Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published September 28th 2011
Brisbane's a city that plays to its strengths. Quiet nightlife? Well, that means low crime rates – Brisbane's one of the safest cities in Australia. Not much to do in the city? Well, it's close to beaches and bush regions, and the weather is consistently perfect. With that in mind, it's hard to pick overrated places in Brisbane – unlike Sydney or Melbourne, there's not a lot of hype flying around in the first place. Still, there are a few places worth avoiding, such as:
The Burrito Bar
On 5/167 Grey Street, Southbank, the Burrito Bar is in an excellent location. On top of that, it's a Mexican restaurant – perfectly placed to take advantage of the strong Mexican food culture in Brisbane. Unfortunately, it falls far short. The service is very inconsistent: one day the staff will be attentive and friendly, the next they'll forget your order and serve up barely-warm microwaved food.
Behind that thin layer of meat is a kilo of plain rice.
Some of the beef burritos have excellent amounts of juicy beef, but that's because all the others are mostly rice. Whether you get a beef burrito with rice or a rice burrito with beef is down to luck. Putting it charitably, treat Burrito Bar like a lottery, and go there if you feel like taking a risk. Better yet, don't go there at all.
The Vapiano logo: Italian food and hatred of Tasmania.
Vapiano, located on Albert Lane in the CBD, is an Italian restaurant that prides itself on innovation. It's a classy pizza and pasta place with a fast-food twist – watch your food being cooked in record time then collect it at the counter, complete with plastic buzzers for second courses or dessert. But wait, it's also nature-focused – little pots of fresh herbs sit in the middle of each table, to be torn off and placed on the dishes by the patrons. And instead of a waiter presenting you the bill, you're given a credit-card thing that tracks how much you spend.
None of these innovations actually make the food taste better, though: the fast cooking time means the staff have to take shortcuts (from okay ones, like placing prosciutto onto pizza after it's been cooked, to awful ones like undercooking the zucchini on a verdure pizza). Most dishes are disappointingly bland – expect to strip the herb pots bare in an attempt to fix this yourself, or bring your own condiments.
On 85 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, the Smoke BBQ is practically a temple for carnivores. The portion sizes are tremendous, from the pork ribs to the buffalo wings, and you'll need to run a marathon afterwards to sweat out all the grease. Once upon a time this place was amazing, but recently they've been trying to cover dry and substandard meat with gallons of barbecue sauce and salt. This would be forgiveable – when money's tight, something has to give – if not for the inflated prices, which have risen as the quality of the food has fallen.
You'll still have a good time going here with friends, and the tables will still all be full, but think about it – if the conversation's good enough, you'd have a good time over day-old pizza and stale soft drink. Which is what they'll probably be serving at the Smoke BBQ in a few years.
Remember, taste is subjective – you might love Vapiano's bold menu choices or Burrito Bar's obsession with rice. In that case, why not share your own choices for Brisbane's most overrated places? We'd love to hear from you.
I'm a huge Burrito Bar fan - I'm there 3-4 times a week, and think that your review of them is pretty BS. Sure they're hit an miss but which company that's been around for only a few months isn't? Their food is great, and staff are always friendly.
By danie - reader Friday, 30th of September @ 12:56 am
I've never understood why anyone would go to the Normanby voluntarily.
By Carly Ogborne - senior reviewer Friday, 30th of September @ 01:07 am
I find Garuva in the Valley to be hugely overrated. Everyone raves about the ambiance but really your sitting on uncomfortable cushions on the floor with no leg room and tables divided by sheer curtains. Turn the lights up a tad and you would realise how dim the place really is. Top that off this the overpriced measly sized 'meals' along with the overpriced cocktails and you are in for an expensive, unsatisfying, uncomfortable night.
By danie259 - reader Monday, 3rd of October @ 01:08 am
I dont have a specific cafe I hate but do wonder how old some of the cakes are that they wrap in plastic every evening.
By dizzi - reader Monday, 3rd of October @ 01:38 am
Magnolian BBQ in st lucia is easily the worst place ever.
