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.

Gold Coast Cafe Review: Barefoot Barista

It’s important, possibly essential, when picking a coastal holiday spot, to find somewhere with good coffee by the beach. Coffee makes holidays go around. Barefoot Barista in Palm Beach is one to add to the map. And if you’ve got some days booked on the sunny Gold Coast you could do worse than make it your “local.”

The decor is stunningly beachy, laid back, and comfortable. The staff are friendly. The baristas wear shoes (at least they were when we were there) and the crowds sitting around tables inside and out are a testimony to their ability on their beautiful blue La Marzocco Linea.

The latte art was photogenic. The coffee was typical Campos. Tasty. Tasty and well made. My double shot flat white had great texture and was the ideal temperature.

Their banana bread and bacon frittatas were just top drawer. A great start to the morning, and I’m told the white chocolate and raspberry muffins are just amazing.

Find them on Facebook.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Campos, Fortitude Valley

We’ve been meaning to get back to Campos for some time. The food there is just amazing. One of the best cafe breakfasts I’ve had – it is like Campos have created the optimum crossover point between breakfast quality and coffee quality – in some places the food is significantly better than the coffee, in others the coffee is significantly better than the food. At Campos, food and coffee are on par. It’s an attractive package.

The coffee jumps out at you on first taste, it rounds out on the tongue and has a lingering chocolatey aftertaste. On previous visits the coffee has been hit and miss. This one was a hit. My first trip to Campos I got there as it was closing, and all I got was a takeaway, and for some reason it was just too hot. It was so hot it was almost undrinkable, and the taste in a takeaway cup is always a little less pleasant than in a nice porcelain cup.

I love the atmosphere at Campos. It’s a place that just smacks of coffee. There are carved rosettas on the wall. And two La Marzocco machines on the counter. The cake cabinet is full of pretty amazing looking sweet goodies. But I haven’t tried them yet. I love the fans (which you can’t quite make out in this picture).

I love Campos, and highly recommend it as a breakfast stop. But I do think there’s a trade off that comes with being a bigger operation. They lose some of the intimacy on offer in some of the other cafes I’ve reviewed here. Some people I’ve spoken to have suggested that Campos are a little too coffee snobby – and they do have a legendary reputation for taking snobbery to new levels in Sydney. That’s not a critique I think is valid. I want my coffee makers to be as snobby as possible, so long as they’re also able to stay human. Legend has it that in the espresso bar setting Campos baristas don’t even speak to each other. They communicate with dice and spoons. And these dice, and spoons, are there. Sitting on the counter.

I love this place.

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * * * ½

Brisbane Coffee Crawl: Reviewing crawl #1

On Saturday I drank 11 shots of espresso (with milk) and one amazing chemex. I was on a coffee crawl. Lets call it a thebeanstalker.com Coffee Crawl. Accompanying me on the trip were two of my fellow coffee lovers, and my wife (also a coffee lover).

We hit five cafes – starting with Campos in the valley (which I will review in coming days) for breakfast – and there were plenty of good options we didn’t get to. Enough for another coffee crawl.

I think five cafes is about my limit – especially if I’m drinking double shots. Which I like to. Fair is fair. And I want to be comparing the same product in different locations for my reviews.

The highlight of the day, for a couple of reasons, was our stop at Veneziano’s First Pour cafe on Montague St West End (which I’ll also review in coming days). Firstly – we walked through the door and as I was talking to the girl behind the counter I noticed a familiar name on the business cards sitting there. And sure enough, a second later, Jia Brooks, formerly of Coffee Dominion in Townsville, walked out into the shop. Jia ran the barista course I went through in Townsville – and he’s running similar courses at Veneziano. You should check them out. He toured the globe to learn about coffee.

Here’s Jia showing Robyn the ropes in Townsville.

The second reason Veneziano stood out was the chemex Jia recommended, and made for us. He was probably the warmest barista we met – though that’s not casting any aspersions on the others, the ones we talked to were great, the others were busy. And it helped that we knew him already. The chemex was just sensational. Jia promised strawberries in the cup – and the promise delivered, it was a little like drinking a strawberry tea with a soft coffee undertone. Just amazing. It was some sort of Ethiopian bean.

Here’s the chemex in the preparation process.

Just delicious.

We started at 9am and finished at around 2pm, the shakes wore off about three hours later.

All the cafes we visited offered something a little different in the cup – and something different in terms of ambience. I’d happily, and cheerfully, recommend each stop. Though for different reasons.

A list:

Campos – Strong, dark chocolatey coffee which packed an initial punch, a sweet middle, and a long tail. The aftertaste was pretty nice. Good balance. Amazing food, and a pretty cool atmosphere – I love the ceiling fans. More coming in a review.

Cup – Still one of my absolute favourite places – they are sans Slayer at the moment (and their replacement machine fried itself yesterday). The coffee on Saturday had a great balance, fruity and spicy. I got traces of cinnamon, and a bit of berry. So I’m going with “jam donut” as a label for the flavours involved. Sensational stuff. I would have had two if I could have. But I was being disciplined. This was stop number 2.

BlackStar – Dark chocolate flavours, packed a punch. Just what I’ve come to expect from BlackStar. I still never feel quite well dressed enough to sit around with the hipsters and hippies.

Veneziano – Wow. Just wow. The chemex was great, but we’re not judging these places by their obscure single origins, but rather, their run of the mill espresso drinks. In this case the coffee was velvety smooth, sweet, and nutty. Hazlenut to be exact. Like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Delicious.

Dandelion and Driftwood – you know what I think of these guys. Just sensational. They sweat the details. The delicious orange and poppyseed cake was almost worth the $6 it cost. The Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence they had in the grinder on the weekend was simply amazing. I can’t recommend these guys highly enough. If you haven’t been there yet – check it out.

Here’s a slideshow of my pictures from the day. I’m hoping to get a hold of some of my friend Steven’s because he’s a professional.

If you want to come next time drop me a line – or comment on this post. It’s a bit of a thrill to see so many good cafes around.

Campos on Coffee at home

If I was going to give some tips for making coffee at home (and I am, eventually) I’d probably just echo (but in different words) this great set of advice from Campos Coffee’s website. You’ll find it under their “About Us” link.

  1. Buy yourself a good grinder.
  2. Use fresh beans.
  3. Store them well.

Then they’ve got different tips on a few home coffee methods. I love that they don’t buy into the “you can’t make good espresso at home so don’t try” argument that I see trotted out occasionally. That’s just rubbish.

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