We are always on the lookout for new gems, so decided to pay Blue Bear Coffeehouse in New Farm a visit. It has taken over the shoplot that used to be occupied by Little Pantry, on one corner of a roundabout on James Street (a little away away from the busy section).
It has a laidback, neighbourhood store feel. Light coloured walls offset the dark wooden floors of the compact inside space. The service counter just across from the entrance is covered in a red brick-look paper that continues the rustic look and adds a warm hue to the colour palette. A glass cabinet built into the service counter holds an assortment of cakes, for those after lighter treats. There was a stack of menus at the counter, and a blackboard behind the counter with some specials written up on it in chalk. You are meant to order and pay at the counter, but we took a couple of menus to a table to peruse the options.
On one of the walls is a blue-shaded bear with a fishing rod, holding up a cup of coffee on the end of the line, possibly the Blue Bear namesake of the eatery. A long wooden bench seat runs along that wall, with classic french cafe-style tables with wrought iron legs, and wooden stools matched against that. Patterned blue cushions on the bench seat matched the blue of the wall behind the counter.
There was more seating outside, under the covered area wrapping around the front of the building, but we opted to stay indoors. A breeze came through the open door. A fan over the entrance doorway kept air moving. There was an air conditioning unit behind the service counter that presumably would be used when the weather got hotter. It was not too bad when we were there though. Strains of older music played over the stereo, doo wop and blues style tunes that transported you back in time.
The menu, on the single side of an A4 sized sheet, held a mix of options. It had brunch classics like avocado on toast, savoury mince, granola, and a version of a big breakfast. There were also some different dishes, like a cuban sub, a sticky pork belly dish, and quesadillas. The Waffle Benedict was an easy first decision, and we eventually chose the Chicken Quesadilla as our other dish. It being a coffee house, we also ordered coffees, of course.
The soy iced latte was served in a pineapple-shaped glass, and looked fetching with a red and white paper straw. The proportion of coffee to milk did cause us some hesitation though, and when mixed through, it did turn out to not be particularly strong. The coffee was barely perceptible over the soy milk.
The flat white fared better, with good texture and strength. More complexity and fruity notes had been hoped for in the flavour though. We noted that in line with the bear theme, they used Bear Bones coffee.
The Waffle Benedict was listed in the menu as having Belgian waffle, crispy smoked bacon, halloumi, spinach, poached eggs, and smoked hollandaise. It was simply presented on the plate, with the components just placed atop each other. The Belgian waffle was at the bottom of the dish. We tested it first, and found it pleasantly crisp outside, with a sugary glaze. It was not too dense or stodgy. The poached eggs sitting on top of them were covered with a buttery hollandaise with a little tanginess. It had some heat from the chilli powder sprinkled over it, but there wasn’t really a smoky note, and we wouldn’t have known that there was meant to have been a smoky flavour to it if we hadn’t read it in the menu. The halloumi was nicely cooked, so it had a good spring to it, and gave the dish a salty kick. The bacon was mostly soft rather than crispy, but given that we don’t like our bacon overcooked, that wasn’t really a bad thing. Had together, the components made the sweet and salty combination one expected from reading the menu.
The Chicken Quesadilla had slow cooked chipotle chicken, avocado, cheddar cheese, corn salsa, and sour cream. This too was plated simply, the two quesedilla fans just overlapping each other on the plate, with beige sauze zigzagged on top. There was a good amount of filling between the tortillas, with the avocado and melted cheese helping things meld together well. We did feel like it needed a bit more seasoning, which was accomplished with a few turns of the salt grinder at the table, but otherwise found it a tasty mix.
While the dishes at Blue Bear Coffeehouse weren’t particularly photogenic, the flavours carried through quite well. The combinations in the dishes were not really revolutionary, but there is enough range in the menu offerings that there should be something in it to appeal to most diners. It does fine for a neighbourhood spot. Our main gripe would be that for a place that called itself a coffee house, the coffee wasn’t that great. Hopefully that improves with time.
Price point: $14 to $20 for items more substantial than eggs on toast. Our dishes $17 each.
Value: Not bad for New Farm.
Address: 92 James Street, New Farm
Phone: 0405 179 153
Website: Blue Bear Coffeehouse