How to Spend 48 Hours in Brisbane

If you had to pick somewhere other than Sydney or Melbourne to visit, where would you go? Would you go to Queensland? If you’re in Australia, you need to visit the Sunshine state at least once in your life. There’s many places to go whether you’re looking for relaxed beach vibes (a la Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast), nature (Cairns/Great Barrier Reef) or navigating through cities, which you can do plenty of in Brisbane.

I found myself in Brisbane over the last New Year’s weekend. Based on a bit of research and my own experiences, I put together a small guide for you for places to eat, stay and things to do.

> WHERE TO EAT <

> Miss Jones (New Farm): No travel guide on Latte & Luxe can be published without including at least one cafe. Or any recommendation for coffee shops for that matter. Miss Jones is the place for you if you like classic brunch dishes that are healthy yet indulgent at the same time. It’s arguably one of the most Instagrammable cafes of Brisbane. Everything about it screams “picture-worthy”, from the neon sign, millennial pink walls and coffee cups to the ‘Excuse Me Miss’ imprint embedded on the ground out the front.

Latte & Luxe - Miss Jones, Brisbane (cafe) - coffee cup

Latte & Luxe - Miss Jones, Brisbane - green breakfast bowl - cafe

Latte & Luxe - Miss Jones (Brisbane cafe) - coffee cup

> Miss Bliss Whole Foods Kitchen (West End): Go here if you’re either trying to stay on track with your health, or if you just want food that’s both pretty and incredibly delicious! For anyone who’s gluten-free or has other dietary needs, Miss Bliss is filled with options for you. Describe images/bread. The cafe lives up to its name so whether you sit inside close to the kitchen or on the verandah near the garden, I guarantee you a moment of bliss.

Latte & Luxe - Miss Bliss Whole Foods Kitchen - Brisbane - cafeEat Street Northshore (Hamilton): Every weekend in Hamilton, many Brisbane locals venture out to try a plethora of street food. You can find food from all different parts of the world and watch a little bit of live music. Your FOMO levels will be up so high you’ll want to book a plane ticket for another weekend! If I could tell you ONE thing to try, it would be the Korean fusion pancakes at A-Meri Soul. They look a little more like tacos, but they don’t skimp on the Korean flavours (think bulgogi and honey soy). Get yourself some ice-cream tacos too if you’re craving something sweet to wash it down!

Latte & Luxe - Eat Street Northshore, Brisbane

Latte & Luxe - Eat Street Northshore, Brisbane

Latte & Luxe - Eat Street Northshore, Brisbane - A-Meri Seoul Korean fusion pancakes

> WHERE TO STAY <

Latte & Luxe - Bakery Lane, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Latte & Luxe - Bakery Lane, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Latte & Luxe - Bakery Lane, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

> Spring Hill: Spring Hill is an ideal location if you’re looking for somewhere convenient and a little less expensive. The neighbourhood is about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the city centre, 15 minutes to Southbank and 20 minutes to the Botanical Gardens and Eagle Street Pier. It’s also home to Roma Street Parklands, a very huge and whimsical garden perfect for picnics or a morning jog.

> Fortitude Valley: “The Valley” is the token ‘hip’ neighbourhood of Brisbane. This is the best place to stay if you’re looking to talk to more local people and hop across a variety of restaurants, bars and clubs. You’ll also find Bakery Lane – somewhat of a hipster mix of retail establishments but home to I Heart Brownies, known to produce the best brownies of Brisbane (they were unfortunately closed when I was there!).

> WHAT TO DO <

> Shopping: Queen Street Mall is the centre for all things shopping. You’ll find your typical clothing and department stores here, as well as the odd gift shop. If you’re looking for something a little more luxe and upmarket, head over to James Street in Fortitude Valley. It’s filled with designer boutiques, locally handmade gifts and a market for fresh and organic Australian produce.

> My favourite find: Do you like secondhand bookstores? Bent Books in West End is one of the best I’ve seen. They have a large, carefully curated range of books to choose from. There’s even a patio and shed with more hidden books!

Latte & Luxe - Bent Books, Brisbane (West End) - bookstore

Latte & Luxe - Bent Books, Brisbane (West End) - bookstore

> Walk through the Botanical Gardens: Brisbane’s gardens are filled with frangipanis! It’s one of the most spacious parts of the city and can give you uninterrupted views of the Brisbane River. This is also a popular spot to go bike riding. You can hire a bike from anywhere in the city centre. The first 30 minutes are free, and then a small fee is taken from a deposit every hour or so afterwards. For someone like me who’s not great at bike riding (to say the least), it was definitely worth trying.

