Here at The Urban List, we’ve always been a bit perplexed by the lack of good cafe options in leafy East Melbourne, especially considering it sits right on the edge of the city and is chock full of gorgeous buildings.
Thankfully a trio of top dudes with links to some of Melbourne’s best cafes—Northcote’s Barry and both Pillar of Salt and Touchwood in Richmond—are about to sort that out when they open the 60-seater Square and Compass cafe in a cute former residential home on Clarendon Street, between Victoria Parade and Fitzroy Gardens.
Co-owners Matt Stribley, Kael Sahely and owner-chef Jeremy Fraser, formerly of Porgie & Mr Jones and Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, want Square and Compass to be a welcome respite for East Melbournians. “We’re looking forward to getting to know the locals,” Strigley says.
Fans of Barry’s hero dish—the Californian superfood salad, stuffed with quinoa, shredded kale, organic rice, coriander, charred, heirloom tomatoes and salted ricotta—will be glad to know it will pop up here too, as will the slightly less healthy peanut butter and banana smoothie. “They really put us on the map northside,” Stribley says.
Square and Compass’s new offerings will include a brand new signature dish. The slow-poached rock lobster roll will be served in brioche buns specially made for them by the Proud Mary-owned Aunty Peg’s bakery cafe in Collingwood. “They’re doing that specifically for us,” Stribley says, “they’re changing a few things around to make it suit our style.”
With a much bigger kitchen at his command, Fraser will be looking to refine the offering as they go, creating new favourites to rival the superfood salad. There will also be a focus on takeaway, with ready-made brekkie and lunches packed and ready to go, ideal for local office workers, and you’ll also be able to order online for delivery, with a big push on catering too. “We’re pretty proud of the superfood salad and now it can pretty much be delivered to your door,” Stribley says.
They’ve eschewed the ubiquitous Scandinavian look so popular with Melbourne cafes in favour of something a little more retro, in keeping with the area, designed by Alex Lake at Therefore Studio. Ceiling fans whir above terrazzo marble floors and both the walls and bar are picked out in pale pink. “It’s all custom made,” Stribley says of the funky furniture.
Seven Seeds will provide the house blends and there will be filter coffee from Collingwood’s Promised Land. All three owners are good mates with plenty of shared hospo experience and at least one of them will be onsite doing the hard yard every day. “Cafes pop up left, right and centre in Melbourne, but I think the ones that do really well are those with owner-operators,” Stribley says. “Things go wrong all the time, but we can rectify it straight away.”
Stribley says a best mate of his up in Byron Bay was shocked to learn how few East Melbourne cafes there are, considering the crazy spread citywide. He’s hoping that means Square and Compass cafe will become the new local hero when it opens tomorrow.
Square and Compass | East Melbourne
Image credit: Barry via Instagram