Brisbane Cafe Review, Merriweather, South Brisbane

The Cup empire is expanding. Coffee lovers rejoice.

Merriweather (also on Facebook) is the lovingly and carefully conceived offspring of the Cup team – it’s even on the same street as the mother ship. It boasts the same incredible attention to aesthetics. The same simple fare with a slightly decadent touch, and the same approach to the bean. Near perfection.

This was my French Fruit toast with poached quince and Mascarpone. From memory (my visit to Merriweather was a couple of weeks ago – the review has been delayed somewhat by the arrival of my baby boy). It was delicious.

The coffee menu is, as one would expect from Cup, spectacular – featuring a special house blend, a single origin, and the expertise of some fine baristas behind the stunning Kees Van der Western Spirit – there’s also pourover if that’s your cup of coffee.

I described this flat white as “brown sugar in a cup” – sadly, thanks once again to my failing memory – I can’t remember where it was from. But I can remember the taste like it was yesterday.

Merriweather is set up in the ground floor of the brand new Vine building on the corner of Russell and Merrivale. Josh – the brains, hands, and creativity behind Cup is a candidate for some sort of cafe edition of The Block – the fit out is his craftsmanship. It is simply stunning.

Clean. Simple. Elegant. The attention to detail extends to the coffees – or perhaps from the coffees outwards. Long may they reign.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Plantation Coffee Roasters, West End

I’ve been meaning to check Plantation Coffee Roasters out for pretty much the entire 2.5 months they’ve been open. And today was our lucky day. A trip to West End for breakfast, and 15 minutes spare on our parking meter was a perfect window to jump through to check out this new addition to West End’s specialty coffee scene.

plantation

Shaf started out roasting as a wholesaler with accounts like Shucked, I reviewed a Costa Rican he roasted and it was one of my favourite coffees in 2011, he’s no longer supplying Shucked, but he’s using that experience to eke out his spot in West End, his clean little space has already drummed up a community of committed locals. The house blend is an improved version of his original Shucked blend, with the benefit of significant time refining his palette, and the blend’s dynamic. The result is, not surprisingly, refined. There’s a really nice balance, it rolls around the tongue and slides down the throat like silk.

plantation flat white

Shaf is pulling shots on a shiny La Marzocco, and offering the blend plus a rotating single origin (he’s recently featured that Costa Rican. There’s a cake cabinet filled with delicious looking bits of baked goodery, and a relatively comfortable space to hang out and watch life unfold on West End’s Boundary Street – it’s located at number 140 Boundary Street.

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: Espressohead, West End

West End is where it’s at in terms of good coffee per square metre. Cup, BlackStar, and Veneziano are all within cooee of each other – and they’re all pretty special… the main drag in West End is littered with cafes offering breakfast and a morning hit of coffee. So we decided to branch out from our old reliable favourites (well, we went to Veneziano as well…).

The nice shiny white La Marzocco on the bench at Espressohead was enough to pique my interest – I spied it as we drove down Boundary Street looking for a parking spot, and a breakfast option.

The breakfast menu was pretty good. Not fancy pants. But I went with the pork belly, poached egg, and beans…

My wife always orders the Eggs Benedict. And she wasn’t disappointed with this one.

The food was ok. There are better breakfasts out there. It’s a nice little hole in the wall, and the staff were friendly. But this, afterall, is a coffee blog.

Espressohead uses Two Seasons Coffee – which has a nice rotating blend conceptual approach to curating and roasting, and a nice colourful logo.

The coffee, to be frank, was good, but not great. It was an El Salvadorian Finca Miravalles. The temperature was passable, the milk was well textured, though not the velvet you might get from a purveyor of specialty coffee. The lack of latte art was a problem – because it was pretty much solid crema for the first few mouthfuls.

So up front it was pretty bitter. When I’d stirred it and after a few sips, it was well rounded – but nothing extraordinary. It had a slightly nutty aftertaste, but there was none of the caramel, the dark chocolate, the citrus, or the berry notes that really special coffee packs in. It was just coffee.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Veneziano’s First Pour Brisbane

Ahh. I love it when a cafe blows my expectations out of the water. I’d been expecting great things from Veneziano – I’d read about its Melbourne version for years on Coffeesnobs.

It was high on my “to visit” list of cafes when moving back to Brisbane. But then I discovered some other good coffee. And got busy. And I have no really good excuses. But last weekend’s coffee crawl was a terrific opportunity to head over to Montague Road, West End, to check it out.

First impressions count – and Veneziano packs a visual punch. Wooden lettering pledges that they’ll be “true to the bean” coffee pot seedlings are being carefully nurtured in one corner, and an upstairs seating area overlooks their roastery on one side (it does get a little hot) and the bar on the other.

