the new menu. I was disappointed, but not completely surprised, seeing as it had taken me two months to get around to visiting. I settled for the Californian superfood salad instead. It was composed of kale, heirloom tomatoes, charred corn, goji berries, wild rice, black turtle beans, quinoa, jalapeños, coriander and salted ricotta, and I also added on the optional poached chicken. I rarely order salads and the salad itself was admittedly more tasty than I thought it would be, though I did make use of the salt and pepper for the poached chicken. I absolutely loved the nutty chewiness from the toasted wild rice and wishes there was more of it hidden inside. I have to say I’m not a raw tomato person, but the bright red and yellow heirloom tomatoes made this salad pop with colour and freshness.
There aren’t too many cafes in this part of East Melbourne, but especially being just over the road from Collingwood, things have the potential to change. Square and Compass may be the first of many to come, but it’s a solid offering and though it’s early days yet, the queues outside can attest to that.
Square and Compass
222 Clarendon Street
East Melbourne, VIC, 3002
(03) 9416 4914