Smith St. Trader Compelling Cafe/Bar in Collingwood
Smith St. Trader is a compelling cafe and bar on eclectic Smith St Collingwood, full of soul and savvy, with Richard Hands a Melbourne gem and one of its best bar tender/mixologists. The World Loves Melbourne was invited to sample some of the menu one lunchtime, including an indulgent cocktail for which we don't apologise for.
There's an intimacy about Smith St. Trader with it's warm and welcoming dining area (also a killer courtyard out the back). Large windows mean loads of natural light and there's cool artwork and specials on a small board. The menu includes a large brunch menu, pizzas and burgers, fresh baguettes and mains such as 250g Black Angas Porterhouse, Trader Schnitzel, Ricotta Gnocchi and Spaghetti Marinara.
The menu features several popular dishes such as this Chorizo and Cheddar - everything you want with quality Istra chorizo, oozy smoked cheddar, poached eggs, avocado salsa, coriander, chipotle hollandaise on sourdough. Rustic and satisfying and not without some kick! This is the perfect brunch dish but as the breakfast menu goes to 4pm we found it to be a great lunch dish.
From the side you can see the drool worthy chorizo (decent size slices), the melt of the cheddar over the bread, the fresh avocado and salsa, and the poached eggs with tangy sauce. A great dish!
Richard Hands was a top bartender in London and is great engaging with customers. He loves to invest his time looking after customers - you don't always get such attention in other establishments. The World Loves Melbourne loves it when owners get hands on, and Richard has the savvy to match. He told me that Smith St can be unpredictable - busy then a bit quiet then suddenly a few groups walk in - you have to be ready at all times for a customer surge.
As mentioned, Richard is one of Melbourne's top bar afficiados - he told me customers have been surprised at the quality of the cocktails here, not knowing Richard's pedigree and experience.
Richard Hands spent time at some of London's heady bars including Milk and Honey in Soho.... Cocktail royalty really.
I remember talking with Richard at previous venues (working at Touche Hombre and the bar next door) that he is about bringing flair and sophistication but also to let the hit of alcohol in any cocktail come through - he's not into super sweet cocktails and trying to mask the alcohol. What a godsend.
Richard made me a Milk Punch a few years ago which I have long remembered, where the process makes the milk clear. He then spoke to me about Penicillins - a type of cocktail - prescribed for any ailment.
At Smith St. Trader Richard fixes me The Nutcracker - a kind of Espresso Martini - but with Frangelico, Amaretto, Kahlua and Proud Mary espresso (how Melbourne and local is that!). Rather indulgent for lunch but here on Smith St we are not keeping to silly norms and constructs.
A touch of quirk but also a touch of comfort - large cushions against the white wall. Customers can also settle along the front window counter and take in Smith Street.
Another popular dish is the Blueberry Buttermilk Hotcakes featuring seasonal fruit, mascarpone, honey and maple syrup. These hotcakes are delicious, served as a stack rather than the one big circular hot cake you get at some other cafes. In fact these hotcakes are quite thick, more like cakes than pancakes. With blueberry infused in the mix, I loved it all. Pour some maple syrup over the top, and take some cream and fresh fruit, and you have a serious dish. Another indulgent dish, which also went with my cocktail. Did I mention I also had a shiraz to start with?
Check out the sexy courtyard out the back. A gem of a hideaway in Collingwood.
The bar is well stocked, which is no surprise given Richard's expertise. Check out the cocktails menu for day and night - and several menu items are perfect for bar food such as the pizzas, burgers, toasties, and tacos for example. Or enjoy with a main!
Smith St. Trader has plenty of soul. All the while there was an engaging playlist (love a place with decent tunes) and a feeling of home away from home with a certain chic. Highly recommended and don't forget to order a cocktail!