By Anonymous Tuesday, 4th of October @ 04:18 am
Montezuma's used to be 'the place' for Mexican, but the last few times I have been I have found the food and the service pretty dismal.
By bethr - reader Tuesday, 4th of October @ 05:57 am
I found the food at The Smoke BBQ really good, but the waitress was so rude trying to get us out of there as quickly as possible because of the next booking, even though there was an hour to go and the restaurant was half empty.
By lulab - reader Tuesday, 4th of October @ 10:47 am
Yes have to agree with you on the Buritto Bar was not impressed at all. Pepe's has always had great food and I never leave hungry.
By Anonymous Wednesday, 5th of October @ 03:40 am
Your review of Vapiano's, just wrong....I have been there on many occasions and my pasta has been great did you forget to say yes to the garlic, chilli, parmesan AND basil??? pollo spinachi yummmm
By Kathl23 - reader Wednesday, 5th of October @ 04:28 am
Vapianos food is excelent. Could not disagree with your review more! After living in Italy im always looking for good Pesto and I have to say they do a pretty damn good job!
By water19 - reader Wednesday, 5th of October @ 05:07 am
I completely agree about Vapiano's. The whole system is annoying. Even if you have no intention of using the card you still have to take it and then give it back. And the food, bland and honestly, not that quick.
By S - reader Thursday, 6th of October @ 03:01 am
The groove train in king george square has to be the worst place for service I've ever been to! 20 minutes before our first drinks came out, 35 minutes for the 2nd round and that was after asking 2 or 3 times for them, and after waiting an HOUR for the food we went up and asked what was taking so long, to find out our order hadn't even been put through to the kitchen. And what did we get for this all this bad service? A laugh from the manager, who couldnt care less.
By sheen13 - reader Monday, 10th of October @ 02:32 am
Agree with the review of the Burrito Bar - I was hugely disappointed with my burrito the first and last time I went there. Completely tasteless! There are lots of good burrito places on the other side of town though: Mad Mex, Guzman Y Gomez, and that other one in Brunswick Central I can't remember the name of right now...
By Michelle Vandermeer - senior reviewer Tuesday, 11th of October @ 04:59 am
Sottile's espresso bar @ ashgrove was terrible - service was appalling. It took half an hour to ask us for our order and AN HOUR to serve our food on a weekday morning. The eggs were so uncooked the white's were clear! They took them back to the kitchen and the owner made a joke of it, but the food and service was so below par (and so not worth the wait) I would never go back.
By sam.j - reader Thursday, 13th of October @ 02:49 am
Merthyr Bowls food is terrible! The old guys where you order your food from is so slow and so rude when you take your food back because your steak isn't cooked. I was there one day we took our steaks back because they were raw the rude guy said they're cooked and we just said just cook them a bit more please and they did but he wasn't happy and rude about it. Then we went inside and within a space of 10 minutes 3 people came back with their food as it wasn't cooked, was measly, poor quality and he was so rude they got their money back and one of the girls who got her money back said, "You don't have to be so rude about it!". I was really appalled to say the least. Great location, great drinks staff but food don't bother and heaven for bid if you questioned them about the food you get your head ripped off, not good guys.
By renee65 - reader Friday, 14th of October @ 12:50 am
I LOVE Vapiano's, yummy food, friendly bar staff and great vibe =]
By lani1 - reader Wednesday, 19th of October @ 11:49 am
I agree and disagree with your comments on Vapiano's yes the system is just wrong - No tables not quick at all and rude chefs that are yes taking short cuts i had an antipasti platter and the Cabonara Both were amazing I wanted to hate the place but I didnt and I think the Basil pots are awesome.... I have been to Smoke about a million times and I agree with you The food isnt that great and so greasy I made the mistake of ordering the onion rings and they came swimming in an ocean of oil. and frankly I think the ribs at Tripple S are better !!!- Ill have to try Burito Bar :P
By tammy - reader Monday, 24th of October @ 12:44 am
Vapianos, has nice food, but who wants to queue up for their food until its cooked. Isnt the idea to order your food and then sit and talk to your friends while the food is cooked and brought to you ? Waste of time
By marga85 - reader Wednesday, 26th of October @ 01:53 am
I love Blue Smoke! The last few times I went there were not sub standard at all. I find there are very rarely terrible places to eat in New Farm.
