I flew out of Shanghai with the words of a good friend in my ear:
“Enjoy the coffee” she said, as she wished me well on my way back to Australia for a flying visit. It’s no secret that, as much as I miss dumplings and noodles while I’m away from China, what I miss even more in Shanghai is good cake and coffee. Preferably together.
What my friend was jealous of, and rightly so, were the dozens upon dozens of cups of good coffee I was planning to fit in between shifts at the hospital (where I hope to earn enough money to pay for that crazy Chinese campervan scheme
of mine), in the hope of stockpiling enough coffee experiences to see me through the lean Chinese coffee-filled months ahead, without developing a caffeine-induced arrhythmia in the process.
Since arriving in Brisbane the weather has been uncommonly unfriendly with non-stop rain and grey skies, but for me it’s the perfect excuse to sit inside one of the inner city’s many gorgeous cafes sipping coffee expertly made by the hands of an experienced barrista, rather than a twenty year old Starbuck’s apprentice named Cyanide.
Time away from the place has made me realise that one of Brisbane’s essential charms, for those lucky enough to live here, is the city’s culture of very individual, independent cafes, spurning the insipid global coffee chains for a charming combination of quirk, personality, excellent coffee, freshly baked cakes and great service. Brisbane is overflowing with them.
I’m starting with Sisco, in the inner city suburb of Spring Hill, and this week will bring you two more of my new favourite coffee and cake spots.
Sisco sits in a narrow old wooden shopfront on the sunny side of the street in inner city Spring Hill, and is one of the friendliest places in town.
My waitress, who has an impressive tattoo of The Tiger Who Came To Tea on her arm, takes my coffee order (flat white, no melamine) and tells me the apple doughnut cakes are really good today, served with double cream. The combination of the words ‘apple/doughnut/cake/double cream’ seem inseparable with the word ‘good’ in my head, so I order one.
And what comes next is a kind of heavenly cake epiphany.
Imagine, if you will, all the things you love about a cinnamon doughnut – the crisp outside, the scent of cinnamon and yeast, the grainy sugar crystals that stick to your lips and the corners of your mouth, and the warm soft inside. Now think of all the things you love about your grandmother’s apple sponge cake – soft sweet pieces of apple in a light crumb cake. Now top that, in your imagination, with a dollop of thick fresh double cream. Pretty damn good, huh?
There are other incredible home-made temptations to eat with your coffee, like the strawberry, rosewater, and pistachio syrup cake, or the lemon curd tarts topped with strawberries, or the pink and white striped coconut ice (a nostalgic Australian childhood classic). The cakes change daily and are always fresh, interesting and delicious (chocolate beetroot cake comes to mind).
I believe Sisco also make a mean breakfast and tasty lunches, and next time I’m there before morning tea time I’m going to order the poached tamarillos with french toast and chocolate ricotta.
The quirk and passion behind Sisco comes from sister owners Kelly (pictured) and Vicky Jones, who dreamed of opening the sort of cafe they and their friends would love to eat at, then just went ahead and did it. Love their attitude! Vicky is the mistress of the menu and comes up with cake masterpieces daily, and Kelly runs front of house, taming the queue of customers lining up at the street-side coffee window for their daily fix.
The pair seem to know every customer by name, favourite coffee, and preferred seat, and Sisco is exactly the sort of place where I dream of becoming a regular, with the sisters sitting me down by the window and seconds later delivering me a creamy flat white, and an enormous slab of the daily cake special with double cream.
500 Boundary Street Spring Hill
Open Monday to Friday 7-3
Saturday and Sunday 7-2
for breakfast, coffee and lunch
Ph +61 7 3839 4995