Auction Rooms was added to the St Ali empire in November 2016, along with adjacent takeaway spot Counter. Original owner Andrew Kelly started the cafe eight years earlier, but sold out to focus on his world-recognised coffee-roasting business, Small Batch.
Small Batch is still the bean of choice for espresso and filter at Auction Rooms. In fact, nothing much has changed since the sale. The facade is still the same innocuous, weather-beaten blue, announced only by the name of the auction house that once occupied the building: W.B. Ellis (Est. 1864).
Inside, concrete floors, distressed brick and plenty of steel combine for an industrial chic look. But chatter lifts the otherwise stark space. That buzz comes easily with the help of local beers and wines, and easy-drinking cocktails.
And then there’s the belly-warming menu. It’s just a single page, yet it covers plenty of bases. Big and small. Sweet and savoury. Flavours Mexican, American and Middle Eastern.
Some of the more eye-catching choices include nut, seed and puffed-grain granola with elderflower labne; chilaquiles, aka tortilla chips, pork shoulder, cheese curd and black beans; and grilled eggplant with flatbread, preserved lemon, smoked hummus, poached egg and freekeh and brown-rice salad.