Posts Tagged ‘cafe’

Sassafras Cafe, Paddington

Nestled in the leafy suburb of Paddington, at the start of Brisbane’s number one opshopping and vintage clothes street Sassafras has taken this unique Brisbane feel and run with it. A tiered outdoor eating area has the tables set amongst umbrellas, hedges and trees, inside the pastel painted cupboards and not quite antique tables and chairs make you feel right at home. Probably because your mum had the same kitchen table. Topping it all off is a random selection of strange paraphenalia hanging from the walls and ontop of the cupboards. Bookmaker bags, interesting photos and random teapots are a quirky addition that fit right in with the homely vibe.

The homeliness doesn’t stop there, a huge glass cabinet filled with seemingly home made salads, pies, cakes and tarts takes the place of a service counter, behind it a large hand written blackboard is the menu. The same staff that have been there for years cap it all off with their friendly demeanour and fast service.

Sassafras Service Area The menu is broken into 2 parts, breakfast (until 2pm) and lunch (until 3pm). Breakfast is all the favourites, eggs, big breakfast, meusli and toast with a few interesting additions, three cheeses grilled on sourdough, buckwheat pancakes, chilli corn cakes and savoury mince on toast. The portions are generous and while the price isn’t cheap, it is reasonable.

Lunch has a distinctly mediterreanean feel, sandwiches filled with feta, peri peri chicken, grilled zuchini, eggplant, capers and olives all on sourdough or toasted panini are accompanied by an open steak sandwich, or a variety of pies or salads from the cabinet. With these slightly unorthodox flavours is where Sassafras really shines each dish is flavoursome and balanced again with good portions. The highlight is the peri-peri chicken BLT, an old favourite with a great, spicey touch.

For drinks, the milkshakes are amazing, taking this easily forgotten beverage and taking it to the next level. The coffee is neither here nor there, nothing to complain about but hardly standout, easily overshadowed by the quality of the food. If herbal tea is your thing, there is a large selection of T2 teas by the pot, or to take home.

Add this all together and what you end up with is one of Brisbane’s best cafes. Doing away with any of the yuppy pretentiousness that the inner suburbs of Brisbane often permeate and instead providing a familiar Brisbane cafe experience. Good food, good service, friendly faces and comfortable surrounds are easy to love, surely why this little cottage is packed all weekend, every weekend.

The only mistake this lovable cafe makes is not serving beer.

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Spoon Cafe, Paddington, Brisbane

To call our dining experience at Spoon disappointing wouldn’t do it justice, it was much worse than that. Located in the trendy Brisbane Suburb of Paddington, Spoon is nestled amongst some of Brisbane’s best cafes. At first look, it appears to be a classy place, taking a clean conservative approach which contrasts its trendy, chic neighbours. It is a massive cafe with a large covered outdoor eating area with big tables, an open kitchen and a pretty standard menu. It is positioned perfectly on Latrobe Terrace and unlike most cafes in the area has access to parking and is close to other shops and restaurants. Yet its complete lack of acceptable service puts it in the “never again” basket.

Things didn’t start well with one of our lunch companions mentioning that there was no chance he would have booked a lunch party for 12 at the cafe, offering a few alternatives. At this stage, the damage was done.

On arrival it appeared that the booking had been completely disregarded. Speaking to the wait-staff they indicated that the table I was standing near would do and walked off.  This was a table of 8, not the booked 10. After a bit of rearranging of tables, and chairs we had a table with 1 menu.

Spoon has made the interesting decision not to provide table service instead only taking orders at the counter. Perhaps this works with a streamlined front counter where it takes very little effort to go and order a drink, but the single front counter attendant is preparing cakes and pies while taking orders. The line was regularly 5 and 6 deep, ordering a beer or coffee was a 10 minute mission. 10 minutes we could have spent drinking, and probably ordering more beers.

The meal service was similarly appalling. 45 minutes from the first order of a chicken burger and a lamb burger was delivered, 30 for a rice pudding and beers were anywhere from a 5-15 minute wait. All of this served up with a healthy dose of attitude from the staff scorning our very presence. Clearing plates was a nonstarter, with not a single glass or plate making it to the dishwasher, not to mention crockery on nearly every other table in the restaurant.

The food itself, was mediocre at best, a steak sandwich was half filled, poached eggs with runny whites, overcooked chicken burgers and cold chips as sides. Even the beer was a failure as they ran out of Pure Blonde, perhaps the only thing that wasn’t a complete disappointment was the coffee. It was neither good or bad, at this point it was a relief.

Thankfully the beer was cold and the company was good.

Breakfast at Bastille Cafe, Clarendon St, South Melbourne

Not much to look at from the street but the set tables, open kitchen and French flag give this restaurant an impression of expensive, overdone arogance. The truth is the complete opposite.

