Monday, May 26, 2014

Apologies for the lack of posts but I've been in India for the most of the last month. I relaxed for a week at an Ayurveda healing village in quiet Coimbatore and then had a complete environment and mind switch when I flew to busy Bangalore for work. I had the pleasure of eating a large range of Indian food - India is so amazingly diverse and each region has its own food and tastes. I gorged on curries, roti, rice, dosa dal, coconut and many other random things. One of my favourite foods, and what I ate for breakfast every day in Bangalore, was idli, a South Indian steamed fermented rice cake. It's generally eaten with sambar, a vegetable stew, and a range of chutneys. My favourite was the coconut chutney which is a mix of ground fresh coconut with a range of spices and curry leaves. Delicious!

Anyway, unfortunately there was no biking to breakfasts while in India. There are bikes and cycling is encouraged but there was no way I felt confident enough to cycle through the insane traffic and crazy drivers who take absolutely no notice of road lines! So I was keen to get back on my bike as soon as I got home. And set up some breakfast plans!

I made plans to see my friend H, who works in South Brisbane. I'd been wanting to try Merriweather for some time despite having heard mixed reviews and knowing it was near her workplace, suggested it. Merriweather is owned by Josh Russel, who also owns cup coffee, one of Brisbane's specialty coffee roasters. Thus Merriweather uses Cup Coffee beans exclusively and also sells them. There is a focus on using seasonal produce and their simple menu changes regularly to reflect this. They also make their pastries and several condiments in-house and are all for sale. The breakfast menu isn't large but is far from standard fare with house made crumpets and duck ham featuring on the current menu.

Merriweather is located on the corner of Russell and Cordelia Streets in South Brisbane. There is no signage apart from a small standing sign with 'COFFEE' written on it. It was an easy ride there - after going over the Go-Between Bridge, I continued straight along Merivale St and turned right at Russell St. There is a bike rack outside the cafe, which made parking simple. It was 7:30 on a Wednesday morning so the cafe was quiet with only a few patrons sitting inside. There is both inside and outside seating at Merriweather and a range of high and low tables. While I was away, Brisbane got cold (had to break out my winter wardrobe!) so I was more than happy to go with H's suggestion that we sit inside. After making our coffee orders (long black for me, cappuccino for H) the very friendly Canadian waiter told us enthusiastically about the breakfast specials. One was avocado on sourdough with feta and tomatoes and the other was smoked bonito with potato, cabbage, harissa and poached eggs ($15.50). I had previously been contemplating the crumpets with honeyed ricotta and roasted macadamias ($13.50) but the opportunity to have smoked bonito sounded too good to give up! I requested to have gluten-free bread ($1) with it and H ordered the avocado on sourdough but switched the feta for bacon. 

Smoked bonito with potato, harissa, cabbage and eggs
Coffees came quickly and in the prettiest duck egg blue and french navy teacups. My long black was well made and not bitter or sour, which is just how I like it. Meals came not long afterwards and my meal was a giant bowl of what looked like baked eggs in a rich tomato sauce with chunks of bonito, potato and cabbage throughout it. Initially the meal came with a large piece of sourdough but the mistake was quickly realised and the meal with whisked away to replace it with the gluten-free bread. Unfortunately this meant the meal was a bit colder than I would have liked when it reappeared. I was pleased to see that the gluten-free bread was non-standard and judging by its orange colour I assumed it was either a corn-based bread or pumpkin bread. I'd never had bonito before (apart from bonito flakes in Japanese meals) so was really curious about how it tasted. Turns out it tastes similar to mackeral (which I love for its intense flavour and oiliness) which combined well with the spicy yet sweet harissa sauce. The egg yolks were overcooked but that didn't detract from the deliciousness of the dish. It was quite an oily dish and given the way it was served, it was difficult to avoid the oil. 

Avocado on sourdough with bacon
H's avocado on toast was also a large serve with two large pieces of sourdough and a generous amount of avocado was smeared over them. The serve of bacon was large and there were quite a few fresh cherry tomatoes artfully strewn around it all. H ate all of it, so I assume she was happy with it!

By the time we left, the cafe was filling up with people, presumably workers from nearby offices, so it looks like it does well during the week. The lunch menu, written on a chalkboard above the counter, sounded simple but appealing with a range of sandwiches and salads on offer.

Despite the small issues I had with my dish, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. So much in fact that I suggested it to C for our post-market breakfast on the following Saturday. We arrived around 9:30 and it was already mostly full. We opted for an outside seat at a low table for four. Water and menus were brought quickly and we were also handed a handwritten specials menu on a mini clipboard. C was instantly drawn to the 'gnocchi with pork sausage, silverbeet, goats cheese and poached eggs'. The other special of 'Sourdough, tomato, avocado, lime, dukkah, poached egg and fresh turmeric' appealed to me but not as much as the opportunity to try duck ham with mushrooms, poached eggs and kale ($18). Our coffee orders appeared quickly and sometime afterwards our meals arrived, artfully arranged on the prettiest blue plates. 

Mushrooms, poached eggs, kale, duck ham

The mushrooms on my plate were huge and juicy and the poached eggs were on the side of well cooked with the yolk in one being gooey and the other slightly more solid. Personally I like them best when gooey so I was happy enough with one of them being perfect. The duck ham resembled a dark prosciutto but was very soft and almost reminded me of sashimi in texture. It was tasty but not overly salty and I just wished for more of it. The components of the dish worked well together although I would have liked a small amount of sauce to bring it together a bit more. Had the egg yolks been a slightly less cooked, that may have helped although I ended up just stealing some of the sauce on C's dish. C's gnocchi was light and fluffy and the eggs worked surprisingly well with it and the juicy sausage. Apart from some sauteed silverbeet, there was also a blended green sauce which resembled pesto but may have been silverbeet. It all worked really well together and the goats cheese added the perfect amount of creaminess to the dish.  

Gnocchi, pork sausage, silverbeet, goats cheese, poached eggs

Overall I really enjoyed both visits to Merriweather and will definitely return. It's one of the more expensive breakfast options in the area with the majority of the menu items being above $16 but the quality of food is excellent, the portions are large and their menu has interesting options. I also really like that they focus on using seasonal produce and local growers. More and more places appear to be embracing the concept and reducing food miles and as a firm believer in that, I'm willing to spend a bit more to go to them. Mondo Organics and Plenty are other nearby places which have a similar ethos. Hopefully Merriweather continues to do well and I also want to return to try some of their cakes which are baked in-house and several appeared to be gluten-free. Merriweather also sell a range of relishes and jams that they also make in-house and if I didn't already have a shelf full of condiments in my fridge, I would have been tempted by the beetroot relish in particular. They also have a great looking range of cookbooks on their shelves so I can easily imagine myself happily browsing through them while enjoying a cup of coffee and cake...perhaps sooner than later! 


Ease of access: 9/10  (Bicentennial Bikeway->Go Between Bridge->Merivale St->Russell St)
Parking: 10/10 (Bike rack just outside)

Merriweather on Urbanspoon

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