Brisbane Cafe Review: Fort Specialty Coffee, North Lakes

If I was a little boy again my fort would definitely have a coffee machine.

It’s never too young to start appreciating good coffee. The guys at Fort Specialty Coffee have gone in the other direction, their comic page encrusted set up features a bunch of boy’s toys including nerf guns, figurines, a collection of base/basketball caps, and some seriously good coffee.


Look up. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman…

I brought a crew of people from a college getaway we were having around the corner and even with so many people arriving at once, the service was sharp (in a good way) and the coffee was flawless. We were all very happy.

They’re pouring shots out of a matte black La Marzocco, and featuring a purpose built house blend from Cleanskin and at the moment a single origin from Cup (interestingly, Josh from Cup has a nice little piece on his blog about the challenges presented by and for multi-roaster cafes).

The absolute standout was the Ethiopian Koke (the house blend was pretty special too). As a flat white. It knocked my socks off. I haven’t had a mouthful of berries like that since eating actual berries. It was amazing. Seriously. There’s also bottled cold brew in the fridge.

Who can complain about boys and their toys when they’re being used to create the sort of vibe that Fort has going for it, or when the more expensive toys are being used to produce flavours like this.

Brisbane Cafe Review: The Single Guys, Kenmore

Do you believe in love at first sight? Then The Single Guys might be for you.

It’s a pretty deer place.

I’d been on an awkward coffee date in Kenmore – not because of the company – but because of the venue, when an old friend, a Kenmore local, offered to buy me a coffee his local cafe a few months ago. It wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t call them back. So even though I knew I’d be in pretty safe hands this time around, I was hoping that something was going to substantially raise the bar in Kenmore, just in case history repeated itself on this front…

The Single Guys is pretty much what you get when you mix a passion for quality, small lot, passionately roasted fine coffee, a no-fuss aesthetic, the experience of co-operating one of the best cafes in Brisbane, and the lessons one learns from strong connections to other successful people in the coffee scene.

That’s the recipe for the kind of dating profile that scores you a second date in the world of online romance – or the specialty coffee merry-go-round.

Ben Graham is one of the men behind The Single Guys – and you’ll probably find him behind the machine, a shiny La Marzocoo, pouring shots using beans he has sourced, blended, and roasted. Ben was one of the men behind One Drop, still capably producing delicious coffee in Fortitude Valley – which for a long time rated as my wife’s favourite coffee stop.

He’s also a big fan of Dandelion and Driftwood and like many other people in the Brisbane industry seems to have benefited from both observing and conversing with team Wolff. Suburban coffee is where it’s at. And if you want to wow a crowd – and the crowd gathered in the Single Guys Kenmore spot after just two weeks is testimony to this – you’ve got to deliver an experience.

From coffee, to fit out, to the simple, but tasty, breakfast menu – The Single Guys is an experience to travel for – there are plenty of car parks handy, both a small lot in front of the store, and in the shopping centre and gym car parks on either side of the corner block.

I loved it. It’s a big contender for number one slot on my top 10 for 2013 and it’s only the 14th of January. I’ll have to keep going back just to make sure I don’t forget how good this first experience was. It helps that Ben and his staff are just lovely people, and the customer service was excellent. There really wasn’t anything to complain about.

I had a flat white on the house blend (it was so good I bought a bag of beans to take home), and a ‘spro on the featured Costa Rican single origin (where the name comes from, I’d guess). The shot came after my tasty bacon and egg breakfast burger with a zippy relish, so I couldn’t quite split the flavour of the delicious breakfast from the smooth espresso, but it clearly wasn’t bitter or stringent, because it went down a treat.

My flat white and Robyn’s picolo were just sensational. The first sip had us both making happy noises – the blend, which Ben said may contain traces of peanuts (flavour – not actual nuts), delivered a smooth, creamy and delicious coffee experience. It was so nicely balanced, in my humble opinion, and had a charming butterscotchy sort of caramel sweetness and a little bit of a fruity taste towards the finish. It’s a great coffee for milky drinks.

The food was fresh, tasty, and featured really delightful mixes of flavours at a great cafe breakfast price, most items on the menu seemed to be within $3 (higher or lower) of the $10 mark. I had, as I mentioned, the brioche burger, Robyn went for the mushrooms…

I like to think, at times, that part of the process of writing reviews for cafes is providing some sort of constructive feedback about things that I thought could be improved… if you’re too effusive as a reviewer your credibility gets shot a little. I’m willing to put my credibility on the line here – although I did make one suggestion to Ben – open up a store on the south side…

The Single Guys is open 7 days, across the road from the Kenmore Village Shopping centre on Moggil Road. You can, and should, hit them up on Facebook.