I approached the counter confident that the coffee was going to be worth the trip – and then noticed the business card on the bench top – I mentioned in the coffee crawl review post that my old barista/coffee trainer Jia from Coffee Dominion in Townsville (I’ll have to review them at some stage) was in the house at Veneziano. Which was a pleasant surprise.

Jia is a friendly chap who travelled the globe a couple of years ago learning about coffee. And the trip paid off. He took us upstairs and promised to knock our socks off with a chemex brew. And wow. Just wow. It was everything he promised. Expertly prepared (and now I want to buy one) and deliciously fruity. Full of strawberry. Amazing. Incredible.

So then, in the name of science, I subjected myself to my standard double shot flat white. Which, again, was terrific. Sweet. Well rounded. With a delicious and rich undertone. Thick, smooth, and perfectly silky. I’d highly recommend a trip. I’ll be going back. Sadly, Jia left before I ordered my coffee and the young barista’s latte art just wasn’t as good as his – check out Steven Tran’s photos of the artist at work in his Coffee Crawl gallery (his website doesn’t officially launch until March the 1st so shhh)…

And the chemex process…

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * * * ½

Brisbane Cafe Review: Cup Coffee, West End

If you’re a coffee geek and you want your coffee to be made by coffee geeks with an absolute commitment to coffee that’s 99% good not 90% good, if you want your coffee made by people who sweat the small stuff, then head to Cup in West End. It’s a coffee geek’s paradise.

Cup serves up coffee from one of the world’s most advanced machines. The Slayer. The first machine to experiment with pressure profiling – which means they can fiddle with the amount of pressure the water is being pumped at while they pull your shot of coffee. Coffee geeks around the world are excited about what the fruits of being able to control such a variable might be. Cup offers living proof. The coffee is excellent. Beyond excellent.

Cup’s roastery/cafe is in a little garagey warehouse tucked off West End’s main street. They’ve got a giant remote controlled robot painted on the wall, and they’re fast earning a reputation in competitions, not just for their latte art – though for trophies for such achievements adorn their walls.

They offer light meals, which I haven’t tried yet, and heavy, almost viscous coffee that’ll take your breath away. I promise. It’s amazing.

Their attention to detail, and their quirky, typographically driven design on take home packs of beans and other paraphernalia, makes them an absolute favourite in my books. And my wife and I are locked in a long debate on whether or not their coffee is better than Dandelion and Driftwood. I say yes. She says no. Perhaps Cup’s coffee is more manly. It certainly packs a punch.

Here’s a little video from their website to give you a taste:

CUP SPECIALITY COFFEE from PSN CREATIVE on Vimeo.

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When I was there last their signature blend included Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and any use of that bean is a winner in my book. Basically, if I walk into a cafe and can spot the word Yirgacheffe anywhere I feel a little bit of calm wash over me.

They change their house blend regularly, based on season, another mark for quality in my books.

You can follow them on Twitter, and their website is one of the best looking coffee sites going round.

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * * * ½

Brisbane Cafe Review: BlackStar Coffee

Blackstar Coffee

BlackStar was one of those places that lived up to the hype. I’d been meaning to get there for quite a while, having spent my four year exile from Brisbane reading about BlackStar on Facebook as my friends discovered it, and then entered a substantial relationship whereby it was almost all they could talk about.

BlackStar is a grungy garagey warehousey set up in West End. Its courtyard/dining/drinking area feature what must surely be chairs from old churches. I have memories of uncomfortable Sunday School lessons on such chairs. They don’t give you table numbers at BlackStar when you order, but rather little toys that you place on your tables. That was cute. They’re trying to contribute something to the cultural scene in West End, and they’re pretty actively supportive of local music and international human rights. Both good causes, and its nice to drink coffee with a clear conscience. It attracts a hipster clientele, and I felt a little out of place wearing a threadless T-Shirt and jeans, as some sort of ode to my latent capitalism. But I got by. It helped that the coffee was sensational. Rich. Dark. And earthy. It was so full bodied that it was velvety. Subsequent visits have confirmed BlackStar’s place in the top echelons of Brisbane’s coffee scene. The really nice thing about the number of quality cafes around is that they’re all offering something different, not just in their aesthetic, but in the cup as well. And if you want a coffee that will linger in the back corners of your mouth for hours, then BlackStar is the go.

Like many of the cafes you’ll find reviewed here – they roast their own beans, and they also deliver – by pushbike – around inner city Brisbane. I picked up a bag of their single origin Colombian beans, also delicious.

Check them out online, or on Facebook.

Bean here (excuse the pun)? Rate it:

* * * *  

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