“There’s so much in Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond,” Kael Sahely says. “East Melbourne’s just tucked away. It doesn't have a lot going for it in that sense.”

It does now. Sahely and business partner Matt Stribley just opened Square and Compass on Clarendon Street, bringing Jeremy Fraser (ex-chef at Barry, Porgie & Mr Jones) on as co-owner and head chef.

Between them the duo has some pretty strong credentials. Stribley has worked at places such as Porgie & Mr Jones, while Sahely helped set up Pillar of Salt, Touchwood and Northcote’s Barry.

Square and Compass has a broadly similar feel to that Northcote favourite, from the health-conscious menu to the crisp, stark look. There’s just one crucial difference: a slight touch of old world. “We would have worked around any area we were given,” Sahely says, “but it's East Melbourne, so the concept went a bit more heritage-y.”

Most of that feel is down to the building – a gorgeous red-brick terrace. Inside, the tables sit on solid cast-iron bases and a regal terrazzo floor, while patrons are heated by oil radiators or cooled from above by spinning fans, rather than air-conditioning.

Likewise the menu isn’t zealously contemporary, with dishes such as tarts and omelettes getting a run alongside trendier items, including a lobster roll with Sriracha mayonnaise and an ancient-grain salad. “We're trying to avoid sides like smashed avocado, spinach and roasted tomato,” Sahely says.

During the week a good number of these healthy items are available to take away for the convenience of the many doctors, nurses and patients in the area. The same crowd (and weekend brunchers) will no doubt appreciate the coffee as well. The espresso is made with Seven Seeds blends, while the filter comes from the superb Promised Land, a lesser-known roaster in Collingwood which specialises in filter.

Square and Compass
222 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne
(03) 9416 4914

Mon to Fri 7am‒4pm
Sat & Sun 8am‒4pm