The round-up: Brisbane’s must-try openings of 2018
Phew, what a year it’s been! We’re only a few weeks away from the festive season and the New Year’s celebrations, but it seems like there’s still so much more to cram in before 2018 wraps up for good. Thankfully we’ve got some much-needed holiday time on the horizon, which should allow us to take a breath and look back at everything that’s happened this year. If you’ve been too busy to cast your eyes north, you might not have noticed Brisbane’s banner year in terms of new openings. Bars, cafes, hotels, restaurants – 2018 was a boom year for top-tier hospitality arrivals. If you’re planning a trip up the M1 over summer, pencil a stop or three at some of the best new openings in Brisbane over the past 12 months.
Brisbane Quarter, Brisbane City
Brisbane’s CBD was the recipient of some highly anticipated arrivals this year, and none more so than the impressive Brisbane Quarter precinct. It all kicked off with the opening of W Brisbane, the first five-star hotel to open in the city in 20 years. Conceptually ambitious and perfectly executed, W Brisbane’s amenities are world class, especially when you throw its on-site eateries and bars into the mix. The Living Room Bar and poolside WET® Deck are great spots for guests to linger, but the hotel’s signature restaurant Three Blue Ducks has been wowing tastebuds with its ethical spin on contemporary cuisine. A few months later, Brisbane Quarter’s podium level welcomed to stellar restaurants – Persone and Heritij. Offering contemporary spins on Italian and Indian cuisine respectively, both venues take full advantage of location, offering impeccable views of South Bank and beyond.
The Calile, Fortitude Valley
Another anticipated hotel arrival has changed the shape of James Street for the better, taking Fortitude Valley’s fashionable strip to new heights. The Malouf Groups’ new boutique hotel The Calile has been years in the making, but the wait was worth it when the Richards & Spence-designed structure made its debut in September. The building oozes style, with a subtropical exterior aesthetic bolstered by top-of-the-line interiors and amenities. The Calile sits above a brand-new retail precinct housing flagship outlets from bassike, Love Stories, Venroy, Dion Lee and Bec + Bridge, while the hotel’s dining offering has also been causing a stir. Simon Gloftis has brought his heralded Greek restaurant Hellenika north as The Calile’s flagship eatery, serving time-honoured family recipes in a cutting-edge setting. That’s not all – The Lobby Bar’s elegant pink-marble bar and restaurant space has also established itself as a go-to spot for a cocktail and sophisticated nibble.
Howard Smith Wharves, Brisbane City
One of Brisbane’s newest arrivals is still an ongoing project, but Howard Smith Wharves is seeing 2018 out with a bang with some killer openings. The hubbub started with the arrival of riverside brewery and bar Felons Brewing Co., which has already become a primo spot for summer sipping. Hot on its heels came gorgeous overwater bar Mr Percival’s, which is undoubtedly one of the best places to enjoy a spritz and some seafood. These openings were follow quickly by Greca, the brand-new concept from lauded chef Jonathan Barthelmess (Sydney’s The Apollo). Jonathan’s contemporary take on Greek taverna fare is sure to delight the tastebuds of visitors of the booming Howard Smith Wharves precinct.
King Street, Bowen Hills
Two years ago King Street burst onto the scene, setting itself up to become one of Brisbane’s most exciting food precincts. This year saw the strip build upon its early success, bringing through a third wave of openings. The year started with the arrival of food-truck hub Welcome to Bowen Hills to the King Street Co-Op in February, followed closely by neighbouring gin bar Swill. Rockpool Dining Group delivered steins and schnitzels to King Street with its Bavarian Beerhaus concept, and have more recently doubled up with Tex-Mex eatery El Camino Cantina. November was a big month for King Street, marking the opening of premium marketplace Mercado, European-inspired restaurant Atelier Brasserie and Montrachet’s rustic boulangerie-come-cafe King Street Bakery.
Donna Chang and The Boom Boom Room, Brisbane City
The Ghanem Group left us gobsmacked with its incredible double whammy opening in September. Modern Chinese restaurant Donna Chang and subterranean jazz bar The Boom Boom Room quickly re-established Brisbane City as a nighttime go to, with the tandem transforming the heritage-listed Queensland Government Savings Bank into a timeless oasis of top-notch hospitality. Donna Chang has already built up considerable buzz thanks to its menu of raw dishes, starters, dim sum, seafood, poultry and meat, wood-fired dishes and sides, while The Boom Boom Room’s aviation-inspired interiors, heritage charm and list of inventive cocktails has got it at the top of many hit lists.
Little Valley, Fortitude Valley
The Rick Shores crew have been reaping some well-deserved praise recently, and we’re sure the acclaimed venue’s younger sibling is similarly deserving of acclaim. Situated in the heart of Fortitude Valley’s entertainment precinct, Little Valley is dishing out incredible modern-Chinese eats, redeveloping traditional flavours and recipes with some savvy and imaginative twists. Head chef Jake Pregnell is taking in a plethora of regional influences and imbuing them across a menu of wok dishes, dim sum, bites from the raw bar and grilled meats. Wine aficionados can also enjoy a selection of natural, floral and textural drops, with a 110-strong list boasting plenty to choose from.