By Anonymous Wednesday, 26th of October @ 07:11 am
Noticed a couple of votes for Montezuma's so wanted to say a word of support for the Capalaba restaurant. My husband and I go there occasionally and have always found the food good and the staff friendly. We really enjoy our meals there (and I love the Sangria!). One small criticism - the chairs are not very comfortable and we always go for a booth.
By jillr1 - reader Friday, 28th of October @ 06:10 am
Have never had a bad experience at The Burrito Bar. Plus keep in mind, it's very cheap.
As for Vapiano, good to see places coming up with new ideas, however this one is not such a good one. It distracts you from the average tasting food.
Garuva is amazing, but the cocktails are weak and overpriced.
By Anonymous Wednesday, 2nd of November @ 05:00 am
A freaking bottle of Dolmio's pasta sauce tastes better than Vappianos. The food is ridiculously mediocre. I also agree with your comment on the Burrito Bar. I have had burritos from there many times, each time secretly praying that the meat won't be dry and taste like it has been sitting in a bain marie for hours - to no avail.
By Anonymous Tuesday, 8th of November @ 07:18 am
I really dislike the Burrito Bar. I've only been once but that was enough to know the service is half-hearted and the food is ridiculously bland. Even the 'hot' sauce is drinkable. Unfortunately they are in such a great location, my friends have been subject to the same bad experiences one after the other while I can only shake my head in wonder that they stay open. If they were located anywhere else they would have closed months ago.
I've had good and bad experiences with the food at Vapiano. I would never actually choose to go there anymore as I do agree with a previous comment that going to a restaurant should be about sitting down and talking to friends, not standing in line.
By latsirc - reader Wednesday, 9th of November @ 11:21 am
Max Brenner at Southbank. Everyone raves about it but it's just a chocolate theme/gimic. The chocolate and the dessert selections are ordinary and the cues are ridiculous. Give it a wide berth.
By Anonymous Friday, 11th of November @ 10:13 am
I agree with Max Brenner being ordinary. Went yesterday, they mixed up 3 orders within 5 minutes. Cues are ludicrus. My side of Ice-cream was melted. Staff looked ungroomed and dirty. By Debbie
By debc6 - reader Saturday, 12th of November @ 07:16 pm
I love nachos and burritos in Guzman y Gomez (Emporium Fortitude Valley) staff is friendly and the food is quick and also really cheap.
By Anonymous Sunday, 13th of November @ 03:18 am
Fully agree with this!! Burrito Bar and The Smoke are both terrble! Go o Guzman y Gomez if you want a decent burrito fix.
By Anonymous Monday, 5th of December @ 06:12 am
Have to agree with the comment about Groove Train's service. Luckily the food was good. I have heard the same thing about the King George location from another person.
However we went to the Groove Train at the Eagle St Pier. SAME thing happened. Waited forever. Finally went up and asked why we had not yet been served, even though we were the first table in and the place was empty. Then they stuffed up an order. Was told some crap excuse. It was obvious they'd just lost the ticket or forgotten about it. Would rather they had been honest about it (I knew their excuse was BS as my husband is a chef so I actually know how kitchens work!).
Anyway, their saving grace was the food was delicious. The service was pathetic. I wouldn't return simply because of the bad service (lack of!) though.
By weeke - reader Thursday, 8th of December @ 02:24 am
why is a guy who lives in melbourne writing this list? although I agree wholeheartedly with smoke BBQ
By Anonymous Tuesday, 10th of January @ 11:20 am
I would never go back to Vapiano's ever again. The wait for food was ridiculous. At one stage all I wanted to do was step outside for 5 seconds and they wouldn't let me without having to go back to my table getting out my driver's license and handing it over to them, just incase I lost my card but they could clearly see my friend had it who was still inside. Absolutely ridiculous. I have never been so appauled.
By jaime12 - reader Friday, 13th of January @ 12:15 am
The Full Moon Hotel at Sandgate... scene of the best Fawlty Towers impression I have ever witnessed.
