Square and Compass Cafe
222 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne
Open for breakfast and lunch Monday - Sunday. Bookings available.
The day had gotten off to a good start. While waiting for the tram, a friend was passing by and she gave me a lit into town. So much better than taking an over hot tram into the city and it was great to catch up with this friend.
So after running a few errands I went to meet Jonella for lunch. Being back at work, she was looking for distractions - as was I having another ten days of holiday under my belt. Working in East Melbourne, she made a couple of suggestions - a couple of places I've been to, but one that stuck out on the list was Square and Compass cafe, nestled in the shadow of the old Dallas Brooks Hall (currently being disassembled). I am a freemason after all.
I'd checked the menu before I'd gone to meet Jonella and was suitably intrigued. It looked like decent cafe fare with hipster elements. It certainly made a difference from the normal sandwiches and rolls found around East Melbourne (though the cafe on George Street has always been an exception)
Being a hot, sunny day, we strolled down Albert Street to our waiting table.
The first thing about Square and Compasses - it has nothing to do with the masons, other than it's near the old temple buildings. It's also not stuffy or pretentious, as you'd often expect, but the cafe has an open, friendly feel, with friendly, attentive staff.
On being taken to our table, we perused the menu. Jonella, who has been to the cafe on a number of times was wanting to try the crunchy peanut butter and tomatoes on toast.
Not being one for tomotoes, I found a salad bowl of Smoked Salmon pastrami, saurkraut, avocado, tomatoes, caperberries and pickled cucumber. Being one for pickled vegetables, it sounded great.
Jonella ordered a green juice concoction, me an iced coffee. I was thrilled with the ice coffee - espresso, ice, skinny milk and a little sugar. Perfect for a hot day.
Jonella sold me on this place on the fact that it was a little more expensive, but worth it.
She was right.
A view of the menu does look like a lot of hipster wankery when you have a first glance - but the they take such pride in their food. The salmon pastrami bowl was one of the best meals I've had in ages. Jonella was very please with her peanut toast and tomatoes - and I'm pretty sure they make their own peanut butter.
Yes, you can get a golden latte here (made with tumeric, not urine). Yes, there appears to be quite a bit of quinoa, kale and other hipster staples, however, despite the perceived pretentiousness, these people do great food and a reasonable price. We were bowled over enough to make plans to go back again next week.
Square and Compass Cafe gives a bit of respite from the banality of East Melbourne eateries. I'm looking forward to going back.