Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's always a tough decision when it comes choosing somewhere to eat - do I go to one of my favourite spots or do I risk having an average meal by trying somewhere new? #firstworldproblems As a food blogger, I try to go for the new option but I'm pretty picky when it comes to breakfast menus and plain old bacon and eggs don't often do it for me. However, I'm a sucker for cheap eats and so when I happened across Bean Cafe on George St advertising a new breakfast menu on their Facebook page with $5 breakfasts this week, I was sold. So I planned to meet B from Sunshine & Gin at their advertised 7AM opening time for an early morning catch up.

Down a well-signed alley

I happened to arrive a little early after riding in and taking a slightly different route through QUT and the Botanical Gardens. Nice ride but not the most efficient route and meant some slightly awkward dodging of trucks along George St. Anyway, I pulled up near Irish Murphy's which is next to Bean. Having been to Bean previously for coffee, I knew where to go but it isn't the most obviously located of cafes. Easily a contender for my hidden coffee spots post, Bean is located down a graffiti and bin-filled alleyway between The Villager and Irish Murphy's. Several signs will alert you to its existence but walking past multiple large bins towards what currently looks like a construction site could make you feel like you're lost. At the end of the alley and around to the left, you'll see a door through which a short set of stairs will lead you to the cosiest of underground cafes, full of couches, artwork and vintage-looking items.

I entered just before 7 and they were already open and the friendliest guy ever greeted me from behind the counter. I took a seat at one of several tables as I waited for B and had a look at the menu. Headed 'Market Style Breakfast bites', the first thing that I noticed was that the food is prepared by The Villager. The sizeable menu interestingly includes four clearly labelled vegan items - perhaps one of the owners or staff are vegan? Good to note for the vegans and vegetarians out there; there were no mentions of gluten or dairy free options however. The menu has several savoury options including with an Open Brekkie Taco, Bircher Muesli with Coyo coconut yoghurt, Tofu & Asparagus Wrap and Berry Pancakes with banana 'nicecream' being the vegan options. The more substantial non-vegan options include a Mediterranean Brekkie (balsamic roasted tomatoes with mashed avocado and feta on sourdough) and the Cypress Brekkie (oven baked haloumi, roasted garlic mushrooms and avocado on sourdough with capsicum relish). You can also get a bacon and egg Brekkie Wrap or Eggs Your Way on sourdough and a range of extras. The prices range from $12.50 to $17.50 and $4.00 for extras - not the cheapest of menus but I tried to reserved judgement until I saw the size of the meals.

In the meantime, B arrived hungry and ready to eat. After clarifying with one of the staff that all breakfast items were indeed $5, we were told that they had to check that they could do food since The Villager kitchen door was closed?! They checked with The Villager and found out that the chef had just arrived and so they were running late and that breakfasts would be half and hour away. B and I were a bit concerned but decided to wait it out and ordered coffee in the meantime. Coffee is the main game at Bean and looking at the coffee menu ($3.50 small/$4.50 large) I noticed that they made their coldpress coffee ($5.50) fresh each day. They offer the coldpress black, with milk or with soy but after inquiring whether the black was sweetened or not (they all are) I was told that they didn't actually have any black coldpress in stock. B had also decided to go for a soy coldpress and I decided to try the same. We were told to just grab them out of the fridge to the side of the counter and were left to open them ourselves using the bottle opener on top of the counter - clearly there's a very casual vibe at Bean! The ingredients listed on the Bean labelled bottle included coffee, soy milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract. It wasn't overly sweet and I really enjoyed it. Despite the bottle clearly saying 'shake me well!' we didn't realise until after we opened them and so the last bits of our coffees were stronger.

Soy cold-pressed coffee ($5.50)
After perusing the menu, B decided to try the Cypress Brekkie ($17.50) for something different from her usual choice of avocado and feta on toast. I was tempted to get the same (love haloumi) but chose the Bircher Muesli (apple juice soaked oats with an array of shredded coconut, apple, pistachio, sultanas and fresh berries, served with Coyo) ($13.50) instead. As we waited and caught up on each other's lives, the cafe began to fill up and soon all of the other tables were filled up. Whether Bean was usually that busy I don't know but it looked like a lot of other people were keen to try their new menu! About ten minutes after ordering we were told it would be about fifteen minutes for our meals. Fifteen minutes passed and there was still no sign of them. Soon afterwards we were told it would be five minutes. Ten minutes passed. By this stage we were getting rather hungry. I'd had first breakfast much earlier (yes, my day includes multiple breakfasts) so wasn't quite as ravenous as B. I then spotted one of the baristas walking in with a tray of food but alas none of the meals were for us. Then he disappeared and arrived with another....again none for us! It wasn't until at least the fourth delivery that our meals were delivered to our table and by that stage it was past 8am and the other tables who had gotten their meals were finishing up.

Bircher Muesli ($13.50)

Cypress Brekkie ($17.50)

My muesli arrived in a bowl on a rectangular plate with a generous serve of yoghurt on the side. I like a lot of yoghurt with my muesli and regularly ask for extra but this was plenty for me. The muesli was just soaked oats, sultanas and coconut therefore lacking the creaminess of regular Bircher and so I think it did need the serve of yoghurt. Several fresh blueberries and raspberries were scattered over the top and some sliced strawberries were arranged on the plate around the yoghurt. The yoghurt tasted more tart and less-coconut-y than I remembered Coyo tasting so suspected that it was just standard yoghurt but over time I could taste the coconut flavour. There was a lot of shredded coconut in the muesli already so it was a very coconut-y breakfast! While the menu description stated that there were pistachios, I didn't notice any in there. The tart yoghurt and berries were a good foil to the sweet muesli and the coconut and oats still had a good bite to them. I make my Bircher similarly and soak it overnight in apple juice and add yoghurt when eating so I was a fan of the style. Meanwhile B's meal arrived on the same sized plate but was absolutely packed with two pieces of toast, sliced avocado, large cubes of haloumi and some very garlicy looking mushrooms. Usually haloumi is cut into thick slices and pan-fried so it was unusual to see such large cubes of it on the plate and was missing the melting softness that it has when pan-fried. B commented that it was good that she liked garlic because the mushrooms were stuffed with it!

We quickly devoured our meals and got up to leave shortly afterwards to get to work. We were apologised to a few times by the staff and were given the meals on the house for the delay. We were also asked several times if we were enjoying our meals which was nice! Overall we did enjoy our meals and while excellent value for $5, I wouldn't be inclined to pay full price for them as I can get similar or better for cheaper elsewhere. However I would return to Bean for their coffee and atmosphere as it really is a lovely spot. It reminds me a little of Brew with it's underground-ness but without being packed. Bean is also open for drinks in the afternoon/evening so I'll have to check it out then.


Accessibility: 5/10 (Easy to get to off George St but not the easiest of streets to cycle on)
Parking: 4/10 (A few posts around but no bike racks)

Bean Cafe on Urbanspoon

Plenty of signage indicating where to go

Fantastic graffiti lines the alley walls

Cozy underground cafe

Delicious fresh berries topped the muesli

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