Brisbane’s Best Cafes 2011
Like any large Australian city, Brisbane has a wide range of cafes from the simple ‘mom & pop’ café to those where the focus is on excellent business lunches and great food. However, Brisbane has a large coffee purist element that is bubbling underground and is beginning to show itself to those who are seriously interested.
And the good news is this: from an espresso coffee point-of-view, the Brisbane espresso ‘scene’ rocks, supported by many enthusiastic young professionals eager to share their coffee knowledge and passion. One quick note: it’s not in necessarily in the CBD itself, but in the inner suburbs that you find the best coffee… suburbs like West End, New Farm, Spring Hill and even the formerly seedy Fortitude Valley!
Just a quick note on our methodology – as usual, we convened a panel of coffee professionals and serious consumer ‘geeks’ and over a period of several weeks, these judges tried a shortlist of highly respected cafes and then their results were averaged. While coffee from any one cafe varies slightly day-by-day and barista-by-barista, over the years, we have found this is the best way to get fair and objective ranking. That said, these are all excellent cafes and any one of them could be No. 1 on their day! When it comes to espresso coffee, Brisbane is a city that has truly come of age…
1. Cup Specialty Coffee
85 Russell Street, West End
Josh Russell’s place in trendy West End is spacious and cool, and just off the main road in West End, we found it an ideal location to sit back and savour our espresso. There was a funky La Marzocco on the bench, although it’s actually a temporary replacement for their pricy and rather famous [amongst the aficionados, at least] Slayer espresso machine.
The blend we tried was a combination of Indian Balmaadi, Indonesian Flores and washed Ethiopian Sidama – buttery, sweet, fruity bright [but smooth] acidity. Another on the panel described his coffee as a “well balanced cup with fruit on the nose, light yet syrupy mouth-feel, fruits in the front, spice in the middle and hints of savoury notes in the finish”.
Roasting his own origins & blends, they also have a 5 star blend that changes frequently, as it’s roasted and blended due to seasonal factors in specialty coffee. With a young, enthusiastic team behind the machine this is one of the coffee highlights of Brisbane, and should be on any espresso enthusiasts must-do list!
2. Dandelion & Driftwood
Shop 1, 45 Gerler Road, Hendra
When you first walk in to Dandelion & Driftwood in Brisbane’s upmarket suburb of Hendra, you are struck by the almost equal dichotomy between the pretty interior decoration [some would call it 'fussy'] and the profusion of coffee-related paraphernalia around the walls.
Coffee is by Wolff Coffee Roasters, a new up-and-coming blend from Peter Wolff, one of Brisbane’s most experienced coffee people, and his partner Penny [owner of Dandelion & Driftwood] is an experienced coffee person in her own right, so it’s no wonder the coffee is good. The single origin we tried gave sweet citrus notes in the front, berry fruit and caramel in the middle palate, with a clean and pleasant finish. As well as espresso, they also have other brewing methods that you can try.
One of our reviewers felt the tight space was a little limiting, and you certainly wouldn’t want to come at lunchtime if you didn’t have a reservation. However, if you manage to come off-peak, you’ll find extremely knowledgeable staff and some of the best coffee in Australia.
3.One Drop Specialty Coffee
5/515 St Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley
There are two shiny, glass & mirror cafes at the bottom of an office block right next to the showgrounds in Fortitude Valley. One Drop is the second, owned by Ben Graham and Blaine Swanborough. As you walk in, the first thing you notice is the clean and tidy space with the shiny, white La Marzocco FB 70 on the bench.
As well as making great coffee, it’s a friendly cafe environment, offering good food and a pleasant atmosphere, if a little ‘plasticky’, because of the location. But the main thing is that staff are passionate about coffee and are missing that ‘attitude’ that some cafes who are serious about their coffee suffer from. They also make a point of remembering customers, and the coffee they like.
Offering a sweet, clean shot that had gentle body and dominant spices, the result was a little light on ‘mouthfeel’ but nevertheless pleasant in the cup. Overall One Drop offers a great coffee product, although some would feel that the location [and lack of parking] mean that it misses that special something in ambience that a truly great cafe would be able to offer. However as a coffee ‘destination’, it’s hard to beat!
4. Campos Coffee
11 Wandoo St, Fortitude Valley
Walk up the laneway and you’re not quite sure what to expect… it’s almost a surprise to find a cafe amongst the smelly warehouses and fish market paraphernalia, but reach the end and there it is … a funky, busy cafe with two huge fan contraptions [complete with decorative monkey!] completing an interesting decor.
The Brisbane offshoot of a Sydney-based brand name, from a coffee point-of-view Campos offers a tried & true formula, typically serving a ‘punchy’ shot, perhaps lacking in subtlety for a short black, but tailor-made for milk-based coffees, with of course, their trademark rosetta.
On the day we called by, the espresso demonstrated a gentle acidity, a smooth body with just enough mouthfeel, lots of stone fruit and cheery with lovely cocoa on the finish. Serving good food and a consistent experience, it ticks all the boxes.
Railway Tce, Milton
Bunker has received a lot of exposure in the Brisbane press for its unique concept and it probably is unique, in that it’s a café inside a converted domestic garage, made of concrete [hence the name].
The interior space is covered with ivy and the La Marzocco coffee machine sitting on the bench is testament to their coffee credentials. It’s interesting to note that they make a point of making only ‘naked’ coffee – ie using a naked portafilter [see Crema Winter 2007].
As one of our reviewers said: “the care taken can be tasted in the cup; cleanliness and brightness in the shot open up the palate for a rich fruit and caramel middle palate, with a slight sharpness in the finish”. The other point to mention is that it’s quite small with limited seating. An unusual spot with an unusual location, but certainly a place worth coming back to.
Best Up & Coming
Corner Store Café
113 Sylvan Road, Toowong
Only recently opened on the corner Sylvan Road & Quinn St the interior retains part of the feel of an old corner store but that’s where the similarity ends. It has a beautifully renovated white tile bench with an open plan kitchen area and spacious outdoor terrace seating.
Their 3-group Synesso testament to their seriousness about coffee and we were offered a wel- balanced shot with heavy cocoa again and notes of caramel. There are few cafes which do great food as well as good coffee, and this is certainly one of them.
Tags: Australian espresso, Brisbane, Brisbane cafes, Brisbane coffee, cafe reviews Australia, cafes, cafes australia, coffee, coffee australia, coffee news, espresso, espresso coffee, expert advice, Expert coffee, expert coffee advice, specialty coffee