Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Verve Cafe & Cider Bar - in the metro arts building

One of my earliest memories of being a new lad in Brisbane was a visit to the Metro Arts building in Edward Street.  The year was 1993 and I had just made the move from Adelaide to Brisbane and knew hardly anyone.  I had just met a new group of potential friends who had invited me to see a movie at the Metro Arts cinema and I decided to go along.  That movie was The Naked Lunch and that night led to an interesting series of wacky events that are best placed to be told over a beer sometime!

The Verve Cafe has been around for ever and has been a haunt for the denizens and citi dwellers to hang out and have a very reasonably priced meal in a uber cool setting.  Once you enter the Metro Arts building and venture down the stairs into the bowels of the building, it takes some time to adjust to the dark and dingy light, but once you do it becomes a great spot to hang out and enjoy a meal.  When I had less money to splash out on restaurants, The Verve Cafe was a regular dining spot for SC and I, but as we progressed in our careers we just stopped going.

The reason for my visit on this day was to celebrate with one of my former employees and friends RL, who had decided to jump ship and pursue other opportunities that related much better to a hard earned Law Degree (10 years of study anyone?).  We only had an hour for lunch between meetings and needed to find a place that had a good vegetarian selection for RL and the first place that sprung to mind was The Verve Cafe.

Walking in at 1pm the place was absolutely packed and had a great vibe going, with heaps of noise and people clearly enjoying themselves.  RL and I were seated in the furtherest corner of the restaurant, right under the Edward Street sidewalk and I was afraid that, with the packed restaurant, we would be seated and quickly forgotten about.  This was not the case and we had simply amazing service from our waitress who was attentive and regularly came to visit to top up the water and generally make us feel very welcome.

With such a short lunch booked we quickly ordered our meals and set about catching up and chatting generally about life and work.  I was particularly keen on finding out about RL's recent holiday on a cruise ship and some of the shenanigans that ensued.  We had hardly notice the time go when our waitress brought over a complimentary Pan Bread with feta cheese, kalamata olive, sea salt and basil to apologise for the meals not being ready yet.  We were amazed that 30 minutes had passed and were starting to get worried that the food would not arrive in time.  For the record the pan bread was lovely, fresh, quite tasty and a little messy to eat!

We needn't have worried as shortly after the bread arrived so did the mains.  The Verve is an Italian restaurant, so many of the options revolved around traditional (and not so traditional) pasta, pizza and risotto dishes.  I rarely pass up the opportunity for a risotto so after contemplating getting the Vodka Risotto, decided on the Scallop & Cuttlefish with diced roma tomato, zest of lemon, fresh dill and cream.  The risotto was cooked pretty well, but was just a little dry for my liking and a little gluggy, which I think a healthy dollop of butter might have fixed.  Even though it was dry, it tasted pretty good, with lots of little scallops (but only one piece of cuttlefish).  There was a fresh and zingy taste to it and a strong lemon flavour, which lingered pleasantly on the palate long after finishing the meal.  For the price, it was not bad.

After an internal struggle about pizza or pasta RL finally decided on Slow Roasted Tomato Penne with rocket, olives, tomato and white wine.  This was a big bowl of al dente penne pasta.  Penne pasta is essentially rolled tubes of pasta that allow the sauce to slide inside as well as stick to the outside.  With the sample I had of the pasta there was a rich tomato sauce that was lovely, but I found there to be a really strong olive flavour overpowering the dish, but I am a bit sensitive to olive.  RL on the other hand, loves olives and found that the olives really enhanced the flavour of the pasta and found the tomato and olive combination perfect.  We were running out of time so RL did not quite finish off the bowl, but did a pretty good job considering the size.

We also ordered a starter of Beer Battered Fries with balsamic syrup, tomato chutney and Verve aioli that I hoped would come before the mains to snack on but came out with the mains.  It was a big bowl of chips, drizzled in balsamic syrup, that were quite nice, but we only had a few between us due to the timing of the food.

The hour we had for lunch came and went very quickly and it was time to go.  When you think about it, an hour for a decent lunch catch up is fairly short and in a place as packed as the Verve cafe was, there is a risk of having to rush through, and we never really felt that rushed.  I was super impressed with the service and after paying the bill was happy to state that the Verve represents good value for money.  By the time we paid and left, the restaurant had pretty well cleared out, so to get all the covers out over a two hour lunch period is a great effort.

While the food is never going to set the culinary world on fire, it's good honest fare.  There is a wide variety of options on the menu and quite a large selection for those who want vegetarian or need gluten free.  There is also a massive selection of Ciders on offer, which is new since the last time I visited (many many years ago).   As far as a quick lunch spot goes, The Verve is back on my radar!

A huge Cider Menu on offer.  Good advice I think!
The beer battered chips were nice, but came too late for us to eat
Exposed brick and funky art on the walls.  The Verve Cafe is dark and dingy, but urber cool
Packed when we first arrived the place cleared out really quickly

Verve Restaurant Bar Cider House on Urbanspoon


  1. I love their sand crab risotto! Is that still on the menu? :)

    1. Sapphira, there is a sand crab and snapper risotto there now. You should go back and check it out :)


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