A party of 8 ordering breakfast, with only 2 or 3 other tables occupied. My order was completely forgotten, which was a better result than my poor wife's. It meant I could cancel my order in the end and avoid their almost bemusing take on poached eggs. Pro tip, guys: they're meant to be cooked.
While we were waiting, the waittress dropped a coffee on the tiles immediately behind my wife, splashing her with hot coffee and both of our feet with little bits of broken glass. Accidents happen, no worries... but you're supposed to apologise and clean up, not scarper and leave it to us.
How they managed to serve 7 and not 8 orders, and forget how to actually cook eggs (somewhat important in a breakfast of poached eggs, I think), is beyond me.
We won't be going back. Our friends from Redcliffe actually apologised to us for taking us there.
By Anonymous Monday, 6th of February @ 12:54 pm
I have to agree that Garuva restaurant should be on this list! it's terrible. Once upon a time in the early days it was unique with good food an intimate. Now its noisy with stag and hens, people swearing and carrying on and the food abysmal for the price! very disappointing.
By mwilt - reader Sunday, 4th of March @ 11:32 pm
The absolute worst food I have ever encountered in Brisbane was at the Shingle Inn at Westfield Chermside. Horrific, and expensive. The dishes were dirty, the toast was burnt, the avocado brown and smelly, and the "bacon" was actually ham. Just shocking.
By slatt - reader Saturday, 17th of March @ 12:39 pm
The above is why I rarely eat out these days. For the money we pay, not only the food must be good but the whole experience. Being vegetarian, some places look at me as though I've alighted from a spaceship - for goodness' sake guys, there are thousands of us around - get with the program! Not to worry, though, it's not just in Brisbane. I just got back from Melbourne where an Asian place on Chapel Street did a very mediocre dinner and an abomination of a Brandy Alexander which I sent back. If you are going to advertise cocktails, you need to know how to make them!
By Anonymous Thursday, 22nd of March @ 07:50 am
Agreed, Groove Train at Eagle Street is one of the worst restaurants I have ever been too. Expensive, average food and poor/slow service. I was short changed TWICE by one of the staff members, who then proceeded to yell unprovoked profanities. Just all up embarrassing and disgusting. The manager made an attempt to apologise, but it was too little too late. Save yourself the hassle and eat somewhere else.
By Emilie Rosa - senior reviewer Tuesday, 10th of April @ 05:00 am
this is why i dine at sizzler. reasonable, all you can eat and service is always friendly. i have to say though i do agree with the full moon restaurant at sangate, the hype about their woodfired pizza's is fanominal but to be honest, i dont think they are that great. we got 5 different ones between us and the bases were that crisp it could rip a tooth out. not much toppings, could see more of the base than the toppings and way overpriced. was quite disapointing really. great locatation though if you just want to go out for a drink or two.
By jenas - reader Wednesday, 18th of April @ 02:31 am
proscuitto is not meant to be cooked on pizza!
By Anonymous Friday, 4th of May @ 06:29 am
Breakfast Creek -- just too crowded for me. Hey - - maybe that means its good. mmm
By dizzi - reader Friday, 4th of May @ 07:41 am
Worst cafe would have to be Bespoke at the Queensland Museum, my family of 5 were overcharged on 3 items including bottles of soft drink, my son's meal was cold and my mother and I were unable to eat our stale sandwiches. When we complained, there was no apology, only advised it was the guy on the register's first day. We took a refund at went to the cafe at QPAC instead.
By Jenny Bayly - senior reviewer Wednesday, 30th of May @ 11:10 pm
After a long awaited wait my partner finally surprised me that we were going to dinner at blue smoke.
Before we even got in the front door the waiter was standing out the front being quite rude to my partner so we didn't even go.
Very rude restaurant. Terrible.
By ripmu - reader Friday, 1st of June @ 09:57 pm
Blue Smoke has certainly declined in food and service quality in the last 6 months. I was embarrassed to recommend it to my friends last week.