TheBeanstalker.com’s Top Ten Cafes in Brisbane from 2012

This was an incredibly hard list to put together. Initially I was going to draw from the pool of every cafe in Brisbane – and I’ll still probably make a universal top ten as a page here – but I decided, instead, to put together a list of the top ten cafes I experienced for the first time in 2012. This means perennial favourites Dandelion and Driftwood aren’t being pitted against new favourites like Uncle Joe’s and Grindhouse – there’s a decidedly south side flavour to this list – as there was a north side flavour in 2011 – and this is undoubtably a result of our new geographic situation – but I’d say there has been a little bit more growth on this side of town this year.

One of the cafes doesn’t have an existing review here – because I forgot – but I’m a big fan of cafe number 10 (and its various iterations) – so will head back in in the next couple of weeks so that the review is based on a fresh experience.

Sadly, there’s been some shrinkage too – and the list became harder to put together because one of my favourites – Igloo – is no longer, and another little gem, Five Sugars, also closed its doors.

The top five was the hardest to split – in the end Grindhouse edged out Cleanskin and Dramanti because I went there more frequently, and I found Cleanskin and Dramanti incredibly difficult to split – but gave Cleanskin the nod in part as a homage to Igloo, and in part because I’ve enjoyed using their beans in our coffee cart at church. So it’s a product of a little bias – and shouldn’t be seen as indicative of superior quality.

These ten cafes are all doing great stuff – whether they’re roasting for themselves and others (Cup has had a stellar year on that front, according to this list…), or setting up shop where shops needed to be set up. I heartily recommend all of them.

I predict that a couple of places whose doors I didn’t darken this year, or who have just opened – LTD, and the new boys The Single Guys, in Kenmore, will make the list next year.

But now, without further ado, the 2012 top ten…

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1. Uncle Joe’s Coffee House, Coorparoo
2. Cup Coffee’s Woolloongabba Roastery, Woolloongabba
3. Grindhouse Specialty Coffee, Stones Corner
4. Cleanskin Coffee Co, Brendale
5. Dramanti Artisan Roasters, Wynnum
6. Reverends Fine Coffee, Fortitude Valley
7. Black Sheep Coffee, Rocklea8. The Rogue Rennard, Paddington
9. The Little Prince, Woolloongabba
10. Brother Espresso, Bulimba

Here are some posters made using Phoster

Gold Coast Cafe Review: Canteen, Burleigh Heads

If you judge a cafe by a very steady patronage then Canteen is on a winner – we stopped in for a morning brew on the way back from a trip to New South Wales, and in the hour we were there a steady stream of customers joined us for a morning cuppa.

I don’t judge a cafe by patronage – but by the coffee – and Canteen is on a winner there too.

Sadly, they were all out of single origins today, so I settled for two double shot flat whites made on their house blend – which is roasted by Deluxe Coffee Roasters. My wife enjoyed the Cold Press Iced Latte – I had a little taste of that, and it was pretty special.

Canteen is a bit of a hole in the wall, with great lighting and a beautiful La Marzocco Strada, manned by a team of baristas who seem to know their way around the machine.

They’ve got a small retail section, some nibblies, and a great team of service staff – all designed to keep the customers – who spill out into a pretty large outdoor alley seating area – satisfied. They’ve also got a bunch of “how to cards” for a range of brew methods – so they’re serious about helping their customers improve their mad coffee skillz.

We were pretty satisfied. My flat whites were strong, smooth, and full bodied – the milk was perfect. The flavour was rich and mellow. Like velvet. The best bit was the beautiful back of mouth sweetness that lingered well and truly after the cup was finished.

Between Canteen, Blackboard, and Canvas – there aren’t many places on the Gold Coast that require you to go without great coffee if you’re taking in a bit of sunshine for a few days.

Check them out. Either in the real world, virtually, or on Facebook

Sunshine Coast Cafe Review: Clandestino Roasters, Noosa

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a specialty coffee shop in a semi-industrial estate in Noosa. Tucked into the back corner of a pretty well stocked deli, Clandestino is as undercover as a cafe can be while not truly being undercover – they’ve got a growing reputation amongst people who love coffee. And it’s deserved.

They’ve put a fair bit of effort into the little things – and – the bigger things, with this life sized plane flying over the bar area.

It’s a fantastic atmosphere – and if it wasn’t so cliched, I’d compare it to something you might find in Melbourne. It’s like nothing I’ve ever been to before – and the relationship with the deli makes it a knock out spot to spend a few lazy hours sipping and reading while you’re on a Sunshine Coast stopover.

They’ve also paid attention to their coffees – four grinders on the bench next to a rich, orange, La Marzocco, are stocked with rotating single origins, a seasonal blend, and, if you’re into that thing – decaf.

My first coffee was a Costa Rican Don Jose Micromill, a honey processed bean that was, as the tasting notes promised, full of cherry and chocolate notes.

