The PawPaw Cafe has been in Woolloongabba for years, and the last time we were there was, literally, years ago. The PawPaw Cafe was there before Brisbane began to actually have a brunch scene, and we were curious to see how it had held up. Since that time, it has had quite a revamp under new owners, going from being a space at the back of Green Papaya restaurant to taking over the whole area.
A chalkboard sign near the entrance welcomed patrons to PawPaw, and another instructed that they should wait to be seated. The exterior of the building was a bright, clean white, and the same shade carried on to the ceiling inside.
The interior styling definitely has a Hamptons feel, with the cool white of the ceiling, bentwood chairs, and hanging woven lampshades offsetting the otherwise dark navy blue walls. The wooden floorboards and tables added warmer hues. A blue and green mural with palm trees along one wall gives it a tropical, but not discordant, note.
There was actually quite a large seating space, sprawling across a couple of rooms, so despite it being a rather bustling brunch time, staff were able to show us to an available table. Menus were brought out, turquoise-coloured booklets that held pages of dishes with a mix of western and various asian influences, spanning breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. There was also a leaflet on the front listing a weekend special.
We were initially tempted to try some of their asian-influenced dishes, like the Rendang Pasta or the Pad Thai (done with Korean sweet potato noodles), but tend to find ourselves a little leary of versions of dishes that we can get at a better price from Sunnybank. We eventually narrowed our choices down to the weekend special and the German Breakfast.
The setup of the eatery was pretty, and had a relaxing feel, but what we found the longer we sat there was that it trapped noise. The music playing over the speakers was initially laid back, indie pop, but then they changed it to dance music with a persistent base beat. That, with the voices from other tables, meant that it got so noisy that you couldn’t even hear conversation at your own table. That probably exacerbated things, as everyone became louder to try to make themselves heard.
Drinks arrived first. The flat white was strong and smooth, with no bitterness. It was slightly fruity, and had nutty notes.
The iced matcha was served in a glass, with the matcha visibly settled right at the bottom. Nothing was provided to be able to mix it through, and as we weren’t able to catch the attention of any of the waitstaff, we had to resort to the uncouth move of stirring it with a knife (cutlery was already at the table, at least). The matcha refused to mix though, and seconds after stopping stirring, the clumps sank back down to the bottom. The drink tasted like seaweed, with a salty note. It was not pleasant at all, and was a terrible disappointment. This reinforced that one should definitely be wary of matcha drinks from non-asian establishments, as while they may jump on the bandwagon, there is little understanding of how to prepare matcha or what flavours it is meant to have. (See Sonder Dessert, B+C Lab Cafe, or Cafe Artease for examples of how matcha should be done.)
The weekend special was listed as a Mushroom and leek croquette tower with a parmesan basket, salad, and poached eggs. “Tower” was an inaccurate description, as the croquettes were just laid out on the plate, without even an attempt at making a stack of them. They were crumbed and crunchy on the outside, at least. The inside of the croquettes had mushroom and leek in a creamy sauce. The brown sauce striped over them was slightly sweet, but the croquettes themselves were very mildly flavoured, and needed much more seasoning. The croquettes were placed on a blob of yellow hollandaise sauce. This was smooth and a little sour, but didn’t really go with the croquettes. Broken off bits of the parmesan basket added much-needed saltiness, but it still wasn’t enough. The parmesan basket did start off crispy, but we would advise eating it soon, as it soon softened and became chewy, due to the salad on it. The salad had rocket, tomatoes, and radish slices..and was a salad. It didn’t stand out in either content or flavour, and seemed to just be there to fill space on the plate. This was not a good dish, and we would not recommend it.
The German Breakfast had twice cooked pork belly with potato, honey mustard aioli, rocket, fried shallot, and German bratwurst sausage on garlic naan bread. We have to say, it was underwhelming when presented. It was priced as a big breakfast, but certainly not served as one. It looked like a stingy serving on the plate, all the listed components placed on one round, about hand-sized (not a large hand) piece of flat bread. The naan was doughy and dense, more like store-bought pita bread than a fluffy, fresh naan. There was no discernible garlic taste to it. The bratwurst sausage was savoury, and not gristly, but there was just one small sausage on the plate, cut in half. The pork belly pieces were at least tender, with just crisped skin. The potato pieces were soft, and had the sweet seeded mustard aioli on them, so that they weren’t too dry. This was a dish that could have worked if the naan bread had been made properly, and if there was more than just a token amount of each element on the plate.
Overall, we unfortunately found more misses than hits at the PawPaw Cafe. Perhaps the weekend special was rushed and less well-planned than intended (for whatever reason), but the German Breakfast is a regular item on their menu, and should have been better executed. The matcha was also a definite never again. The PawPaw Cafe has been around for some years, but other brunch eateries have sprung up in that time, and the bar has been raised. It may be another few years before we return.
Setting: 1/2 (at risk of scoring less, due to the noise.)
Price point: Brunch items $14.90 to $20.90 for things more substantial than spreads or eggs on toast. Lunch items $17.90 to $22.90.
Value: Not good.
Address: 898 Stanley Street East, Woolloongabba
Phone: 07 3891 5100
Website: PawPaw Cafe