By Anonymous Monday, 25th of June @ 11:55 pm
jade buddha - my partner and I were dragged here for a birthday party.
shared a meal as the food look quite mediocre and so glad we did, it was so generic. Full of hens night pre-dinners.
By chant - reader Wednesday, 27th of June @ 10:59 am
So true about Vapiano, I even got severe food poisoning and was throwing up for three days non stop. Never went back.
By Anonymous Saturday, 30th of June @ 05:19 am
Toscani's at Westfield Garden City is grossly over rated: Went on a Sunday, well after lunch time, about 2:15pm which meant the restaurant was not at all busy - about 4 tables might have been occupied. We were just the two of us and were only there for a quick meal between shopping. Despite trying to get the attention of passing waitresses, no one came to take our orders for about the first 25 minutes. Finally my husband got up to go tot he counter to order and was sent back as the board said Table service. The waitress appreared shortly after that and took our orders. it took about 40 minutes for our meal of chicken breast and an open grill and 2 drinks to be served and the food was terribly bland. when i asked for some extra cracked pepper, it never appeared and i had to go to another table to get myself some pepper. the chicken breast was dry and we suspect quite old. Definitely a place to avoid...
By nshve - reader Monday, 2nd of July @ 01:19 am
Agreed about Garuva in the valley... use to be good around 12 years ago! went again a couple of times to give them the benefit of the doubt and it was embarrassing having taken friends to it. Toscanis at Garden City is also a must avoid... hygiene seems to be out the window and the service is appalling.
By mwilt - reader Wednesday, 11th of July @ 11:39 pm
Agree about Toscani's. I went there when it first opened with my wife. It was virtually empty, had no atmosphere but it still took nearly an hour for us to order and receive our mediocre meals. Staff were so rude we vowed never to go back.
But, last month we did. We had interstate visitors and a spare hour for a quick, nice lunch. We hoped our first impressions were due to the restaurant being new. But, alas, they had perfected their slowness, blandness of food and rudeness. The chicken and avocado on turkish bread my daughter ordered was on a bread role and when we complained about the lack of avocado we were told rudely they had run out. There was no egg on the club sandwich (supposedly that's not how they do them??) and at least half the meals we ordered were not as specified on the menu. But, staff did not want to hear about it. They should have paid me for copping their abuse. I still shake my head in shame that I actually paid the bill. I should have just got up and left at the first bit of rudeness. But...when you have visitors you just try and politely smile these things away. Maybe that's how Toscani's is still in business.
By Anonymous Thursday, 12th of July @ 01:02 am
Beach Bar and Grill in the Myer Centre in the city.
Twice i have been there, and twice it was a terrible meal.
The first time I went, my dining buddy and I ordered burgers. The bun was stale, and the meat patty was undercooked. The entire burger had a strange taste to it. My buddy sent an email to them, complaining about the meal, but never received a reply.
I went again a year later with 2 friends. This time, our order took about 40 minutes. Turns out only 1 of the orders had been put through properly. Still, that 1 order had taken 40 minutes. At least the person in charge gave us a round of drinks for free as an apology.
The food tasted a bit better this time around, but again, the patty was a bit undercooked on the burgers.
By Anonymous Thursday, 12th of July @ 01:33 pm
Disagree about Smoke BBQ in New Farm. The service has been excellent, the food is excellent and the prices are reasonable.
By Chook77 - reader Friday, 20th of July @ 03:51 am
There is only one mexican restaurant to go to in Briabane - Dos Amigos in Taringa. It's great. Leaves the others in the dust.
By Anonymous Saturday, 4th of August @ 07:43 am
I don't mind paying good money to eat out so long as food and service is good not too many places can do both also it is extremely expensive to eat out in brisbane Coffee club at market place underwood terrible food and service beach house garden city terrible food Runcorn tavern had under cooked fish and when I complained they recooked (pretended to ) same piece I complained again and they didn't replace my meal as my friend had finished hers so they gave me a free $2 salad bar terrible
By daltm - reader Friday, 3rd of May @ 06:33 am
Vapianos is still disappointing
By May Cross - senior reviewer Saturday, 22nd of July @ 10:50 pm