Hôntô, Fortitude Valley
Speaking of formidable culinary family trees, the minds behind beloved Thai restaurant LONgTIME unveiled moody Japanese-inspired restaurant Hôntô in August. Located in an out-of-the-way location in the back streets of Fortitude Valley, Hôntô pairs a minimalist but impressive design with cutting-edge fare. Hôntô’s shadowy bar and lounge area ÔÔ serves up some intoxicating concoctions, which will get you in the mood for restaurant’s salivation-worthy eats. Picture lobster katsu sandos, tuna and avocado drumsticks, prawn doughnuts with red shiso, shichimi-spiced lamb shoulder and pork belly with kome vinegar.
Superfly Funkeye, Woolloongabba
The PopMega crew boasts a few popular joints in its growing portfolio (Hai Hai, Special Rub, Remy’s), but Woolloongabba’s Superfly Funkeye might be the group’s most unique venue to date. Situated in Eden Lane, the intimate izakaya-meets-wine bar is serving Japanese-inspired eats (think karaage chicken with togarashi and rare beef tataki with salted daikon), funky natural wines and plenty of whisky highballs.
Florence, Camp Hill
One of Brisbane’s most charming cafe arrivals can be found in the leafy back streets of Camp Hill, where Elizabeth Florence and Sam Pethely have opened Florence. The corner cafe’s inspiration was born out of a desire to combine a small deli concept with the duo’s love for nourishing food, and the team has actualised the vision brilliantly. The menu is jam-packed with classics made from plenty of cultured and fermented ingredients, offering a balanced take on vegetable and meat-forward options. The deli and larder portion stocks everything from sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, preserves and jams, to cultured butter, cashew cheese and marinated fetta.
Walter’s Steakhouse, Brisbane City
Carnivores were blessed this year with an influx of meaty newcomers on the scene. One of the most impressive of the steak-centric restaurants is Brisbane City’s Walter’s Steakhouse, which is bringing back old-world charm and pairing it with fare inspired by European brasseries and high-class New York steakhouses. Red-leather booth seating, marble tables and the warm glow of brass-bottomed lamps provide the perfect setting for the dining experience on offer – premium steak – cut and dry aged in house – paired with mouth-watering appetisers and desserts. Sounds pretty impressive right? Walter’s Steakhouse is simply one of those things to need to experience in person to believe.
Finney Isles, Fortitude Valley
The brains behind acclaimed cocktail joints Cobbler and Savile Row have gone three-for-three with its boozer portfolio, adding stellar saloon Finney Isles to the fold earlier this year. Like its older siblings, Finney Isles is an old-world trade-inspired bar that draws inspiration from its location’s past as a draper’s store. Here you’ll be able to get inventive cocktails, top-shelf spirits, non-intervention wines and choice charcuterie.
X Cargo, Fortitude Valley
The weekend party set wasted no time flocking to Fortitude Valley’s open-air playground X Cargo when it opened in July. With three bars, a commercial kitchen, an on-site cafe, a sizeable beer garden, colourful murals, spacious lawns and sky-high shipping-container balconies, X Cargo is a novel and all-encompassing locale. Mark down X Cargo as a must-visit spot this summer.
e’cco bistro and The Terrace, Newstead
It’s been a big year for Philip Johnson and Mary Randles. The honchos behind acclaimed Brisbane dining spot e’cco bistro boldly picked up sticks and moved the restaurant from its long-time Brisbane City home and plonked it down at a brand-new locale at Newstead’s Haven. The striking space offers a multi-faceted style of dining, from a 65-seat dining room to an eight-seater chef’s bench. The team has also acted to capture Brisbane’s balmy summer vibes, expanding to open alfresco addition The Terrace by e’cco – a shady spot for Asian-inspired nosh and cocktails.La Cache a Vin, Spring Hill
Famed chef and restaurateur Thierry Galichet returned to the kitchen this year, opening the cavernous Fresh restaurant La Cache à Vín in Spring Hill. For the new concept, Thierry settled on a vibe and menu that evoked the warmth of Burgundy’s restaurant scene while also providing a base of operations for his ever-evolving wine business. A heritage space provided a suitably rustic setting for the venture, and since opening in July diners have been raving about dishes such as aromatic snail ragout, grilled scallops with tomato coriander butter, white-bean casserole with confit duck leg, and lamb racks with thyme jus. We can’t forget the wine – La Cache à Vín boasts drops from Burgundy, Alsace, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, to name a few.
Penny Coffee Co, Dutton Park
Dutton Park has been deprived of a reliable brunch option of its own for years, but Geoff Grundy’s Penny Coffee Co changed that when it burst onto the scene in March. With skills honed in Melbourne’s competitive coffee scene, Geoff has brought a considered and exciting approach to Penny Coffee Co’s offering, which focuses on seasonal eats and top-tier coffee.
Keen to dig deep into Brisbane’s thriving food scene? The Weekend Edition Brisbane’s Stumble Guide has something for everybody’s tastes. If you’re staying in town this summer, we’ve also put together the Gold Coast’s best new openings of the year!
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.