The Brisbane dessert scene has been forced to grudgingly shift and make some room, because Max Brenner has landed in Southbank and is here to stay.
For those of you who like me, have never been to a Max Brenner store at the Gold Coast or around Australia, it is a café dedicated to all things fine chocolate. While I'd never been to a Max Brenner, I've had several previous experiences with 'chocolate cafés' whilst travelling, and every visit has inevitably left me either dizzy from joyous satisfaction (and a spiked blood sugar) or despairing and disappointed from unmet expectations.
I take my hats off to those brave few who open chocolate cafés, I really do. There is simply so much expectation from every customer who walks through the door. Chocolate is associated with happiness, childhood, fun, laughter, and has its own meaningful place in the lives of all chocolate appreciators. In short, when you walk into a chocolate café, you're expecting all those things you know chocolate to be. Delicious, comforting, fun, sociable. So when service or the quality of the product is not great, it stings all the more. If you order a steak and it's a bit overcooked and badly seasoned, you're a little annoyed or disappointed at worst. But when your sitting in a chocolate café, giddy with excitement, making wide eyes at all the chocolate in thousands of shapes and forms adorning the walls, it's just plain devastating when that hot chocolate you order is thin and reminiscent of Woolworths home brand cocoa powder, or that soufflé comes dry and overcooked. Your heart sinks, you put on a brave face, but a small part of you has died inside.
Well perhaps that's a bit melodramatic. But I'm sure you see my point. So it's with great excitement and a little trepidation that I drag a friend who's visiting from Perth, into Max Brenner Southbank at 10:20pm. It was late, yes, but my previous experience which chocolate cafes suggest that they are ridiculously busy during peak times, and if you do not want to wait an hour for your chocolate fix, you'd best plan your trip carefully. As it turns out, my guess was correct. Even 40 minutes to close, the place will still very busy, although thankfully not too busy that we couldn't get a seat and prompt service. I can't imagine what it would have been like at 7pm.
On first approaching the shop, we were suitably impressed. Set in the lovely Southbank surrounds, the shop has a lot of glass, enabling you to see into the modern and inviting interior as you approach. Fairy lights adorn a tree outside the shop, giving the place a welcoming, festive feel. The interior of the café is nicely decorated with a lot of dark wood, bright lighting framed artwork. The rear of the store even features its own chocolate shop. We had fun browsing the endless variety and forms of chocolate on display, but I have to say the prices are quite exuberant.
Explore the chocolate shop on your visit to a Max Brenner cafe
I've heard some negative comments about the staff at the new Southbank branch, so I was interested to see what quality of service we would receive. On ordering (I chose a chocolate soufflé, Clementine went for the toffee choc nut waffles) we were served politely but not warmly. Not a bad start, but not a great one. The menu is diverse and interesting, and can be viewed here. On a sidenote, have a good look at the menu before you go, as what they have up on the menu board is only part of what is available. I'm not sure if they have a full menu in store but I didn't see any while there.
As probably the last customers to order for the evening, it did not take long for our meals to arrive. They certainly looked amazing, with excellent presentation and a fantastic chocolaty aroma. Moment of truth arrived; we both dug in and hoped for the best. It was fantastic. The soufflé was beautifully cooked, soft and stable on the outside, gooey and creamy within. The flavour was rich and held that note of bitterness you expect from good quality chocolate. I'm not a huge fan of bitter or dark chocolate, so a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side was a perfect counterbalance to the slight bitterness of the chocolate. My friend was busy in heaven next to me and told me she was unavailable for comment for the next five minutes, which I took as a sign her dessert was just as good as mine.
Despite staying beyond closing time, the staff did not rush us and we were given cheery good nights by several of them as we left. Obviously the reviews on poor service have been filtering through to the manager of the store, as the staff, while lacking a certain natural warmth and ease with their customers, were trying hard to be as friendly and welcoming as possible. Overall, we had no problem with the service.
I was set back $13 for my soufflé and ice cream, and Clementine was set back $12 for her toffee choc nut waffle. There are definitely cheaper desserts out there. However, I've been in many a restaurant where desserts range from $10 to $20 and have been no where near as good as what I enjoyed at Max Brenner. As an occasional treat, I think most people will not mind paying for money for a tasty dessert and bright ambience, especially in the lovely setting Soutbank provides.
Overall, our chocolate expedition to Max Brenner was a resounding success. Good location, lovely décor, fantastic food were highlights. Staff service was acceptable but not exemplary, and prices were dear but justified by the product. We would highly recommend all chocolate lovers get down to Max Brenner Southbank as soon as possible. Just be wary of the crowds, and be forewarned about the price.
Dont expect to get your order quickly. If you go at the weekend, expect to wait at least 30 minutes in a queue and then at least 30 minutes for something as basic as a hot chocolate. If you order a hot chocolate and the 2 people in front of you order for 6 people each, expect to wait till THEIR order is out before you get yours.
It better pick up before I will go back
By marga85 - reader Monday, 11th of July @ 10:48 am
We waited in line for a fair while as well, but I was actually surprised at how quickly we got our food after we ordered. And, seriously, I would wait another half hour for that chocolate brownie - it was amazing. I think I was on a sugar high for about three hours after eating it.
Chocolate is a premium priced product and so I would expect to pay a premiun price when dining out.
By jacki73 - reader Wednesday, 20th of July @ 06:49 am
I am salvating. I think I will brave the wait. Thanks Nathan, now I will only have one thing on my mind until I get there.
By Deb Jury - senior reviewer Friday, 22nd of July @ 01:43 am
if waitin is d prize u hev to pay to get d best dessert in town, I'll still wait...
By Anonymous Thursday, 25th of August @ 11:01 am
I felt spoiled when my husband arrived home with a Max Brenner bag with a heart box filled with chocolate surprises, the best was an unnamed celephane wrapped square block of chocolate, that was absolutely exquisite - but without knowing what it was, I can't share it with you!! :(
By olila - reader Sunday, 13th of January @ 01:00 am