Well-established restaurants, and big name chefs serving culinary delights, and progressive players pushing the boundaries with edgy bars, espresso nooks and laneway pop-ups. It’s a combination that’s paying off for this vibrant and youthful city as it shifts up a gear to become a top foodie destination. Simply put, Brisbane is a city best experienced by your plate, so pull up a chair, unfold your napkin and load up your fork at Brisbane’s tastiest dining haunts – explored by travel writer Sophie Hart:
Whether it’s fine dining or a low key rustic experience you’re after, Brisbane City is teeming with restaurants, cafés and hidden gems that can really deliver. Look to Burnett Lane for quirky hideaway cafés filled with tantalising morsels and served with an easygoing vibe. At the top end you’ve got Felix For Goodness, which uses local and organic produce to cook up my favourite: smoked eggplant and lemon rotolo. They’re open from dawn till dusk so be sure to stop by for a tipple or two and order their apple, butter vodka and nutmeg cocktail – it tastes just like apple pie!
At the lower end of Burnett Lane is Brew Café and Wine Bar. It serves top-notch coffee in the mornings before transforming into a brewhouse at night. For true opulence head to Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane’s iconic riverside dining precinct and home to a range of lavish tastes and genres. Here lies Madame Wu cooking up my all-time favourite dish – steamed duck buns. They may sound simple but these little delights are packed with flavour and the incredible textures will melt in your mouth. Further along the pier is Esquire, a spot that oozes sophistication sans the pretentiousness. Dive into its degustation menu and pop a bottle of top-shelf Champagne to wash it all down.
This is Brisbane’s foremost cultural destination and home to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Queensland Museum and Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). South Bank should already be on your list of places to visit, so while you’re there be sure to dive into the food culture too. Where the food takes inspiration from the art, I can’t go past award-winning GOMA Restaurant’s modern twist of smoked mac ‘n’ cheese, pear and pomegranate. Every dish is creative and contemporary like the art that surrounds it, while only the best winemakers hold a place on its menu.
Continue your cultural immersion with dinner and a show at QPAC (as one of Australia’s leading venues for live performance, there is always an amazing production to be seen). Just a two-minute stroll from QPAC, pop down to Fish Lane for gourmet wood-fired pizzas at Julius Pizzeria or, for something a little more laid-back, Hello Please cooks up Vietnamese-style eats like crispy pork belly bao and handmade dumplings out of a shipping container.
Take a step away from the cultural hub and make a move towards South Bank’s lush parklands – here you will discover some of Brisbane’s most reputable eateries. Drink in the view of the sparkling river at gastronomic wonder Stokehouse Q for Mediterranean cuisine, or stop in at Popolo for an intimate Italian dinner.
Where the nightlife thrives, The Valley is a hive of restaurants, bars and clubs boasting a colourful past that the locals don’t shy away from. In fact, they embrace it. Wander into Parisian steakhouse Les Bubbles and you will be greeted by a neon sign shining ‘We regret to inform you we are no longer a brothel – Management’. The restaurant is in one of Brisbane’s most historic buildings, one that housed an illegal casino, bath-house and brothel in the eighties. And while these sorts of activities came to an end long ago, Les Bubbles pays homage to its cheeky past, inviting patrons to jump into the hot tubs on the ground floor once they’ve polished off their steak and frites.
Equally quirky in its fit-out, LONgTIME is all about exposed brickwork, dark corners and good food. Look straight to their bar snacks and cocktail menu for their Bangkok taco and Cheeky Chai Tea cocktail. Bao lovers should make a beeline for Kwan Brothers in Alfred Street because their moo shoo cow and peking duck bao is like no other bao you’ve tasted before.
An affluent suburb sprawling around the north bank of the sparkling Brisbane River, Hamilton has a high-end culinary offering to match. And while it is full of dining choices, Byblos Restaurant and Bar is an absolute must. Keeping in tune with its upmarket surrounds, Byblos boasts lavish furnishings, glamorous views of the river and award-winning Lebanese-style fare. Take your time with its extensive menu but be sure to try the rekakat (pastry filled with cheese, cheese and even more cheese) and ablama (baked zucchini stuffed with lamb, tomato and spices).
For a totally different dining experience, head to the Eat Street Markets. Once a graveyard for Hamilton’s shipping containers, some creative folk gave the area a makeover and invited a heap of movers and shakers to set up shop and sell their tasty goods out of the cargo carriers. Festive lighting hangs overhead, live music fills the air and every cuisine imaginable is there for the eating. The choices are endless but I can vouch for Langos Hungarian Snacks & Food and its deep-fried flatbread, Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers’ wild mushroom and truffle oil gnocchi and Gluten Off’s lemon meringue doughnut. So what are you waiting for? Add Brisbane’s Eat Street Markets to your to-do list, because this gastronomic wonderland is like nothing you’ve experienced before.