19 Rose Street Essendon, Victoria 304003 9331 4488
|Opening hours||MON-FRI 7AM-4.30PM; WEEKENDS 8AM-3PM|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
With a young family, husband and wife team Domenic and Diana Caruso, who used to run the successful Espresso 3121 in Cremorne, decided last year that it was time to move their business closer to home – to Essendon, where they both grew up, and where, until recently, there has been a serious dearth of decent coffee and cafe fare.
"We didn't want to travel to Richmond every day and knew there was something missing around here in terms of good coffee," says Domenic. "There are lots of cafes around here, but not many that provide speciality coffee. You can't get a filter or single origins. I'm not sure why, as we're not that far out of the city."
The locals were obviously crying out for some. Since opening St Rose opposite Essendon station seven months ago, the pair have found themselves so busy they are already trying to work out how they can expand the seating in their stylishly fitted-out space.
"We're flat out, which is great, but even during the week, there's a waiting list. We thought we might be busy but we didn't expect it to happen this quickly," he says.
"We’re looking at maybe adding in a mezzanine level. We're a small space, but luckily we've got high ceilings."
Their all-day menu is "simple food made well" and features firm cafe favourites – St Rose's take on avocado toast, served with herb-infused cherry tomatoes, Persian feta, micro-herbs and Murray River salt ($15) is the most popular morning option.
This standard is closely followed in the popularity stakes by their satisfyingly meaty Brekkie Burger. It's huge and comes with a fried free-range egg, cheddar, spinach, bacon and hollandaise on a brioche bun and a hash brown on the side ($14). Other current wintry choices include baked chilli eggs with a spicy sauce, Persian feta and hazelnut dukkah ($16) and the St Rose – a house-made sausage patty with bacon, poached free-range eggs, cherry tomatoes, herbed mushrooms, avocado and spinach ($19.50).
The inner-city's grain of choice has also made it to Essendon. The organic quinoa salad (with walnuts, Persian feta, cherry tomatoes and spinach leaves, $14.50) is another favourite with the locals, Domenic says.
St Rose tends to be packed at all hours, but it is breakfast that is the most hectic, with commuters grabbing a Veneziano coffee (including filter and single origins) en route to the station, and, with the cafe near a clutch of high schools, there's also a preschool bell rush.
"We get loads of school kids coming in. Then we get the mums, then the lunch rush, then the afternoon rush when the kids finish school."
Wait – school kids coming in for coffee?
"Oh yeah, it’s huge," he says. "‘It’s the in thing to be seen with a takeaway coffee cup."
After-school snacks have certainly changed over the years.