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Published January 16th 2012
Pure Tastes is a slick urban coffee bar in miniature, tucked away in the SW1 development at South Brisbane. I came across it recently while walking through SW1 on my way home to West End from the city.
If you're not sure where SW1 is, it's the mixed-use development fronted by Era Restaurant on Melbourne Street. SW1 stretches over an entire block and includes office buildings, apartment blocks, restaurants and a few other businesses.
During construction, the SW1 developers had lots of signs up saying how it would be different, and green, and architectural. I was sceptical, but I have to say that I've been impressed when I've walked through the development a couple of times recently.
It's a lovely mix of lawns and trees and buildings at a very human scale. In fact, a quick Google reveals that it won a national urban design award last year.
Hiding in the middle of SW1, about 500 metres back from Era, is Pure Tastes, which opened a few months ago. Operating weekdays from 6.30am to 2.30pm, it exists primarily to serve the workers in the surrounding buildings. But, for those who live nearby, or for passersby like me, it's also a lovely surprise.
With lots of shiny red laminate and a hissing coffee machine, it's got a slick, clean feel, and a pared-back menu to match. As well as Merlo coffee, you can buy smoothies, muffins, biscuits, cakes, croissants and sandwiches (including vegetarian options). Everything is reasonably priced, ranging from $1.50 to $5.90.
On my first visit, on a sunny day, I bought a banana smoothie ($5). The smiling staff made it on soy-milk as I asked, and it was generous and good.
I took it to one of the open areas and sat on a bench to enjoy the dappled light. Looking around, I spotted plenty of other people doing the same, including one young woman who'd kicked off her shoes and was leaning back reading her book. A nice way to spend your morning-tea break.
The next time I visited, the weather was less kind. With the rain falling steadily, finding somewhere to eat my apple-and-blueberry muffin (normally $3.50, on special for $2) was a bit tricky. I eventually found another public seating area under cover, and enjoyed my light and tasty muffin in the dry.
Not a coffee drinker myself, I consulted a friend who works in one of the SW1 office buildings to get her verdict on the Pure Tastes' brew. She gave it the thumbs up, and said that her colleagues agreed - including one who is a former barista, and who described the coffee as 'very good'.
Pure Tastes isn't fancy, but it's the kind of place that Brisbane could use more of - small, funky, 'neighbourhood' coffee bars. It's proof that you don't need to be big to be good. You just need to look after people and provide a good product with a minimum of fuss.
If you're in the SW1 area, it's worth taking the time to find Pure Tastes, especially if it's a fine day (you can reach it from Melbourne, Merivale or Russell streets). And if you're looking for office or function catering, they also do that, for very reasonable prices.