Latte & Luxe - Botanical Gardens, Brisbane

> Explore Southbank: Southbank is to Brisbane as the Opera House is to Sydney, or the Eiffel Tower to Paris. Check out Streets Beach – it’s the only beach in Brisbane. Although it’s man-made, you can surround yourself with all sorts of tropical plants and get a brilliant view of the cityscape. Southbank is also home to the Gallery of Modern Art. Entry is free, so you may as well go and expand your mind a little. P.S. Here’s a pic of the midnight fireworks over Southbank – not bad, hey?

Latte & Luxe - New Year's Eve fireworks Southbank, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

So tell me…

Have you been to Brisbane? Where would you go if you only had 48 hours to spend?

Four of Toronto's Best Cafes

What’s your country’s stereotype? Everyone says the Canadians have a reputation for being extra-friendly, nice people. Even in the big city of Toronto (a.k.a. the six, t-dot or whatever you want to call it), I found this to be very true.

I was in Toronto in July last year visiting one of my closest friends. By the way, she’s one of the friendliest and kindest people I know (and I’m not just saying that in the hopes she’s reading this!). The both of us share a love of cafe culture and coffee and set out to find some of the best of the 6. If you’re looking for a cup of coffee or somewhere to go for brunch in Toronto, here are a handful of the places we’ve both liked:

Versus Coffee <

Latte & Luxe: rainbow coffee at Versus Coffee, Toronto (Canada)

The baristas at Versus are experts in brewing the elusive, unashamedly hipster rainbow coffee. Are you skeptical? Give it a try anyway – the coffee is just as good as any Brooklyn joint and you’ll wish there were rainbow bagels to go with it! The coffee is the only rainbow you’ll find at Versus, but you can order some pastries and toasts to go with it.

If you’re a Toronto local working in the Financial District, taking your coffee break at Versus is a good decision. The cafe is small and laidback with an outdoor patio to sit and watch people go by or even have a meeting and catch-up.

Baddies <

Latte & Luxe: smashed avocado at Baddies, Toronto (cafe in Canada)

Latte & Luxe: Baddies, Toronto (Cafe in Canada)

Latte & Luxe: not smashed avo at Baddies, Toronto (cafe in Canada)

More and more Aussies are trading in their surfboards and sunshine for skiing gear and snow. A couple of these Aussies took a detour and opened their own cafe near the Bloor metro. Once you step inside, you’ll instantly feel like you’re right by Bondi Beach.

Baddies, like its namesake, is ironic and sassy – and so is their menu. I mean, a dish with the name “not smashed avo” can’t be described as anything else. Other Aussie favourites include the brekky roll and if you’re craving something sweet, the chia pudding and French toast is worth a try.

> Fika <

Latte & Luxe: coffee cup at Fika, Toronto (Cafe in Canada)

Latte & Luxe: Fika, Toronto (cafe in Canada)

Latte & Luxe: Fika, Toronto (cafe in Canada)

The Fika lifestyle is a desirable one and you can find it right in the middle of the Kensington markets. Bring a book, bring your laptop or whatever you choose and take a break from the day-to-day stresses and routines. I promise you that you won’t find anywhere else like it in Toronto. The walls of the interior are covered with pages and pages of books. Are you looking for inspiration in your life? I’m willing to bet you can find some here – whether you’ve got a creative side or not.

If you want a home away from home, step outside and drink your coffee outside in the garden. There’s even a hammock (though spilling your drink is highly likely if that’s where you choose to sit)! But if you’re not craving a coffee, there’s a wide range of specialty teas you can choose from, including sakura rose and lemon ginger rooibos.

> Early Bird Coffee and Kitchen <

Latte & Luxe: Early Bird Coffee & Kitchen, Toronto Canada

Latte & Luxe: beetroot hummus and avocado on toast at Early Bird Coffee & Kitchen (Toronto, Canada)

An “early bird” pun is all too tempting when this place comes to mind. Seriously though, you may want to think about going a little earlier to grab a seat as soon as you can! There’s a minimalist vibe to Early Bird, with a few plants and a trendy neon sign to jazz up the interior.

When I was here I actually had a difficult time trying to decide what I felt like eating – every single option on the menu sounded amazing and fresh! Eventually I settled on the beetroot hummus and avocado toast and my God it was one of the best brunch meals I’ve ever had. Don’t believe me yet? Check out their Instagram feed and you’ll see what else they can do to make your brunch that little bit extra. They’re right in the centre of the city so there’s no excuses for missing out on trying this cafe, at least for the coffee.

So tell me…

Have you been to Toronto? What are you favourite places?

(Also – a major thank you to Kitty who has taken some of the pictures in this post!)

