541 Church Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9421 1550
A weekend down in Melbourne saw me catch up with inspirational foodie friends, Thanh and Hannah. For the most part, Thanh and I don’t particularly love brunch food – or the act of spending half our mornings freezing our bums off in the cold while we wait for a coveted table at Melbourne brunch hotspot #432432 to clear. Yet somehow, the three of us agreed to meet at Pillar of Salt, yet another one of Melbourne’s most popular brunch spots.
I can’t remember what time we agreed to meet that Saturday morning – it was definitely not before 9am (Melburnians don’t get up that early) but we weren’t pushing lunchtime, too. Either way, we were told (sometime between 10am and 11am) that there would be a 30-minute wait. I don’t like queuing for food so in normal circumstances, I would have said, ‘yeah nah, not waiting’ and then looked for other options. Hannah, however, had arrived there a good 10 minutes before Thanh and I – and had already invested that time in line. So we agreed to wait.
I think we waited more than 30 minutes. As the clock inched towards the 45-minute mark, we started to get narky. Why was this café named after the Biblical Lot’s wife attracting such long wait queues? Is the food really that good? Are the coffees made out of magical beans? Finally, we were seated.
From there, the service was speedy with a liberal dose of friendliness and good humour. So far, so good. My (second) macchiato (of the day) was indeed magical, a smooth house blend roasted by Five Senses was enough to curb my hunger pangs and yearning for a GOOD Melbourne coffee. (I had arrived from Queensland only the day before.)
Thanh ordered the kimchi fritters, corn and sweet potato fritters, a dish that I would not have otherwise ordered myself as I’m not a fan of sweet potato. That said, the fritters themselves weren’t too bad – there was a well-balanced mix of flavours and the kimchi was not at all overpowering. I did find all the add-ons (pink grapefruit cured kingfish, pineapple and wombok slaw, sour cream and house-made kimchi hot sauce) a bit too much, though.
I had originally opted for the pan-fried sardines – and Hannah, the porridge. A serious case of food envy, however, saw Hannah constantly eying my sardines and so we swapped. That was okay – I was also eyeing her porridge anyway. The sardines were served on toast with house-made ketchup, pickled red onions, truss cherry tomatoes, capers and preserved lemon. It was a much simpler combination than Thanh’s overly complicated fritters – and it worked. A great balance of flavours and a dish that wasn’t too heavy on the stomach, either.
I’m not normally one to order sweet breakfasts but this porridge was definitely one I can see myself ordering if I came here again. The grains were cooked in almond milk and served with strawberries, bananas, Coyo yoghurt and toasted shaved coconut. For an added flavour boost, they also threw in some agave syrup and activated almonds, which I thought was borderline wanky but anyway. It was a dish that was certainly worthy of a hundred Instagram likes, but also lived up to its good looks. Full of substance, flavour and texture, it was the perfect heart- and soul-warming dish to start a cold autumn morning on.
Boasting some excellent dishes and wonderful service, I can see why Pillar of Salt is one of Richmond’s better places to visit for a weekend brunch. The food errs on the quirky side and when done well, the results were amazing. And despite the fact that there was a constant queue outside, we – and the rest of the patrons sitting inside – did not feel rushed to finish our food and get the hell out. I’d definitely go back – but I’d make sure I’d be there early to avoid the wait.