Morning in Brisbane is heralded by the arrival of blue skies and baristas wakening espresso machines in preparation for hordes of keen café patrons.

Such is the case for Graceville café Goodness Gracious, which has enjoyed a loyal following since its 2014 opening, but which has now become a must-visit spot thanks to the 2017 Restaurant Awards for Excellence. It took home silver for best coffee shop/tea house in the nation.

“It was unreal. It’s so reassuring that all your hard work paid off. I can’t believe the support we got from all of our customers. We put it on social media and it went viral,” said owner Olivia Morland.

Brisbane diners have rallied around Goodness Gracious, most likely due to Olivia’s philosophy that a sense of community should infuse every aspect of the cafe, from the relationship between team members to the customer experience.

“I grew up in the country, very community centred,” said Olivia. “I wanted to create a hub where the community could get together and share and experience.”

So what should guests expect? Goodness Gracious is governed by a simple equation: “food + coffee = goodness”. Consistency is key, in the coffee, in the service, and in the quality of food and other offerings.

The menu changes every six to eight weeks, integrating local seasonal produce into dishes that are flexible to dietary changes. They also, Olivia hopes, offer something a little different, believing creativity and health-consciousness are not mutually exclusive. “We really wanted to understand what different cultures’ food is like and bring that to Brisbane,” she said. “We wanted to do a spin on everything.”

On our visit, we learned two things. One: that the award is well justified, and two: the menu more than encourages repeat visits. I ordered the chicken salad. The chicken was coated in a thick charcoal rub, with a nuanced hint of coconut.

The lemon cashew cream was similarly subtle, and the almonds and cranberries drew out sweet, nutty notes.My partner ordered the shakshuka kofta: beef kofta paired with a shakshuka baked egg, cumin honey yogurt and parmesan crust.

The beef was tender, its seasoning enhanced by the cumin sauce.

The bread serves as the perfect vehicle for mopping up whatever remains. We are now keen to sample the rest of the menu, eyeing the popular mixed fruit griddle cakes and Vietnamese omelette that frequently passed our table.

Just as critical to Olivia is helping her staff grow and refine their skills. She encourages their interests; in fact, the drinks menu was designed by a staff member who had studied nutrition.

“I’m really proud to be able to use the skills of all my employees so they can all collaborate,” she said. “Some of my favourite memories at Goodness Gracious are seeing my staff members grow and take on more.”

This year, expect more than a changing menu. Goodness Gracious will also introduce an educational aspect, hosting events that support local businesses and introducing farmers to the community to raise awareness and understanding.

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