Cafe Bastille Omelette The breakfast menu is a very basic affair, eggs, omelet, bacon, mushrooms and pancakes.. Don’t let the lack of options fool you though, the fare is produced with the finest of ingredients, ham off the bone, fresh tomatoes and amazing bread. The eggs were poached beautifully, the ham and mushroom filled omelette moist and the bacon not overcooked. Each meal was served with toasted, olive oil drizzle bread to die for and a dipping sauce of tomato relish. After the fact, the bread and relish could easily have replaced the entire meal.

Generally the coffee in Clarendon St is nothing to speak of, especially when compared with Lygon and Brunswick St but Cafe Bastille’s lattes were great. Caramelly, hot and quick to the table, they certainly helped my hangover turn the corner.

At the end of meal, the most pleasing aspect of the meal was the price. $7 for poached eggs plus $3 for bacon on the side. $12.50 for the omelette and $14 for 4 coffees. 2 very caffeinated and content diners walk out with not only change from $40 but also happy with the service and the quality of the food.

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Breakfast in Melbourne

Due to the fact that I don’t operate very well in the morning, I rarely remember a camera and have trouble putting together 2 words let alone cohesive thoughts that would make for a reasonable review. Thus I’m going to just write a couple of short notes here about where I’ve eaten breakfast (or brunch) lately.

Cafe Pearl, Richmond

Serving breakfast only until early (sadly it finishes at noon on weekends) I didn’t manage to actually sample the breakfast at Pearl Cafe but the coffee is good and they have every paper under the sun available for your reading pleasure. The style of the lunch menu is what the food press would call fusion (the breakfast menu is quite traditional,) with a number of asian influences. Out of character, I ordered the Vietnamese chicken salad and was amazed at it’s size and impressed with the tangy spicy flavour. The other meal was the Moroccan chicken pot pie which was great, shredded chicken and couscous were not too spicy but it was served with a dish of hot sauce for the hotness inclined. Not only is Cafe Pearl a great advertisement to its fine-dining sibling it stands remarkably well on its own two feet. They also have a great website with information on everything Pearl.

MART, Middle Park

Around the corner in my new stomping ground, MART is a cute little cafe on the light rail line to St Kilda with a great reputation. We went on Easter Saturday and it was absolutely packed, but luckily there was a couple of seats on the bar overlooking Albert Park. Unfortunately the view was marred by a number of Formula 1 fences and grandstands still being in the park.

Although every table was full, every part of the service was very prompt (if a little rushed) and as ordered. The oven-baked corn fritters were truly amazing, served with bacon, chutney and sour cream but the scrambled eggs with truffle oil, mushrooms and spinach were too oily and a little disappointing. All in all, I’m definitely planning on heading back when it is a little bit quieter and giving them another chance at living up its huge expectations.

Nacional, Albert Park

Perhaps breakfast at Nacional doesn’t quite do the restaurant justice. It has a great wine list and judging by the blackboards showing the dinner mains, an evening meal would be amazing. Breakfast (or lunch) stood up very well in a fine-dining kind of way.

Our seared kangaroo from the lunch menu was perfect, intense flavours from the perfectly cooked fillet. I was a little disappointed in its size and wished that our waiter had suggested a side with it. The breakfast menu’s bacon on toast with maple syrup was pleasant, not “write home to mum this was the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted” but a great breakfast workhorse nonetheless. As is so often the case in Melbourne the coffee was great, presented well and on time. Like MART and Pearl, I definitely have plans to come back to Nacional but not for breakfast, for dinner.

Why do people like the Belgian Bier Cafe?

This post was written by Bruce Thurlow who’s normal prose cover the pages of The Black Keys Fan Lounge, The Adventures of Mr Dingleberry and Travel Generation. His opinion on the Belgian Bier Cafe on St Kilda Road rang ever so true with us all here at My Aching Head.

The other night at the Belgian Bier Cafe on St Kilda Road, someone asked: why do girls like yoga?

Not such an unusual question when drinking at a boys-only gathering whilst contemplating the meaning of life and drinking expensive imported beer.

There’s plenty more questions about girls with no definitive answer, I thought, without being drawn into the conversation. I had after all been stuck for minutes wondering why I was paying A$7.50 for a Leffe Brun (Dark). This sweet brown beer isn’t as popular as its Blonde brother, but it is my personal favourite. When I say ‘favourite’ I mean it’s my beer of choice on the rare occasions I venture to this so-called ‘Cafe’. So-called because I was sitting at a picnic table placed on an otherwise dusty-brown piece of dirt – average facilities masquerading as a classy establishment. Others weren’t so lucky having brought their own picnic blankets or camping out on a rare piece of grass.

