Brisbane's university campuses are something of a mystery if you're not a student or staff member. Most other people rarely venture onto them, so it's hard to know whether it's worth visiting their numerous cafes for a meal or snack.
I've spotted the sign for Artisans Cafe at QUT Gardens Point a number of times when I've been cutting across the campus on my way to or from the lovely City Botanic Gardens (which adjoin QUT). I kept thinking 'I must try that cafe'. After only a couple of years or so (!), I finally had an early lunch at Artisans recently.
Artisans isn't far from the main entrance to QUT on George Street. Just turn right where the sign tells you to, walk about 50 metres, and you're there.
Don't expect anything rustic or earthy -- despite its name, this is a pretty standard modern cafe. But it's fresh and pleasant, with greenery, lots of outdoor seating (including undercover areas) and far more spacious than most city cafes.
The menu is big and not too expensive (but not super-cheap either). Artisans caters to people who are on campus from early in the morning, so the selections start with breakfast dishes. There's a reasonable range, beginning with toast ($2.50) and moving through choices like bacon and egg burgers ($7.50) up to a three-egg omelette with plenty of sides ($10.50).
If you're there later in the day, you can choose from the usual uni suspects (chips $5.50, nachos $10), big burgers ($11), pizzas ($9), and more substantial dishes (like spag bol $12, coconut curry $14, fish and chips $14). There are plenty of vego options, and a cabinet with rice paper rolls, salads, and the like.
I was really hungry, so I went with rump steak on turkish bread with caramelised onion, tomato and aioli. From the drinks menu, I chose a small pot of green tea ($3.40). If I'd been feeling more adventurous, I could have had a coffee or hot chocolate (starting around the $3.40 mark), a fresh juice ($5.70) or milkshake ($4.70), or even a beer or wine (from $5).
I sat and enjoyed the winter sun while I waited for my order. Around me was a nice mixture of students, university staff, and workers from nearby building sites. My food came within 10 minutes, and I got into it quickly.
The steak was big and nicely cooked, if a bit fatty. I'd asked for no aioli, and the kitchen had complied, but decided to give me a generous helping of barbecue sauce in its place.
I haven't eaten barbecue sauce since I was about 14, so it was a bit of a shock to my system, but not a disaster. My tea was fine, although it was served in one of those evil metal teapots that only commercial caterers use, which manage to leak no matter what you do.
I know that coffee is important to many people, so I made a point of asking one of the uni staff her opinion of her brew. She awarded it 7 out of 10 and pronounced it 'fine'. I didn't notice any signs saying what kind of coffee was being used.
Overall, I think Artisans is very similar to an unpretentious pub bistro, serving big meals of fairly good quality. You won't get haute cusine here, but you'll probably feel full at the end, and it won't break the bank.
Artisans isn't somewhere you'd go in pursuit of perfect food, but it's a pleasant place to meet for coffee and a snack or lunch. If you work in the city and you're looking for somewhere sunny and spacious, it would make a nice break from the office.
And if you're visiting the city with kids, I think it could be perfect. It has space where little people can wander around safe from cars or breakables, a menu with something to suit everybody, and you're right next door to the City Botanic Gardens if you want go for a walk at the end.