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Review: Coffee Lab’s All Day Breakfast

Beatrice Smith

There is little that gets Canberrans more excited than the prospect of all day breakfast.

The luxury of being able to choose from a café’s entire menu at any time is one only available at select venues across Canberra (see our Northside and Southside guides) but for breakfast fanatics like me, it’s well worth seeking out. I have a reputation in the HerCanberra office for weird food choices. And by weird choices I mean if I have the chance to eat breakfast again instead of lunch, I will. So when Arthur and the team at Coffee Lab invited us to trial their new all day, seven days a week breakfast menu, I knew I’d found my people.

Located under the Australian Tax Office building in Civic, opposite the open air car park on Narellan Place, Coffee Lab occupies a somewhat serene part of the city. I came in for breakfast at about 9am on a weekday and, naturally, the place was packed with public servants and city workers wanting their first coffee of the day. The outside seats to the side, however, were quiet and shaded in the morning, perfect for a pre-work catch up or solo working breakfast.

The coffee menu itself can stand on its own – Coffee Lab pride themselves on experimental brews, the diversity of locally roasted blends available and superior baristas so it’s no surprise that both of my housemates has just assumed Coffee Lab was a café similar to Harvest or Hideaway – a hole in the wall that does coffee and does it well, but that’s it. Well no, it turns out, that’s not all they do.

“When we started Coffee Lab, the space that we wanted to create was really warm and rustic – very welcoming, but we never had food on offer, we were just a coffee-focused premises,” explains Arthur Choi. Arthur also owns The Coffee Grounds at ANU and UC, which explains why food was a natural step for Coffee Lab.

“Given the central location wedged on the fringe of civic centre and Braddon we had a huge demand for food. We were constantly turning away customers who were after great coffee coupled with breakfast or lunch. As a result, we thought it was essential to bring food into the mix. Luckily, unlike other small coffee establishments, we had the space to do that.”

“We’re about providing unique menus created using the finest ingredients and good old fashioned service that is very hard to come these days.

Armed with an empty stomach, a willing intern as a breakfast companion and my iPhone, I sat down to eat.

My first impression of the menu was that Canberra breakfast purists will not be disappointed – there are multiple appearances by Pialligo Bacon and Cuppacumbalong Eggs, but to say it was hard to choose was an understatement, so manager Jamie Morris brought out three of their most popular dishes; No Regrets, Oats Overboard and Lil Italy. Mind you this only the beginning, with many more menu options being introduced in the coming months.

To go with breakfast I ordered the Bellerophon Cold Brew, made here in Canberra, and it was the most theatrical cold brew I’ve ever had. It’s poured over ice with wedges of fresh lime, but when served was also garnished with a slice of orange peel that was ‘flared’ by the delivering waiter with a lighter – a true coffee perfectionist level of detail.

Then the food came and everything else melted away. My breakfast companion is vegetarian, so she avoided the No Regrets, which was awesome because I think it was my favourite hands down.

no regrets

No Regrets

If the image doesn’t already have you drooling, let me break it down for you.

No Regrets is essentially a breakfast stack, perfect for those who seek maximum value for their money (it’s $17 and I couldn’t finish it).

Crispy fried Pialligo Estate Bacon is topped with a hefty corn meal hash brown (which I was hesitant about when I saw it on the menu but completely sold once I tried it), then two poached Cuppacumbalong eggs smothered in ‘James Brown sauce’, which is kind of like a BBQ hollandaise.

no regrets close up

Surrounding the stack is a bunch of perfectly sautéed kale, which cuts through the richness of the dish.

oats overboard

Next up was the Oats Overboard, which I was very excited to try as it looks like what I (attempt) to make myself for breakfast every morning except on steroids. The Oats Overboard is the perfect counterbalance to No Regrets – it’s the kind of dish that you order straight after your 6am sunrise yoga class, or at least it’s the kind of dish that makes you feel as virtuous as 6am yoga class would.

oats overboard close up

The berry almond milk oats were deliciously mild, letting the nutty flavour come through and the fruit was fantastic – especially the passionfruit half waiting to be scooped and the scattering of slivered almonds. The caramelised cheek of nectarine, however, was next level delicious.

lil italy

The last dish was perhaps the most humble, but by no means the least tasty. The Lil Italy was everything you’d want in a breakfast bruschetta – the perfect dish for toeing the line between the raw freshness of the Oats Overboard and the indulgent and hearty No Regrets.

The bread was that perfect light-fluffy-crunchy level of toasted, seasoned well with garlic and olive oil and piled high with a generous helping of fresh chopped heirloom tomatoes, torn basil and little roasted garlic chips. The little fior di latte ball of deep fried cheese on the side is a deliciously cheeky addition, the perfect little indulgence to spread over bites.

So what was the best part of breakfast? The organic eggs? The local coffee? The unique secret recipe James Brown sauce? Nope. It was the fact that you can buy all these dishes and more every day of the week, from 7am until 2:30pm weekdays and 8am til 2.30pm on weekends right in the heart of Civic.

You’ll probably see me there sometime having my second breakfast, with no regrets.

The author and her companion ate courtesy of Coffee Lab


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author