My second was on their seasonal blend – which was a little bitter up front, but had a really nice finish and a lingering, sweet, aftertaste.

There are specialty coffee knick knacks, and shiny machines, all over the place – there’s a nice little brew bar, featuring a variety of pourover, clover, or siphon coffee, and a couple of cold drips sitting on the counter. They roast in house – right behind the bench. And the place oozes with atmosphere.

The vintage teaspoons are another nice touch.

It seems they’re pretty committed to educating the consumer – the tasting notes that are standard fare for good cafes these days, are supported by a huge map of the globe, marking the origins of the beans they source, and they offer cupping courses on site, but will also take them on the road for corporate events. Their beans are available for retail – and they wholesale, at least to another Noosa Cafe, Cafe La Monde.
 

There’s food available from the deli – and you pay for anything you consume when you exit, so you could potentially spend all day, and get three square meals, in the comfortably appointed cafe area.

You can check them out on Facebook.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Cup Specialty Coffee Roastery, Woolloongabba

I love Cup.

If I’m meeting anybody in West End, that’s where I go (even if a megafranchise has tried to coin the idea that you meet somewhere that has horribly overroasted coffee).

But the problem with Cup at West End is that it’s so popular that sometimes seating (and parking nearby) isn’t so readily available.

This is the price you pay for consistently serving up amazing coffee, both the changing (based on season, taste, and goodness), but consistently grand Five Star Day blend, and a range of single origin delights. Produced on some of Brisbane’s nicest coffee kit, or served up as meticulously prepared filter coffee.

It’s easy to see why Cup is popular. They’ve been picking up some pretty nice little cafe accounts too – including Blackboard Specialty Coffee on the Gold Coast, The Little Prince in Woolloongabba, and the Rogue Rennard in Paddington.

The lack of space, and the amount of roasting that must be required to service these classy outlets, has produced something beautiful. A new roastery/cafe in Woolloongabba. As I was driving home from this new warehouse space today I was thinking that with Cup, Grindhouse, and Uncle Joe’s on my route to or from the city there’s a nice little coffee crawl itinerary just waiting for a lazy Saturday morning. I’m feeling a little bit spoilt for choice in my corner of Brisbane’s south side at the moment. My Brisbane top ten is going to be even harder to come up with this year, especially given I haven’t even managed to get to some of my old favourites.

I mentioned the “cafe as fourth place” thing in my review of Reverends the other day, and in my opinion, Cup’s new warehouse has nailed it. It’s big. Open. And is, as far as I know, the only cafe in Brisbane boasting both a Slayer and a Mistral on their benches (I want to say “in the world”). While it’s the new home of Cup’s roasting operations, there’s also a nice Coffee menu on offer (Josh, the owner and genius behind Cup, says there’ll be very limited food in the future). And did I mention there’s space. And seats. And tables. And music. And coffee.

I’m a big fan of Cup’s aesthetic – from font choice, to the black/timber fitout at this place, to the big roasting robot painted on the wall in West End, to the choice of some of the most beautiful and technologically amazing machines available – so I like this place a lot. The machines and the roaster are the visual heroes. The coffee is the real hero (and according to latte art smackdowns, and the recent Queensland Barista Championships – they still boast Brisbane’s best latte artists). Everything else is functional and understated. Like it should be.

It’s still in the very early days. But I like it. Very much. You can buy their beans online too.

(there’ll be a map here one day – but for now, the roastery is tucked into 43 Balaclava St, Wooloongabba).

Brisbane Cafe Review, The Rogue Rennard, Paddington

Paddington is a suburb made for good coffee – but pickings have, in my opinion, been slimmer per capita of trendy person, than they should be – sure, there’s Hamptons – who do a cracking breakfast and serve up a good cup of St Ali. And there are other places known for food. But if I was going to tell someone to head to an area of Brisbane for a guaranteed good cuppa – it wouldn’t be Paddington.

But. The trendy person:specialty coffee outlet ratio has been boosted in recent weeks with the arrival of the Rogue Rennard – French for red fox.

The Rogue Rennard is a Cup Specialty Coffee account (the second with a Francophile theme – see The Little Prince).

The Rogue Rennard’s website explains the name:

“Remmie “The Rogue” Rennard was a famous and talented explorer during the late 1800s. Credited by newspapers of the time with having discovered coffee, the Americas and also pioneering modern-day brewing techniques.

He was of course discredited of these claims not long after it was found that he had penned the stories himself after a 12-day cognac and opium binge – and not to mention that his discovery of the ‘new world’ would have been a few hundred years too late.”

