I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
Published February 16th 2017
Why wouldn't you go there?
8 am on a busy, traffic-congested Wednesday morning saw me arriving for a breakfast date with my daughters at what, on face value, is an unlikely breakfast destination — an industrial complex on Lytton Road at Morningside. But don't let the industrial surrounds fool you. Vivo Coffee, in the best tradition of 'Don't judge a book by its cover', is a character-filled cafe with great coffee, friendly staff, tasty breakfast offerings and industrial-chic ambience.
In the last few years Brisbane has been undergoing a quiet and very stylish Renaissance and if you haven't been looking you might have missed it. Shopping centres, retail hubs and even stylishly renewed urban spaces are no longer the exclusive domicile of cafes, art galleries, design, vintage and antique stores. Instead, these imaginative eateries and shops have been invading the city's industrial heartland and that juxtaposition has made Brisbane and its suburbs far more interesting, indeed. And I've just added Vivo Cafe to my list of industrial favourites.
The Vivo cafe sits side by side with the business's coffee wholesaling operation (but more of that later) at Unit 4 – 387 Lytton Road, Morningside, just opposite the Colmslie Recreational Reserve. Their opening hours are Monday to Friday 6am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday 7am to 1pm.
Even at 8am the place was jumping with sit-down eaters occupying the timber tables and replica Tolix chairs, as well as a steady stream of takeaway customers that continued throughout our visit. You just know that a place is doing something good when locals give it their seal of approval. Queues of tradies and office workers appeared to be doing just that at Vivo, adding to the lively atmosphere.
We took our seats at a table for three and perused the menu — cute printed pages tied together with string — which offered an interesting breakfast selection and a wide range of beverage options. Drink standouts included healthy super smoothies ($9) and cold pressed juices with names like the Popeye (spinach? check), the Weasley (ginger AND orange) and the Lisa Simpson ($7.50 each). Teas are from the renowned Byron Bay Tea Company.
But we were there for the coffee and to make sure we experienced it in all its forms we had it three ways - Iced Mocha with cream and ice cream, Iced Latte (both $5) and a Cappuccino (great value at $3.50 a cup if you dine in). The iced mocha, especially, was a picture in a jar, drizzled with chocolate topping, topped with whipped cream and pieces of home-made blondie and with icy condensation dripping down the glass. Yummm.
The coffees were all their signature Verona blend, which was smooth and delightful. It incorporates beans from Colombia, Kenya, Indonesia and Ethiopia and was rich, velvety and flavoursome. I'm no coffee connoisseur, but I can vouch for its description of "distinct chocolate notes and an underlying nutty earthiness".
We ordered our breakfasts — a Breakfast Wrap (bacon, egg, avocado, salad and relish for $12.90), Frittata of the Day (with salad for $10 or $6.50 by itself), and Smashed Avo (with fetta, red onion, rocket, house-made dukkah and lemon-infused olive oil for $12.50) — and settled back to savour our coffees and enjoy the decor. Extras can be added to any of the meals and include delicious offerings such as beetroot relish, roasted tomatoes, grilled halloumi, potato and roast garlic rosti, and Irish bacon, which very reasonably range in price from $2 to $4.80.
It's a smallish space but they had me at the get-go with their polished aggregate concrete floors (a particular design favourite of mine). The look also included industrial lighting, a stunning reclaimed timber door, and a rather interesting wall mural incorporating those timeless comic characters, Asterix and Obelix. In a highly original touch the mural also features caricatures of staff and customers. Since our visit they have added a faux garden wall.
There was a stylish dresser in one corner housing tea products, and coffee products and accessories on display at the counter. Each table held cutlery in a vintage tin and a mini milk bottle with a deep-red rose. It was industrial and vintagey, but also original, and we loved it all.
We all enjoyed our breakfasts and were impressed with their value for money, especially compared to some other cafes where we've eaten similar items with much higher price tags. Their presentation on large white, blue-banded plates was also a highlight. My younger daughter's breakfast wrap was huge and overflowing with tasty fillings. She loves avocado and was convinced it must have contained a whole one. My smashed avo brekky was tangy and citrusy with plenty of salty fetta. My older daughter's frittata was accompanied by a scrumptious salad of roasted potato, pumpkin, greens and quinoa, which she thoroughly enjoyed but which ultimately defeated her.
I mentioned earlier that Vivo has a wholesale coffee business as well. Coffee roasting is done offsite but the wholesale business operates behind the reclaimed timber door. Vivo currently services more than 200 wholesale customers from Taree in the south to Thursday Island in the north, and it's not hard to see why. You (yes, you at home or at the office) can also purchase a wide range of coffees and coffee products online here. I'm placing an order for that smooth Verona blend as soon as I finish writing this article.
Our breakfast experience at Vivo was a superior one. I've so far neglected to mention the service. It was first rate — friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. We were well looked after by Zoe and the team. Great food, service, coffee, decor and ambience? Count me in. To borrow from that ubiquitous real estate advertisement doing the rounds on TV at the moment — Why wouldn't you go there?.