The 10 Best Places in Madrid for a Coffee Fix

Latte & Luxe: interior "Warriors love coffee" at Toma Cafe, Madrid

Latte & Luxe: coffee (cafe con leche) at Toma Cafe, Madrid

Latte & Luxe: coffee (cappuccino) at Coffee and Kicks, Madrid

When you think of Spain, does coffee come to mind? Chances are that it’s not the first thing. Once you leave Madrid, that may change.

The typical coffee of choice? A cafe con leche – in other words, coffee with milk. You’ll often see locals and expats drinking this the morning after an infamously long night out. As a self-proclaimed coffee snob, I don’t believe it’s that simple.

Not-so-little fact about me: I spent a semester in university living in Madrid. After intensely missing Sydney’s coffee scene, some friends and I set out to find the best coffee shops in Madrid. This post lists my top favourites. Some of these places also serve some INCREDIBLE food and may pop up in another post in the near future!

> Coffee and Kicks: This coffee shop is sneakily hidden away in the middle of Sol and happens to be inspired by the owner’s love of sneakers (hence the name, “Coffee and Kicks”.). It’s a very intimate place with only a handful of benches for tasting and absorbing the aroma of the coffee. Coffee & Kicks holds a very dear place in my heart – I used to live around the corner and pop in for a “café con leche de soja” most days of the week, and often used their wifi to make Facetime calls home.

> Toma Café: This list would not be complete without including Toma! Toma has established a strong reputation as one of the best specialty coffee roasters in Madrid. It is a great spot to explore drinks beyond the standard cafe con leche. Try a pour over, cold brew or even a chocolate picante (a hot chocolate spiced with chili!). 

> AbonaVida: Madrid is not known to be a zen city, but you would forget that straight away once you step inside AbonaVida. The cafe is decorated with lots of green shrubs and hanging lightbulbs. With this, they’ve created a soothing vibe for you to relax with a café con leche and work on your laptop if you need. Go any time – in the morning for some toasts or at night with some friends for cocktails and live music.

> Federal: Federal is leading the way for a growth in the number of Australian-inspired cafes in Madrid. Not only do they brew a fantastic iced coffee but their food is phenomenal. Much like the café scene in Australia, you can build your own breakfast. Think: sourdough toast, avocado, eggs, even haloumi cheese – whatever you fancy. Their open space makes for a great place to catch up with some friends and nourish you for the day.

> La Bicicleta: La Bicicleta directly translates to English as “The Bicycle”, so naturally you can expect a bicycle theme. La Bicicleta café itself takes on an industrial, vintage look which strongly resembles the streets of Brooklyn, New York. They even have a floor downstairs filled with extra couches and coffee tables. This can come in handy if you’re also looking for a place to get some work or study done. Head in on a weekend and you can have your coffee as part of their weekend brunch special!

> Pum Pum Café: Pum Pum stands out in its Lavapies neighbourhood as there’s nothing else like it nearby. Like Federal, Australia’s cafes inspired its creation. Be sure to treat yourself to a homemade lamington while you’re there!

> Bianchi Kiosko: This little kiosk in Malasana lives up to its name. It’s not common to see people carry a small takeaway coffee to go but Bianchi Kiosko aims to change that. There are also benches outside for you to sit and watch people casually walk by.

> Little Big Café: Located in Moncloa, this is one of the best places to go for a coffee and some toast outside of the Madrid city centre in Moncloa. Definitely hit it up before a day trip to explore Madrid’s outskirts: Moncloa is a local hub for buses and regional routes. 

> HanSo Café: HanSo is inspired by the cafes of Japan and is one of the few places where you can find matcha on the menu. But don’t let that sway you from your standard cafe con leche. The baristas have also competed in multiple coffee brewing championships – so you can be sure that they know what they’re doing!

>Anticafe: The Anticafe stands out from just about every other hub in Madrid. You won’t find it open in the morning, for instance. Anticafe duplicates as a café and a bar with a variety of beers, wines, sangrias and cocktails on offer. In saying that, there’s nothing to stop you from having a night time coffee fix! Definitely recommend if you’re into cafes which tell a story. The Anticafe’s is colourful and vibrant with a touch of hipster.

Are you a coffee drinker? What is your go-to order? 

My 4 Favourite Cafes in Amsterdam

Latte & Luxe Eggplant sandwich at Bloem, Amsterdam

Latte & Luxe: Interior at Lavinia Good Food, Amsterdam

Latte & Luxe: coffee cup from Blushing, Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a lot of ‘coffee shops’, but just as many (if not more) cafes. There is a generally high importance placed on sourcing fresh, organic produce which reflects the healthy and active Dutch lifestyle.

If you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time, this list contains cafes which are located near various city must-sees. So if you’re a brunch enthusiast, there’s really no excuse for missing out on visiting these spots.

