The round-up: Brisbane’s best new restaurant and cafe openings of the year (so far)
Look, we get it. Since March there has been a lot happening at home and abroad that has understandably required our attention and shifted our priorities. It’s been easy to miss things such as new foodie arrivals, especially when we’ve been forced to stay inside as much as possible. Seeing that restrictions have eased somewhat, now is a great time to acquaint yourself with these newcomers. We’ve compiled a handy list of some of the best new restaurant and cafe openings that have occurred over the past few months.
Agnes, Fortitude Valley
Ever since it was first announced that Ben Williamson would be teaming up with the crew behind sAme sAme and Hôntô to open woodfire-centric restaurant Agnes, we knew it would be one of the biggest arrivals of 2020. In a perfect world, we’d already be dining in Agnes’s multi-level industrial space, but 2020 has been far from perfect. In a move that will probably go down as one of the sharpest manoeuvres of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Agnes team decided to put the woodfired oven to work and pivot to selling baked goods and takeaway wine. Agnes’s pop-up bakery arrived in April, and a day hasn’t gone by since that there hasn’t been a socially distanced line stretching from its door down Agnes Street. The offering at Agnes needs to be seen (and devoured) to be believed – the menu includes a rotating selection of sourdoughs (malted grain and treacle, and smoked potato), cluster rolls, pizzette (think n’duja, stracciatella and garlic chive), kouign amann, charred and flaky Basque cheesecakes and cinnamon-coated filled doughnuts. You can also grab pantry stuffers including gourmet cheeses, house-made wood-smoked butter and relishes, scampi caviar, and salumi, plus bottles of phenomenal vino to take home with you. Our fingers are crossed that Agnes’ baking division continues in some form after the restaurant’s official opening (the bakery will close soon to make way for the restaurant) – now we’ve had a taste of these goodies, we can’t imagine life without them.
MICA Brasserie, Newstead
Shannon Kellam – another big name in Brisbane’s culinary scene – has been making moves this year, pandemic be damned. In early 2020, the owner and head chef of Montrachet announced a high-profile partnership with the Breakfast Creek Lifestyle Precinct, which entailed bringing a multi-stage concept to the waterfront promenade. Stage one was The Kneadery – the central state-of-the-art pastry production kitchen – and Lumiere Events & Culinary Studio. Stage two brought us MICA Brasserie, a casual riverside patisserie, bar and bistro that launched in a streamlined capacity in early April. Shannon and his team opened the patisserie first – initially only serving takeaway coffees, breads, pastries and gateaux from its breezy locale. As of June 24, MICA has expanded its service to include breakfast – that means folks can stroll in for pastis and citrus-cured Ora king salmon, a spin on an eggs Benedict boasting red gum-smoked pork jowl, English-style toasted muffin and poached free-range eggs doused in Chardonnay vinegar hollandaise, and cold-smoked cauliflower rubbed with pumpkin-seed butter and maple barbecue seasoning. At full flight MICA will also open for lunch and dinner – we can’t wait!
Only. Specialty Coffee, Fortitude Valley
After cementing its rep as a go-to caffeine dispensary for discerning drinkers, the crew behind Only. Specialty Coffee shifted gears somewhat, closing its Brisbane City and Wooloongabba locations and focusing energy on a new HQ on the ground floor of the T C Beirne building off Brunswick Street Mall. The Only. team has sought to elevate its coffee experience to another level, expanding the concept to cater for those seeking coffee and food. Coffee still is a key focus – those seeking a flat white will be catered for alongside the batch-brew or pour-over crowd, with a rotating selection of single origins from various roasters showcased alongside Five Senses as the espresso go-to. The debut food menu boasts a scrumptious breakfast burger (filled with free-range thick-cut bacon, fried free-range egg, cheese and tomato chutney), toasted croissants filled with local mortadella, cheese and chutney, avocado on rye with bush native dukkah and probiotic goat-milk labneh, and handmade crumpets with Pepe Saya butter, with more to come in the future.
Superthing, West End
Lovers of baked goods have been spoiled rotten by 2020’s bevy of arrivals, and West End bakery Superthing is what we envision to be heaven for pastry fanatics. This pink-hued croissanterie comes from the brains behind NYC Bagel Deli, and was conceived as an outlet to take the baking craft beyond bagels. Located at the base of Turrisi Properties’ INK Apartments on Montague Road, Superthing is a feast for the eyes – we’re talking musk-coloured walls and ceiling, plush pink booths and a temperature-controlled rolling room located behind iridescent rainbow-filmed glass. The aesthetic is almost enough to draw attention away from the pastries. Almost. Superthing’s pastries (all based on croissant dough) are things of beauty – from the ham, cheese and bechamel croissants to the burnt Basque cheesecake cruffins. Now that folks can dine in, Superthing has also launched a new menu of eats boasting the likes of avocado on toast, toasties, bagel sandwiches and more.