Upon the table was a ‘tray of frites’ I had bought for A$7.50 and smothered in mayonnaise to be shared amongst friends. I’m not sure how regular fried chips taste any different simply because they are described in a foreign terminology and served in an un-common fashion. I would have been happy with a bowl of chips.

Before long someone bought a Duvel, 8.5% of alcohol, pure bottled fury. It was also marked at an angry price, AU$10.50. The bottle did look pretty cool though. I guess the guy who bought it was already pissed.

After a long conversation about Hong Kong martial arts movies and directors had petered out, I asked everyone at the table: why do people like this Belgian Bier Cafe? There was no answer. It was obviously just one more of those questions that has no definitive answer.

Bob’s Weigh Cafe, Queenstown, New Zealand

Bob's Weigh, Queenstown It doesn’t take many things to make a good cafe, what’s needed is to do the simple things well. Good coffee, good food, friendly staff, a cozy shop and good location. Bob’s Weigh ticks all of these boxes but you might only remember one of them if you happen to have an encounter with Bob himself. He’s the guy working in the kitchen that greets pretty much everyone that walks into the shop with a friendly g’day, maybe introducing himself and huge smile. He’s a man that loves his job.

While Bob is friendly, you might think he’s too friendly. He’s nothing until you meet his mother. Mad Mary (she makes the jam for the toast) has a very curious presence, pink or purple hair, a strange dress sense and a wicked sense of humour, she runs all over the cafe laughing and having a good time. It’s this sense of humour that probably forced her to decorate the cafe with scales, there is weighing devices of every shape and form on the shelves and walls and Bob himself doesn’t quite know why.

The bizarre decor and the quirky staff give the cafe a very homely feel that doesn’t stop when you order breakfast. Nothing on the menu could be described as gourmet, which just adds to the allure of the place. Toast, muesli, bacon and eggs and omelettes is the faire all topped off with beautiful homemade jam and chutney. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the drinks menu, except the Chai latte. It’s not the mellow cinnamon drink you expect, it’s extra spicy and very tasty but, not for the faint of heart. The prices on are reasonable and if you bring in your own cup for a takeaway coffee, they’ll knock 50c off the price – just how it should be.

Everything about this cafe is like home, you could cook everything on the menu at home, but you wouldn’t do as good a job. You could make the jam, but it wouldn’t be as nice, same goes for the coffee and besides you would have to do the dishes. Talk to Bob, he’ll be happy to do them for you.

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Joe’s Garage – Queenstown Coffee Rescue

Funky music, art and comfortable surrounds are the order of the day at Joe’s Garage. Being one of the bigger cafes in Queenstown it doesn’t have the compact, claustrophobic feel that other coffee shops around here give off. The dining area is quite sparse with a few tables and a full length breakfast-style bar which over looks the food preparation area. There are few things better in my opinion than an open kitchen, being able to see the staff preparing your coffee and meals is something that more places should do. The only problem is it can be hard to grab someone’s attention to order another coffee or food as the staff are busy with their back to you, a small price to pay for the great atmosphere.

The coffee is great at Joe’s (as it is in most places around here), this particular blend/roast is a richer flavour than I am used to but it definitely is not overdone. The quality of the end product is, like most things in this cafe, exceptional. I have seen the dread-locked barista singlehandedly pumping out a ridiculous number of cups high quality coffee in short succession and personally have not tasted a bad cup. No burnt coffee, bitter coffee and the presentation is always top notch.

My only complaint is a distinct lack of raw sugar, I always take a little bit of sugar in my coffee and personally think that white sugar is a waste of time. It does not provide any flavour while raw sugar adds just the slightest hint of caramel. I think a lot of coffee drinkers are in the same boat as I and there really is no reason why sachet’s of both can’t be on the tables.

For food, I think Joe’s is certainly one of the best places in Queenstown for a queezy stomach or an aching head. It has a good range of salads, cereal and hot breakfast on the menu, rounded out with a couple of bratwurst rolls. My personal favourite meal is “The Joker”, it is a toasted roll, bratwurst, bacon and egg. This is certainly full of flavour and meat and certainly won’t dissapoint with it’s size. All in all the meals at Joe’s are superb, they aren’t necessarily the cheapest but they are definitely worth every cent.

Joes Garage Coffee Machine

Joes Garage Coffee Machine

Probably my biggest complaint about Joe’s Garage is the clientele, often the feel given off from the other customers is one where they think you should get out of their coffee shop and town. People have mentioned this to me about other places in Queenstown, but I have only ever noticed it at Joes. I think it is magnified by people sitting in the dining area with their dogs under the table and not caring if anyone else has a problem with this – that is what the outdoor eating area is for!

Overall I love the place and regularly recommend people to drop in for a coffee and breakfast.