Saint George is positioned between grungy Railway Square and the thriving Kensington Street precinct on a corner that once was a convenience store dispensing energy drinks and snacks. Helmed by a chef with Michelin-star credentials, James Metcalfe, Saint George is similarly provides sustenance for those in need.
“Coffee and booze for the working class” is printed on one of its giant windows overlooking busy George Street. And while caffeine, wines and cocktails are part of the stylish room’s inevitable draw, it’s what’s coming from the kitchen that we’re most excited about.
Chef Metcalfe was once ex-head chef of Becasse, the celebrated but now-closed CBD fine diner, and Paddington’s The Bellevue. His consultancy and recruitment firm JRM Hospitality was approached by the upstairs +U shared workspace to run the all-day venue.
Among the morning headliners is a smoked Wagyu-brisket hash served with fried eggs and a house-made chilli ketchup, and the Omelette Arnold Bennett, a transcendent mix of eggs, smoked haddock and cheese sauce named after the author who regularly ordered it at London’s Savoy Hotel.
While the menu hints at Metcalfe’s British background – his resume also includes stints in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in London – the chef insists the cafe-cum-wine bar belies that definition.
For lunch, Saint George has sandwiches for those wanting a more grab-and-go snack including the classic New Orleans muffaletta, which Metcalf insists isn’t an incitement of war with nearby A1 Canteen.
There are also salads and for those sitting in, a steak and chips that elevates Saint George from cafe to restaurant status. Golden, crisp chips are served with a marble score four Ranger’s Valley rump cap and a house butter.
Dusk shifts the focus from the coffee machine to the cocktail shaker, with boozy concoctions featuring house-made infusions and reductions. The Dragon Slayer combines banana-infused Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey with salted caramel and bitters, and the Earl Grey Martini utilises a tea-infused Bombay Sapphire.
There’s also wine – close to 70 bottles on the list. About 40 per cent come from Australia and New Zealand.
You can pair the drinks with a parade of shared dishes that highlight Metcalfe’s considerable skill.
The challenges of converting the space from a convenience store into a stylish eatery fell to designer Christopher Grinham of H&E Architects (Chiswick in Woollahra and Barangaroo House). While the black tiles, brass highlights (including a subtle Saint George’s Cross set into a tiled wall) and white marble bar means the space transitions from a day to night venue easily, the original pressed tin ceiling demonstrates how under utilised it was.
The striking vintage hand slicer in the centre of the room dispenses a selection of premium charcuterie to order, including David Blackmore’s Wagyu bresaola.