Every traveller knows a good book is an essential packing item – your key to surviving those dragged out stopovers, the perfect way to steal some quiet ‘me’ time and the most transportable source of research for your destination. Problem is, in some places it just doesn’t seem fitting to whip out your trusty earmarked friend and absorb yourself in the pages. Here’s a list of Brisbane’s best book cafes, where reading is the norm and bookshelves grace the walls for further browsing.
Riverbend Books & Teahouse Bulimba, 193 Oxford Street
For a teahouse and a bookstore, you’ll be surprised to hear it’s also BYO wine at Riverbend. Perched on the front deck of a lovely renovated ‘Queenslander’ style house, the atmosphere is relaxed and chatty. Fronting onto Oxford Street, Bulimba’s main strip of shops and cafes, the leafy trees provide a shield of privacy so you can sip your brew and have a casual bite to eat before wandering inside to browse the shelves. The menu features breakfast, lunch and dinner options, including a chicken, orange and macadamia nut salad with rocket and blue cheese dressing. Check the website to see if you’re around in time for an event, with writers, illustrators, chefs and others regularly dropping by. Open: 7.30am-5pm daily (bookshop open a bit later). Dinner available Thursday to Saturday, bookings highly recommended.
Clarence Corner Bookshop and Café Woolloongabba, 596 Stanley Street
Tucked away in a beautiful late-19th century building, Clarence Corner boasts an array of new and old books in all subjects and genres, including some out-of-print editions. A short walk from Southbank and the Goodwill Bridge, not many tourists would even know it exists. While the breakfast menu isn’t overly varied – banana bread, homemade vanilla bean granola and a variety of toppings on toast – the milk is organic and the breads good quality (sourdough and gluten free available), with a decent range of herbal teas. Depending on what day you drop by, you may catch a movie, musician or the clairvoyant who does readings on site. Open: 6.30am-2.30pm daily (breakfast ‘til 1.30pm).
Café Bouquiniste New Farm, 121 Merthyr Road
This café is small and cosy, but packed with cuteness. Bouquiniste is French for bookseller, but you’ll find art, cards and other random bits here as well – from pretty smelly soaps to vintage French postcards and even rubber stamps. The space is relaxed and inviting with an artsy and decorative interior and a few quirky, old-fashioned furniture pieces. It’s only small – tiny actually – but the shelves boast some interesting books to peek your nose into, and if you like what you see, buy. On the menu, choose from toasted sandwiches and savoury tarts, as well as some breakfast items, or else have some cake and sweets with a coffee, all at good prices. Open: 8am-5.30pm daily.
Coaldrake’s Bookshop Fortitude Valley, 1000 Ann Street
With an impressive range of books on offer, there’s also a pretty good range on the menu, including hearty breakfasts like the Big Brekky featuring scrambled eggs, tamarind chutney, Turkish toast, ham, grilled tomato and avocado. Opening out onto the pavement, Coaldrake’s is positioned in a corner of the Emporium complex. Over ten years old, it’s known for its outstanding range of literature, history, travel and children’s books, but houses a range of genres. A second store recently opened at The Barracks, 61 Petrie Terrace, between Roma Street and Paddington. Open: 7am-5pm Mon-Fri; 7.30am-5pm Sat; 7.30am-4pm Sun.
Chess. Coffee. Chocolate. You’ll find it all at Café Checocho. Come by on the right night and you could be graced with some live jazz, blues or gypsy music too! Located in West End, the same chilled out vibe that infiltrates the suburb pulses here. There’s a treasure trove of second-hand books to purchase or read at your table, or else you could simply read the story collaged under your elbows. From images to photographs, each table is smothered in cut-outs depicting a different theme. And if you don’t play chess, there are plenty of other board games to choose from to play into the night. Both warm and cosy during winter, the gelato cabinet will keep you cool in summer. The menu offers a good selection, including pizzas, pastas, salads, burgers and risotto. Monday is raw food night. Open: Mon & Tues 11am-10pm; Wed & Thurs 7am-10pm; Fri & Sat 7am-11pm; Sun 7am-10pm.
Black Cat Books & Café Paddington, 179 Latrobe Terrace
Once the site of Mary Ryan's Paddington, this cafe now stands proudly independent and with a new name. The helpful and knowledgeable staff make finding the right book a breeze amongst a collection that’s varied. You’d be forgiven for walking out without seeing the café, but follow the smell of coffee downstairs and you’ll no doubt be impressed. There’s plenty of seating inside that looks out over the leafy yard, but if you’d rather be amongst the greens the multi-tiered decks that lead down to the gazebo are even better. The menu features ready-made treats like paninis, filo pastries, enchiladas, and sandwich rolls. For the sweet tooths, there’s also cake, biscuits, banana bread and fruit toast. Open: 9am-4pm Mon-Fri; 9am-5pm weekends.
Avid Reader West End, 193 Boundary Street
A local favourite, Avid Reader boasts a great team of staff who can point you in the right direction – they’re often writers themselves. With a large selection of books in all genres, there’s also an interesting assortment of nick-nacks, goodies and CDs to tempt you. Wander to the back of the store to find the little café nestled in the corner with walls dotted in artworks. Here you can fill up on toasted Turkish bread sandwiches, crisp salads with halloumi cheese, savoury tarts, soups, and mouth-watering gluten-free cakes and cupcakes. Breakfast muesli, fruit toast and smoothies feature too. Enquire at the counter or online to find out when the next in-store event is – you might catch a book launch or signing. Open: 8.30am-4pm daily.
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