A decade ago, Brisbane was basically a sleeping beast in terms of food and drink. Just a handful of bars were open in a town commanded by pubs and even then you were given a strange look for not ordering a XXXX or a Bundy and Coke.
Skip forward to 2011 and what you’ll now find is a town evolving around its new bars and rejuvenated restaurants. Venues are opening by the month and what it equates to is the nation’s next great culinary scene. Yes Sydney – Brisbane hasn’t been washed away, and it’s open for business with a big smile.
Eat and drink
The evolution of eating and drinking in Brisbane is one to almost marvel at. Great drinking dens and restaurants can now be found citywide. At the top of Caxton Street in Paddington, the Barracks
is increasingly the place to eat great food, drink world-class wine and be very merry. Former Sydney restaurateur Andy Baturo’s Libertine
has been the incumbent since the Barracks was renovated a couple of years ago and serves up consistently good French-Vietnamese fare. 5 The Barracks, 61 Petrie Tce, Paddington 4064. (07 3367 3353)
. Next door, Tapas den Peasant,
from former Bondi chef Jamie Webb, continues to win awards for its authentic tapas and wine menus. 4 The Barracks, 61 Petrie Tce, Paddington 4064. (07 3367 8066).
The newest addition to the Barracks is Cabiria Wine Bar
, featuring 350 different wines from across the globe, highlighted by an exceptional range from France and Italy. Wines aside, Cabiria features a raw bar where shucked-to-order oysters are matched with Riesling, and Yellowfin is paired with boutique Champagnes. It’s only just opened, but expect some good things to come from chef Emlyn Thorrington. 6 The Barracks, 61 Petrie Tce, Paddington 4064. (07 3368 2666).
Down in Fortitude Valley, the newly-opened Brunswick Social
is giving things a real shake-up. The former fashion boutique has been transferred into a bar, lounge and dumpling den that’s an oasis from the goings-on of Brunswick Street above. Alongside a list of 20 dumpling variations, homemade sorbets and bang-for-buck cocktails ($16.50 for a Hemingway Daiquiri), the crowd here is the best in the Valley – yobbos, pretentious sorts and 18-year-old drunks are nowhere to be found. 367 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley 4006. (07 3252 3234).
See and do
The arts in Brisbane hit full swing for the remainder of 2011 with top exhibitions taking place across the city, particularly at the increasingly popular GoMA
(Gallery of Modern Art). The new show is The Hand, the Eye and the Heart
, a unique insight into how artists from different countries record personal aspects of human experience (until 12 Feb, 2012) and later in the year comes the blockbuster Matisse: Drawing Life
(3 Dec-Mar 4). Stanley Pl, Brisbane 4101. (07 3840 7303)
. The sporting clash to catch is the test match between Australia and New Zealand at the Gabba
from 1–5 December, while for foodies, the Good Food and Wine Show
is on 4–6 November. Events aside, some great shopping can be found in Queens Plaza (226 Queen St, Brisbane 4000)
, while a number of hip boutiques can also be found at the Emporium
complex (see below).
The Queensland capital’s accommodation offering is as good as its bar scene, particularly when it comes to boutique hotels. Leading the way is the Emporium Hotel
in Fortitude Valley, which just won the industry-renowned HM Award for the leading boutique digs in the country. You’ll love the oversized rooms, plush beds, big screen TVs, rooftop pool and lobby bar, which serves some of the city’s best Martinis. 1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley 4006. (07 3253 6999).
The recently re-branded Diamant Hotel Brisbane
(formerly the Portal) offers simple, but stylish rooms on the edge of the CBD that are perfect for a long-weekend away. It’s within walking distance of the city and the Valley and consistently good specials are on offer. 52 Astor Tce, Brisbane 4000. (07 3009 3400).
It may not be a boutique hotel, but the soon-to-be-released upgraded rooms at Sofitel Brisbane
are going to rival the Emporium for Brisbane’s finest. Here, you could be mistaken for staying in a chic apartment and not a big-branded hotel. 249 Turbot St, Brisbane 4000. (07 3835 3535)