What I like most about Java Coast Cafe is its...unexpectedness. On an otherwise typical city street, its small shopfront conceals a mellow, slightly bohemian coffee house that you'd expect to find in West End or perhaps Fortitude Valley. But here it is on George Street (between Ann and Turbot), determinedly different from the shiny, modern coffee shops that dominate the CBD.
Much of Java Coast's charm comes from the old building in which it is located. Inside, exposed brickwork, aged wooden floorboards, and pressed metal ceilings provide an intimate backdrop for tea, coffee, cake or a meal. Outside, a leafy courtyard is a rare green space in the CBD. Java Coast is one of my favourite places to come and de-stress over lunch, and it's also a peaceful setting for an early-morning cuppa or breakfast before work.
The menu offers the usual things you find in most cafes: sandwiches, salads, quiches and the like. Turkish melts range from $6.50 to $9.50 (including vego, chicken, ham, turkey and salami options), gourmet sandwiches from $7.90 to $10.90 (including ham, turkey, pastrami and mediterranean varieties), and salads include green, Caesar, haloumi, and Vietnamese chicken with noodles ($12.90-$16.90).
If you want a bigger meal, you might like to try the spicy beef enchilada for $14.50, or one of the burgers, which range from $13.50-$14.90 (choose from bacon, cajun chicken, or haloumi). I had the spinach and fetta quiche with salad for $10.90, and found the quiche tasty and the salad greens fresh. I didn't have dessert, but could have chosen from a range of fresh-looking muffins ($4), or treats including an orange and almond cake or blueberry cheesecake (both $6).
As for drinks, Java Coast is best-known for its coffee, but also has an interesting range of teas. I'm not a coffee drinker (yes, sacrilege, I know), but my coffee spies report that the brew here is good. Coffee prices range from $2 for a short black to $4.50 for a mug. I can vouch personally for the teas, which include Stockholm (black tea with orange peel, rose petals and more), Blue Lagoon (rosehips, apples, strawberry leaves etc), and my favourite, Japanese Lime (green tea with lemon and lime peel). All teas are $3.50 for one person or $6 for two. At $3.50, the hot chocolate is also good -- suitably rich and chocolatey.
A range of juices, smoothies and softdrinks are cool alternatives on a hot day. If you're looking to eat early, the breakfast menu starts at $2 for toast and includes baked beans on toast ($7.50), and a bacon and egg sandwich ($8.50).
Like the place itself, the Java Coast staff are friendly and funky, able to take most things in their stride. When I belatedly changed my order, they were smiling and unfazed, and my meal still arrived promptly. I also heard them greeting regulars by name, which is always a good sign.
Overall, my visit to the Java Coast was a relaxing interlude in an otherwise busy day. It's worth stepping behind this cafe's bustling George Street frontage to experience its hidden charms for yourself.