March Spotlight: Exploring 3 popular cafes in the heart of Brisbane

March 19, 2016 Explorer Gabor 0 Comments

There's one hour for lunch with friends, sandwiched between back-to-back meetings.  It needs to be somewhere quick with good food and not too expensive or noisy, as you have a lot to catch up on...

I really enjoy catching up with friends for lunch and in March some good friends joined me to explore 3 popular cafes in the Brisbane CBD.  Two were great, one has lost its sheen.

1.  Jimmy's on the Mall


Jimmy's is a Brisbane institution, it's been in the Queen Street Mall forever.  The relocation and make-over in 2014 makes it a prominent feature near the centre of the mall - a fantastic spot for people watching.

Despite its location, I rarely eat here.  That made it a great spot to explore for a Friday lunch with a friend. This place is usually buzzing at lunchtime, though not too busy when we arrived at 1pm. The menu is an eclectic mix of Turkish, Moroccan, Asian & Australian, with prices ranging from $18 to $42.

Turkish Grilled Lamb Salad

I chose the Turkish Grilled Lamb Salad and my friend the Pulled Pork Roll.  Meals were delivered in no time, fresh, hot and nicely presented.

The Turkish Grilled Lamb Salad included iceberg lettuce, capsicum and freekah with a sprinkling of chopped dates and pistachios.  A nice mix of substance, sweetness and crunch.  Very tasty and would order it again. Our two meals came to around $50.

The best bits:  great for people watching, food is quick, it's not too noisy.

The so-so bits:  not the cheapest place around, though you do get value for money.

Jimmy's on the Mall.....I'll be back to explore the menu further.

2. Chow Down


Chow Down opened in Brisbane Square about a year ago after all the cafe's in the Square were refurbished. It's an Asian Fusion cafe, though it's more Asian than fusion.  Brisbane Square is a great spot to explore for lunch and on the day I visited, a hundred or so Taoists were practicing tai chi in the square. So peaceful and serene, they kept going even when it started to rain.

I've eaten at Chow Down a few times for lunch and took the family there for dinner a few months ago. This time it was lunch with two old friends, foodies from way back, and we were looking forward to a good meal and a gossip.

The cafe was packed by 12.15 on Friday and the waiter quickly seated me at one end of a high bench table and delivered some water.  Disappointingly, the menu was very different to my last visit and a couple of items that looked good were not available today.

Orders were taken promptly then we chatted while waiting for the meal.  And waited.  And waited.   It was after 1pm when our meals arrived and by that time the cafe was fairly empty.

Beef Bulgogi

One friend and I chose the Beef Bulgogi, which the waitress said was similar to beef and black bean, without the black beans.  Our other friend ordered the spicy chicken and rice.  The beef bulgogi's were pretty tasty, a generous serving and hot, though the semolina noodles were a bit on the chewy side.  As you can see, it bore no resemblance to beef and black bean. It could also have done with a few more veggies.

My friend was disappointed with her spicy chicken, telling the waitress it tasted like chicken coated in paprika and quite dry.  It was a small serve with steamed rice and a few veggies, which overall didn't look very appetising.

Three meals were around $55, though it actually cost less as the waitress didn't charge for the spicy chicken and rice.

The best bits:  nice spot in the Square, it's not too noisy and the wait staff are attentive.

The so-so bits:  the menu is not as good as the old one, the time to serve our meals was too long for a lunch session, prices have increased and it's no longer great value for money.

Chow Down...if you improve your menu and kitchen service, I'll explore your menu further.

3.  Noritor


Noritor is a large cafe on busy George Street in the heart of the government precinct.  Always bustling for lunch, their Korean & Japanese menu has never failed to disappoint.  I've eaten there a few times over the years, though haven't explored the menu too much in the past year.

For my friend and I, this is quickly becoming our usual place for lunch.  On this Friday, the place was almost empty when we arrived at 12pm.   The waitress quickly delivered menus and water before disappearing to attend to other arriving customers.  We pressed the table bell when ready to order and the waitress was back in a flash.

Teriyaki Bento Box

I ordered my favourite, teriyaki chicken bento, and my friend ordered the salmon bento with vegetarian sides.  Both meals came with hot bowls of miso soup quickly delivered to our table.  At this stage the cafe was nearly full and, with the music and crowd, it was getting a little hard to have a conversation without raising our voices.

Once again, the teriyaki chicken did not disappoint.  With tasty morsels of teriyaki chicken, vegetable fried rice, spring roll, tofu, noodles, salad and inari it was a filling meal that kept me going until dinner. My friend enjoyed the salmon, which was fresh and light.

The teriyaki chicken bento was good value at $13.50 and the salmon bento $15.50.

The best bits:  quick, friendly service, tasty meals and value for money.

The so so bits: with a full house it can be a little noisy and difficult to have a conversation.

Noritor....once again, I'll be back to explore your menu further.

I'd love you to continue following my explorations - just drop your email into the 'follow me by email' box on the right hand side of this page and you can receive all new posts straight to your inbox. No spam, I promise.

You Might Also Like