Jacu Espresso is a bustling little cafe in Norman Park. We were looking for brunch while in the area, and its good ratings for coffee proved to be the clincher. Located along busy Bennetts Road, nabbing parking was a bit of a challenge.
The signage was quite easily visible on the approach, white lettering against a periwinkle-blue background on the front gable of the building. There tables under the covered area in front of the cafe were already occupied. Most of the tables inside were also filled when we wandered in, evidence of its popularity. We managed to find ourselves a table, nonetheless. After a while, a bottle of slightly cool water and cups were brought to the table.
The inside of the cafe is quite a small space. It has a number of distressed wood tables that fit two, and can be joined together to fit larger groups. There are also counter seats along the front window with taller orange and yellow metal stools. An intermittent breeze came through the open door. There were no visible fans that would keep the air moving on a still day though.
There were a lot of people for the area. Folk pop music played over the speakers. It was louder than the background noise, and could be heard over other voices, so that quite often you were straining to be heard over it and the surrounding people when you were trying to have a conversation.
It wasn’t clear, but as it turned out, it was counter service. You peruse the single page menu on the clipboard at the table, then go to the counter to order and pay. There was also a slip of paper with the weekend special attached to the clipboard. From the menu, we picked the pea and herb falafel, and the beetroot cured salmon.
The coffees arrived first, of course. The flat white was fairly strong, and had bright flavour notes.
The soy iced latte had a nicely mellow flavour, with a hint of burnt caramel. It had good strength of flavour despite the paleness.
The pea and herb falafel dish had grilled haloumi, minted labne, chilli jam, a poached egg, and toasted flat bread. The falafel were soft, and melt-in-your-mouth, which is not often a falafel descriptor. They weren’t grainy at all, unlike what you generally get. They were good with the fresh basil leaves, which added sweetness. The haloumi was perfectly cooked, so they were still soft on the inside as opposed to rubbery. They provided a savoury hit to each mouthful. There were also dollops of sweet chutney underneath the other ingredients. It all went together well.
The other dish was beetroot cured salmon, toasted rye, pickled onion, dill creme fraiche, poached eggs, picked herbs, and fennel. The salmon had a vibrant rosy colour without any pickly beetroot taste. There was creaminess and tartness from the creme fraiche. Once again there were fresh herb flavours, this time from the dill and parsley. Hidden peppercorns provided a surprise punch of heat, without being overwhelming. The poached egg had an appropriately runny yolk. The toasted bread had a crunchy crust, so it was a good mix of textures and flavours.
Service was the one letdown here. Did we feel welcome? No. Staff seemed to bustle around us, rarely making eye contact. Smiles were few and far between. They were pretty efficient, but warmth was missing.
Overall, we enjoyed the food and coffee at Jacu Espresso. The atmosphere and staffing, less so. Perhaps it was an off day, and perhaps another visit will fare better.
Total : 5/8
Price point: Brunch items $12.50 to $18 for items more substantial than chia pudding.
Address: 172 Bennetts Rd, Norman Park
Phone: 0419 420 006
Website: Jacu Espresso