We prefer dishes with a twist to the routine brunch staples, so despite the lack of reviews, the menu of Cafe Impero Central was enough to entice us to try them out.
Located in the Mount Gravatt shopping stretch on Logan Road, it doesn’t quite stand out from the road. When you walk past, you can read the name on the glass, but again, it is quite understated. We knew where we were headed though, so found our way there without issue. (Note, however, that Google Maps currently has both a “Cafe Impero Central” and a “Caffe Impero”, with both a couple of blocks apart. Caffe Impero is where Cafe Impero Central actually is. To avoid confusion, entering the actual address might be the safer option.)
We were enthusiastically greeted as we looked at the menu displayed on one of the outside tables. Along with the menu we had seen online (always worth checking that the dishes you think you will be able to have are actually available), there was also a menu advertising a Taiwanese bento box. This was an interesting prospect, and we filed it away for a possible future meal.
There was the option of indoor or outdoor seating. We decided to sit indoors, away from the traffic noise of Logan Road, even though it wasn’t the peak busy time of day. The interior was a simply decorated space, with modern decor elements like hanging round mirrors on the off-white walls. Light wood-coloured tables and chairs and the polished concrete floor continued the theme. The colour palette was kept neutral, with black and grey cushions at the bench seats along one wall. There was a softening hint of colour from the occasional blush pink sugar jar amongst the other stone grey ones at the tables. Although it wasn’t a particularly large seating space, it didn’t feel cramped or cluttered.
A mix of easy listening pop played softly in the background. It was audible, but not intrusive. Both the airconditioning and fans were running to keep the place cool on a warm day.
Menus sat at some of the tables, or could be obtained from the counter. Paper sheets with the menu items were held together by cork clipboards. It was simple, but worked. Breakfast items were on one page, lunch items on another, and drink options on a third. There was definitely a South East Asian spin on a number of the dishes, and beverages like the matcha latte and taro milk tea (although the latter is a somewhat more distinguishing feature in these days of generally increasing matcha popularity) on the drink menu echoed that.
After deciding what we would have, we approached the service counter to place our orders. A gleaming coffee machine took up a significant footprint on the counter, and a glass cabinet to the right held pastries, cakes, and other light items. Amongst the cabinet items were croissants that we were sure would form part the the dishes we ordered. The menu items that had swayed our decision to try Cafe Impero Central out were the Indonesian Beef Rendang Croissant and the Satay Chicken Croissant, and we decided to stick to our original choices.
We had already had coffees elsewhere before this, so only ordered one drink, a piccolo. This had good strength and flavour, with a licorice undertone in the finish. As indicated by the many bags of beans behind the counter, they use Forza blend beans from Veneziano roasters.
The Satay Chicken Croissant was the first dish brought out. It was listed in the menu as having satay chicken with scrambled eggs, peanut sauce, avocado, and hollandaise sauce, on a croissant, of course. The top half of the croissant sat a little askew, revealing the layers of scambled eggs, chicken, and beansprouts that covered the bottom half of the croissant. Halved cherry tomatoes and drizzles of sauce provided garnish and decoration on the plate. A couple of minutes after that was delivered to the table, another little bowl was brought out, and it was explained that this was the satay sauce that went with the dish. We suspected that they meant hollandaise instead though, as it was also brought out for the other dish. We had been a little wary of how the croissants would turn out, as ones that looked similar in other cafes were sometimes just a chewy, if buttery, bread. The croissant had been toasted though, so it was crisp and flaky. While it didn’t have a Lune croissant‘s loft and serially shattering layers, it did the job pretty well. The chicken pieces were tender, and coated with a good amount of the satay sauce. The satay sauce was done for a more westernised palate though, a bit more on the sweet side than nutty and savoury. The scrambled eggs were fluffy, and made the dish more filling. It was a good idea for them to serve the hollandaise sauce on the side, as it did make the croissant soggy after a while. Used judiciously though, it helped the other ingredients meld together.
The other dish was the Indonesian Beef Rendang Croissant, which had slow cooked beef with coconut milk, nuts, spinach, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce with the croissant. This was presented similarly, but with a green sauce that had a zesty kick circling the croissant on the plate instead. Sandwiched between the croissant halves were the beef rendang and a couple of poached eggs, topped with green pea shoots. This too was accompanied by a small bowl of the hollandaise sauce. Beef rendang is a dry, rather than saucy curry. Still, we had it without adding the hollandaise sauce, so as not to dilute the flavour. The beef pulled apart easily. The sauce had a lovely coconutty, sweet and salty, spice-layered richness. It didn’t pack chilli heat though, so those who aren’t used to spicy food don’t need to worry. Pieces of fried garlic in the mix gave it the occasional extra aromatic kick. The owners told us that they make their sauces themselves, rather than using pre-made bottled or packet sauces, and a couple of keffir lime leaves we found in our serving of the beef rendang would attest to that. The poached eggs had runny yolks. While both croissant dishes were tasty, we preferred the Beef Rendang one for its richer flavours.
Overall, we enjoyed the dishes we had at Cafe Impero Central. It has a number of similarities to Uncle Lai’s, which is just a couple of doors down. In both instances, they are unpretentious eateries that serve delicious food. Uncle Lai’s clearly excels at Malaysian food. While the owners of Cafe Impero Central are Taiwanese, we thought they delivered the South East Asian flavours in the dishes well. It is certainly worth visiting for brunch that is a bit different. They are currently open for breakfast and lunch, but will also be open for dinners soon, so keep your eyes out for their dinner offerings.
Price point: Breakfast items $15 to $23 (for more than eggs on toast). Lunch items $15 to $16. The croissants we had were $18 each.
Address: Shop 3, 1395 Logan Road, Mount Gravatt
Phone: 0408 009 885
Website: Cafe Impero Central