They’re serving up the delicious Five Star Day blend – which is one of my favourites. And they’re serving it up with a bit of style and aplomb, in a little French themed space decked out with a bit of style and aplomb. If there were two words I’d use to describe my Rogue Rennard experience, replete with a couple of friends, and some good times, and some food (they’ve just got their food licence) – they’d be “style” and “aplomb.”

The service was fast and friendly. The coffee was good, with creamy milk served at the perfect temperature.

The clientele were stylish, they were greeted – often by name. This is a nice little place, in a nice little suburb, serving up nice little selection of food, at nice little prices.

They live up to their offer, in their own words…

You can follow the Rogue Renard on Facebook.
(map will be added when my Google Maps plugin gets fixed – until then – find them at 106 Latrobe Tce, Paddington)

Brisbane Cafe Review: Reverends Fine Coffee, Fortitude Valley

This morning’s coffee outing was a coin toss. I was in the Valley for a 10am meeting. We’d paid for 20 minutes of parking (we made the mistake of entering a parking station before seeing how much it cost. Ouch). And I was armed with a “to do list” of two – Reverends Fine Coffee, and Ltd Espresso – a new Cleanskin account two doors down.

Reverends (it feels like there should be an apostrophe there, but there’s not) won out. The stark, clean lines of Ltd will have to wait for my next inner-city jaunt.

Reverend is pouring shots from one of the most beautiful machines known to man – the Spirit – I didn’t get a photo of it, because I’m all about the undercover review – but it produces some pretty stellar results in the right hands. And clearly the guy making the coffees this morning had such a set of hands. They roast their own gear, and offer up a blend, and rotating single origins – today, an Ethiopian Sidamo.

My flat white on the Sidamo was creamy and fruity.

My wife had the blend, and it was so good our daughter wanted to get her hands on it right away…

My great disappointment was that the impending start of my meeting, and the exponentially rising cost of our parking, meant I couldn’t linger.

I love the ideas that cafes are a “third place” – neither your home, nor your office, but somewhere to linger and mix with people, somewhere to spend time. There are a few specialty cafes in Brisbane that give off that vibe – some of my favourites are Uncle Joe’s, Veneziano, Cup (and the new Cup which opens tomorrow sounds even more like it’ll tick that box), and Dandelion and Driftwood – though it feels more like a bustling spot that’s geared towards experiencing decadent morsels, especially for women. Most cafes that make great coffee in Brisbane are, as a rule, dedicated to producing consistently good coffee, rather than keeping people comfortable all day (though none of these places are inhospitable). I love the vibe that a good fit out, and friendly staff, can create, but I’m hard pushed to pick a cafe I’d want to sit in all day to study or read a book. Reverend’s is a comfy couch a way from being that sort of place. I love the grungy fitout, the “distressed brick” look, the fairly open space with relatively sparse seating… It was great.

Their attention to detail on some of the little things – like the pew out the front, and the branded serviettes, made it a bit of a standout.

The raspberry muffin I had was delicious too. So it was a thumbs up all round from me.
Reverend’s has a Facebook page.

Brisbane Cafe Review: West End Coffee House, West End

A Campos account. A Slayer. West End. Chairs from an old scout hall… what could possibly go wrong?

Not much as it turns out, though this little spot is solid without hitting the spectacular highs of some of the other establishments in the neighbourhood.

The double shot flat white was chocolatey and rich, the piccolo was not quite as good, and was, perhaps, a little hot.

The shop has a nice vibe, and some little bits and pieces to eat, and a Thai themed menu for more substantial meals. It’s a worthy addition to any West End coffee crawl itinerary.

Brisbane Cafe Review: The Little Prince, Woollongabba

We were looking for somewhere new yesterday, and decided to check out the Little Prince, which is a nice little coffee bar tucked into the Princess Theatre in Woolloongabba. They’re serving up Cup Coffee’s sensational Five Star Day blend, pouring shots from a La Marzocco (I was a little disappointed that the Mistral I’d seen on Beanhunter wasn’t in play yesterday), and serving them up with some pretty nice latte art.

The double-walled (not Bodum) glasses for the piccolos were also pretty nice.

Sadly, we were also eating breakfast – and my taste bud objectivity when it came to the coffee was a little clouded by the honey, yoghurt, and tasty muesli that I was eating at the same time that I was drinking my coffee. But it was a nice mix.

The staff were incredibly friendly (it helps that we’ve got a pretty cute baby girl who wins just about anybody over). It’s very family friendly – with a basket of toys. Like this one. To play with.

I’d say they’ve succeeded in creating a little place with atmosphere, good coffee, and a light selection of meals, that I’d be happy to sit in for a while.

It’s also especially handy to the Mater Hospital. Parking is a bit of a pain – don’t park in the free shopping centre car park next door – despite the shared name, the two Princess facilities have nothing to do with each other, and we came back to the car to get a stern talking to that involved the words “towing” and “lucky”…

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