> Vinnies: Vinnies is a mere 10-minute walk from Centraal Station! It makes for a convenient breakfast spot to hit up before setting off on another Dutch or European adventure! It looks small and intimate from the outside – and it is. But, it also has a cute upstairs floor if you’re looking for quieter surroundings. Each table has a little pot plant and exclusive poem about Vinnies’ food philosophy.

> Blushing: Blushing is not far from Vondelpark (about a 5-minute walk) and is also around the corner from the Van Gogh Museum. Depending on the time of day you go, you may have to wait a while for a table but if you’re on the go – grab a coffee and a pastry to take away and sit in the park! It’s worth it for the adorable coffee cups!

> Bloem: Bloem prides itself on its organic and fresh produce, and offer a wide range of innovative and incredibly tasty sandwiches and salads. Not only will you get a delicious meal but you can soak up views of the canal in front while you’re there! It’s a great spot to visit while you’re exploring the Jewish Quarter.

> Lavinia Good Food: You won’t be short of good food here (let’s be honest: that pun was inevitable). Lavinia also emphasise a philosophy focused on sustainable produce and living a healthy lifestyle. Head there for the all-day breakfast menu, customisable salads or spelt pizzas – there’s something for every craving.

Have you been to Amsterdam? I’d love to know your favourite cafe spots!

Aussie Cafes in New York City

Latte & Luxe: beetroot hummus toast at Citizens of Chelsea, New York City (Aussie style cafe)

Latte & Luxe: coffee at Hole in the Wall Cafe, New York City (Aussie style cafe)

Latte & Luxe: avocado toast at Two Hands, New York City (Aussie style cafe)

Latte & Luxe: interior "home for the holidays" at Citizens of Chelsea, NYC (Aussie style cafe)

Have you ever gone to another country and tested the cuisine from your own home, just to compare? Aussie inspired cafes and their elusive avocado on toasts are popping up all over New York City.

Technically when I went to New York last winter (or summer if you’re from the northern side of the Equator), this is exactly what happened. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ended up at Aussie-inspired spots of the city. Does that sound close-minded to you? I promise it isn’t, just hear me out.

The locals are really catching on to this new phenomenon. To put it bluntly, they LIKE them. And there are more and more coming. When you’re scrolling through Instagram and the food looks so good that you’re eating through a screen, how could you not be curious?

Whether you’re a New Yorker wondering what this avocado on toast hype is all about, or an Aussie expat craving a flat white fix, here are some great places to go and check it out for yourself:

> Bluestone Lane: Taking inspiration from Melbourne’s café culture, Bluestone aims to inspire you to drink your coffee a bit more slowly and think about how it tastes. The café offers Australian brunch classics done up. Think: smashed avocado, build your own breakfasts and banana bread topped with a generous serving of ricotta. They already have a handful of cafes under their belt and many coffee shops. Expect to see them keep expanding outwards to other parts of the US!

> Two Hands: Two Hands prides itself on its’ relaxed coastal and chic vibe, an unexpected find in the heart of Chinatown. Founded by Australians, Two Hands pride themselves on their all-day breakfast menu combined with their fabulous coffee. They made THE best almond milk cappuccino I’ve ever had. The avo smash and acai bowls are popular favourites, while Zoe’s Market Plate is hearty, healthy and tasty.

> Citizens of Chelsea: They’re taking you “home for the holidays”. Yep, that’s the neon sign that you’ll see right when you walk into Citizens of Chelsea. Just about everything in this café is Instagrammable from the beetroot hummus toast and edible flowers to the latte art and turquoise colour scheme.

> Hole in the Wall Café: A refreshing and rejuvenating find in the Financial District and Midtown, this café is one to watch. Soon, they’ll be expanding across Manhattan and Brooklyn, so you’ll be able to sample their superfood lattes (you’ll find your trendy matcha and turmeric and even beetroot!), wild mushrooms & avocado toast and green bowl in no time.

> Banter: The best place to go in Greenwich Village for great coffee, food and banter. Coincidentally, the Aussie founders of this joint actually met while working at Two Hands. So you’ll know their coffee is top notch. Better yet, their dishes (Nutella French toast, sweet potato smash) will come up again when banters turn into brunch.

> Little Collins: Little Collins will take you straight to Melbourne without the long flight and pricey plane ticket. Named after the famous Melbourne laneway, it’s an intimate coffee shop with an industrial vibe. While they have lots of sandwiches and breakfasts on offer, The Smash is a standout (and of course, the coffee!). If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, order “The Convict” (a vegemite sandwich).

What are your thoughts on the Australian-style cafe scene? Are there any in your city?