Brisbane Cafe Review, Esher St Tarragindi

Suburban cafes are the new black. And it takes something special to standout in a sea of black.

Enter Esher St. I should make something like a disclosure here. It’s hard for me to be impartial about this place, owner Jia Brooks is a guy I’ve known since we both lived in Townsville. He taught me how to make coffee. He’s a good bloke. So I want this place to do well. But I promise not to be biased.

Esher St is part cafe, part gift shop, part deli, part delicious. It offers cracking food, all day – we’ve been there for breakfast in the morning and breakfast in the late afternoon. Last time we were there they had a fresh batch of cookies coming steaming out of the oven. The cookies were good.

The deli range is fun to browse. The gifts are nifty. The food is incredible. Seriously. Hearty and full of flavour. Go the “Esher St” – it is rich and warm and nourishing.

The coffee is from Veneziano, where Jia was working before kicking this place off.

I’m a fan. It’s a well balanced blend, and if Jia is behind the machine it won’t just look good, it’ll taste good too. The guy has plenty of experience making great coffee. I can attest to that.

If you are too, and you like their blend done right, with a bit of flair, check this place out. It’s already popular with the mum set from Tarragindi.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Red Baron, Milton

The Brisbane cafe scene could be a bit of a dog fight if it wasn’t full of such nice people – so the Red Baron is appropriately named. It’s a customised, kitted out, shipping container in the car park of an office building in Milton.

The team serve up Veneziano’s beans with a degree of finess. I like Veneziano cafes at the not quite best of times – but the Red Baron is up there with the mother ship in terms of quality.

They’ve got a tasty selection of food (we had a muffin). And a bit of a sense of humour to boot.

“In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse please proceed to rooftop in an orderly manner.”

The staff (I assume the guys driving the machine while I was there were the owners – from what I gather from a bit of online detective work, they’re brothers) are very friendly and up for a chat.

Snoopy would be well and truly at home in this little high flier.

Sunshine Coast Cafe Review: The Good Bean, Mooloolaba

Last time we stayed at Mooloolaba I had to drink Jamaica Blue coffee, it was either that, or myriad other big coffee chains who have set up shop along the beachside strip. This time was different.

I wasn’t expecting to be drinking coffee in Mooloolaba – I wasn’t even expecting to be staying there, but here we were – and when my head popped up after a little bit of a swim, I saw the words “The Good Bean Espresso Bar” across the beach and up the stairs. I have a bias towards cafes that are named “Espresso Bar” or have “Specialty Coffee” on their sign somewhere.

Anyway. We crossed the road, and there, on the bench, surrounded by hessian coffee sacks (another good sign, some of the time), was a nice, shiny, Australian designed, Syncrho, that looked like it was purring like a happy kitten being looked after some caring baristas.

I didn’t have my phone on me – but my afternoon flat white featured a beautifully poured swan. And I decided we’d be back the next morning, after breakfast. We were.

The coffees were, as Veneziano Coffees are, delicious. Sweet and fruity. Creamy. Well produced, and served with a nice chocolate freckle on the side. Mooloolaba is probably my favourite Sunshine Coast getaway, and the Good Bean will be the icing on the cake. It’s a top notch little spot.

It’s a popular little spot – and it’s easy to see why – I love their simple approach to pricing – extra shots are free. Which just makes sense. The staff were friendly. It’s a nice relaxed beachside spot. Highly recommended. Here’s their Facebook page.


A rosetta by any other name: A review of Friday’s Brisbane Latte Art Smackdown

On Friday the crema of the crop (see what I did there – it’s a coffee pun) of Brisbane’s microfoam loving, tulip pouring, jug swirling, baristas rocked up at Veneziano’s First Pour cafe in West End for what my friend Mitch described as “the coolest sub-culture meeting ever.” The $400 in prize money, but more importantly the chance for acclaim from one’s peers, was enough of a draw to attract 47 competitors for a string of head to head latte art elimination battles. Those people brought their people, and Veneziano’s First Pour was packed with coffee lovers.

The hosts pulled out all the stops, with a sausage sizzle, free beer (though that went pretty quickly), and coffee from their brew bar.

Three judges – Queensland Latte Art Champion Scott Luengen, Tim Adams from Tim Adams Specialty Coffee on the Sunshine Coast, and Veneziano’s John-Paul Sutton – scored pourers on contrast, symmetry, and difficulty.

It was a fun night, with some amazing pieces of art produced. Here are some highlights from my phone camera – which struggled a little with the lack of light.

Mike Tam and Josh Russell Cup Specialty Coffee ended up going head to head in the Grand Final.

Here are their last few rounds, and the final itself, in video form. I shot and edited this video on my phone – and uploaded it – the sound goes a bit funny when it switches from video to photos. But you can handle that.

These are the winning pours from Cup’s Josh Russell…

In all, it was a really fun night, with a great vibe. Coffee industry peeps are the coolest, I’m always struck by how friendly people who could view themselves as competitors are with one another, there’s a real sense of camaraderie, and wanting to see the industry move and develop through cooperation – which can only benefit us end users.

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: [five-star-rating]

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 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.


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