Top 5: Brisbane's best cafes off the beaten track
March 29, 2017
by Elise Lawrence
You’ve shopped til you dropped on Queen Street and strolled through beautiful South Bank – why not make your next stop one of Brisbane’s beautiful hidden cafes?
Hopscotch & Beans
Just down the road from the bustling metropolis of Caxton Street and The Barracks is this sweet little cafe, serving up great coffee and an often-changing menu of breakfast and lunch items. They are also in possession of a very well-stocked bar and are open until 8pm on Thursdays. Something to watch for – they close at 2pm on most other days, so don’t plan on a late lunch!
Staff are relaxed and friendly, and the interior is charming and quirky (the pushbike suspended above our table was certainly a talking point). Lots of brochures for upcoming arts events, so you can find your next adventure while you wait. You can choose to perch on some of the high stools outside or opt for the lower tables indoors. A seat by the window is a great place to soak up some sunshine and watch the world go by and although the space is small, it doesn’t feel crowded or uncomfortable.
On my last visit, the menu featured a Spanish omelette (so delicious) and red velvet pancakes (very tempting). Their fare changes often, so who knows what treats might be waiting for you? (If you have special dietary requirements, their current menu is always online).
Corner Store Cafe
A not-so-secret treasure in suburban Toowong, this quaint cafe often has a queue up the footpath for weekend brunch but is well worth the wait. Fresh juices and smoothies, amazing breakfasts, excellent coffee and super staff are guaranteed in the covered outdoor area edged by lovely gardens, or inside the beautifully renovated cottage that the cafe is housed in. Every time I’ve had to queue for a table, the wait has always been less than they said it would be.
Staff are definitely accustomed to the busy environment, and there is no pressure to make a quick decision or pushiness to clear your table. Meals are usually between $10 and $20 and big servings mean that I have never left hungry. If you are still peckish after your meal, there are always sweet treats and sandwiches in the cabinet if you’re looking for something more, or if you’re in a hurry. Table service is offered for ordering, then you can wander up to the counter and pay for your meal whenever you’re finished and ready. The perfect spot for a lazy weekend brunch, to just sit and soak in the atmosphere.
Down a graffitied alleyway between Irish Murphy’s pub and Flight Centre on George Street, you’ll find the clean, cosy, and atmospheric cafe that is Bean. Step through the old London telephone box (yes, really!) and wander down the stairs into the surprisingly bright and cheerful underground space, past walls plastered with posters for upcoming events. Settle yourself on a comfy couch or on a stool at the bar. If you’re in the mood, you can read a book from Bean’s shelves, or challenge your friends to one of their board games.
Cute retro decor and local art on the walls give it a comfortable, homey feel – it’s kind of like being in someone’s living room. Someone who makes seriously good coffee. My personal favourite is a long black straight from the machine, but Bean also makes their delicious cold-press coffee fresh every morning. I hear they make a mean espresso martini, and also offer craft beer and small batch wine if you’re out a little later. If you’re hungry, the food can be inner-city pricey but varies from snacks to steaks to share plates. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available as well, just ask! The space is a bit too small for a kitchen so the food comes courtesy of their neighbours, the excellent chefs at Irish Murphy’s.
Through an alleyway in West End, Five Sisters Art House Cafe is hiding in an old brick building on Melbourne Street. Despite their takeaway coffee stand set up outside, you’d almost miss it if you weren’t looking – which would be a real shame, because they make amazing Greek coffee.
The cafe is family-owned – by five lovely Greek sisters, and their mother – and they bake all the delicious treats fresh daily. All day breakfasts and the lunch menu are priced between $8 and $19, fairly standard for West End. The Greek coffee is a standout, and the French toast is a decadent treat if you’re in the mood for something sweet. There are tables in the laneway itself, as well as in the small courtyard that the laneway opens onto with the counter, featuring a mouth-watering display cabinet, against one wall. Lovely, clean amenities are always a plus and vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free-ers are also catered for. Great service, and a lovely place to relax in the shade!
Don’t be fooled – you’re not lost, it really is here! Tucked inside an industrial estate in Kelvin Grove, just a short drive (or bus ride) from the city centre, Coffee Laboratory is a true hidden gem of Brisbane. Lovely staff, exceptional coffee, and delicious breakfasts and burgers from around $7-$13 – much easier on the wallet than most cafes so close to the CBD.
If you have to wait for your food (it can get hectic on weekday mornings with commuters grabbing their caffeine on the go) the cafe has a collection of current magazines and newspapers on the tables, as well as a fascinating collection of antique coffee-roasting equipment – apparently one of the most comprehensive in Australia! There is also a collection of cups, and local art and jewellery to look at while you’re there. A perfect spot for breakfast or lunch.
As much as the hustle and bustle of the CBD can be exciting, Brisbane’s best isn’t always in the city centre – adventure a little further afield and you’ll almost certainly be rewarded! Who knows what you’ll discover?