When I first walked into Postal Hall, it reminded me a bit of an Eastern bloc railway station.

The sound of hissing steam bouncing off concrete, glass and metal surfaces. A high ceiling with exposed beams hanging a large functional clock. A brushed metal bench supporting people in transit, as they climbed onto red padded stools or slid off their stools on their way somewhere else.

This fit out could have translated into a cold, unwelcoming atmosphere, but in fact it’s the opposite. Regulars come and go for a chat, and the young, hip staff were all unerring friendly. For instance, I must have looked befuddled by the sandwich choices, so a lady walked around the cabinet explaining the lunch options, and throughout my lunch I was asked several times whether I needed help, a coffee or anything else.

Long-time readers will know that I really don’t get excited by soup as a meal (except bouillabaisse). In fact, it’s one of those dishes that I studiously avoid ordering when out, figuring that I can make my own soup just as easily and well.

However, on this day I was suffering from pregnancy-induced ingestion, and a chicken and wild mushroom soup with saffron ($11) sounded like just the thing my poor stomach might be able to handle. While this soup was the day’s special (and may not be repeated), it is a soup worth getting exciting about.

Apparently all of the Postal Hall’s soup is made off-site by an Italian chef. This particular combination of chunky portabello, chopped enoki and shredded chicken floating in an almost seafood-tasting saffron stock was headily rich, despite being a broth and not a creamy soup. It was accompanied by a couple of chunks of lovely seeded bread from Philippa’s. My neighbour was eating a large bowl of rice salad with I think tuna and egg in it, and she said that it was one of her favourite lunch dishes.

Hooray for soup! I actually felt that I could fit in something sweet afterwards so I decided to try the pear caramel cake ($4.50), made by ‘some old Italian guy on Lygon Street’. I’m not sure whether the cakes and pastries are made by the same chef that made the soup, but my hazelnut meal speckled cake was also excellent – light and not overly sweet.

The next day I went back for a toasted smoked chicken sandwich with cheese, lettuce and tomato ($10) on the same seeded bread as accompanied the soup. Good to see that the sandwich was toasted without all the salad ingredients (warm limp lettuce, ugh), but was carefully compiled again after the toasting. Their sandwiches are about $1-2 more expensive than other places in the CBD, so I wouldn’t necessarily be making a special trip just for their sandwiches.

All in all though, I like what Postal Hall is doing – good solid Italian-influenced lunch food in unpretentious surroundings and with uber-friendly service. I hear the coffee’s good too.

For other great sandwich options in the CBD, try Migo’s, Waffle On and Aix Creperie (the almond chicken is a long-time favourite).

  • Postal Hall, 116 Russell St, Melbourne +61 3 9663 0998

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