Kid Curry, Fortitude Valley
Cameron and Jordan Votan already had their hands full navigating the COVID-19 lockdowns with their three established venues Happy Boy, Snack Man and Greenglass, so you’d think opening a new concept would be the last thing on their minds. Well, these times are perfect for innovation and experimentation, and that’s exactly what they did when they elected to open online eatery Kid Curry in April. Alongside chef Tom Swapp (formerly of Yandina’s Spirit House) and Damien Paliwoda of Greenglass, the team decided to create a culinary offering taking in Southeast Asian-style cooking with a sharp focus on curry. The initial menu boasted six curries, including an Indonesian rendang with confit duck and potato, a Thai/Burmese hang lae featuring slow-cooked pork belly, Thai khiao wan (green curry) with beef and eggplant, and Kid Curry’s own take on Indian butter chicken. Now that restaurants are open for dine-in service, the Votans have converted Snack Man’s moody space into Kid Curry’s temporary home. Guests can sit down and enjoy the curries on site, alongside new additions such as stir-fried greens with yellow-bean sauce, large curry puffs filled with curried vegetables, chicken and egg, and grilled flaky paratha.
El Planta, South Brisbane
In early March we broke the news that the team behind popular plant-based Mexican pop-up El Planta was in the process of opening a bricks-and-mortar eatery in South Brisbane. While the pandemic pushed the opening date back a bit further than anticipated, locals were able to get a taste of El Planta’s phenomenal fare when it launched a streamlined takeaway service El Planta At Home in late April. The menu featured ready-to-make taco kits (boasting fillings like tacos de al pastor and roasted-cauliflower), potato and mushroom ‘beef’ stew, roasted spiced-pumpkin wedges with pepitas and ancho mole, and DIY nacho kits (featuring tortilla chips, queso sauce, frijoles, guacamole, pico de gallo, smoked paprika, radish and coriander). Now El Planta has opened for dine-in service, which means the menu has grown to include more taco fillings and a drinks selection – think margaritas, tomatillo sours, beers, wines and seasonal non-alcoholic beverages.
Smokey Moo, Newstead
Here we move from plant-based fare to something for carnivorous eaters only. Smokey Moo opened its brand-new location in June, moving from its original home in East Brisbane to a much larger space at Gasworks Plaza. With more room comes more barbecued goodness. Smokey Moo increased its already formidable menu – carving up lovingly cooked brisket, pastrami, beef cheek or beef rib and serving it by weight, as part of a platter or added to a sandwich. Signature dishes include The Dirty Dozen feast (all four meats served with fries topped with caramelised onion, three cheeses and two sauces), Idaho potatoes (fried potato skins filled with creamed corn, accompanied by meat) and a special cob salad, and a brand-new drinks menu adds ice-cold beers, an Australian-dominated wine list and a bevy of signature cocktails to the mix. If you’re keen to indulge in a meat feast, just follow the smell of macadamia and hickory smoke and you’ll find nirvana in no time.
Winston Quinn, Fortitude Valley
Winston Quinn gin started popping up in back bars of Brisbane’s restaurants and watering holes in late-2019, earning a groundswell of interest from serious sippers and cocktail makers alike. Fast forward nearly a year and Winston Quinn has taken the next step in its evolution – opening a new tasting room in Fortitude Valley that gives gin lovers the chance to sip from the source and learn more about the intricacies of the spirit itself. The distillery is running tasting sessions from Thursday to Sunday, where guests can enjoy a 90-minute experience that includes a tasting paddle (featuring a sip of Winston Quinn’s flagship range, plus a bottle of soda water and tonic and a selection of garnishes) and a gin and tonic on arrival. That’s not all – a food and booze menu contains extras including cocktails, mocktails, cheese boards and grazing plates.
Kulcha’d, West End
When Zach Dexter visited the northern-Indian city of Mohali in 2019, he fell in love with kulcha – a form of leavened and crispy tandoor-baked flatbread filled with chilli, spices and a variety of mouth-watering ingredients. Upon returning to Australia, he made it his mission to raise the profile of kulcha (and northern-Indian cuisine in general) in Brisbane. Along with his brother Calvin, Zach founded Kulcha’d – an easygoing eatery located on Boundary Street in West End. As you can probably guess by the name, the specialty here is kulcha. When Kulcha’d opened in early June, the eatery’s debut menu included a traditional aloo gobi option (kulcha stuffed with tandoor-baked potato, onion and spices), another boasting a 50/50 mix of cauliflower and potato, and a cheesy mushroom-and-paneer variety. Since then, Kulcha’d vegan-friendly menu has expanded to include a chilli-and-potato kulcha, a chicken, mushroom and paneer option, a breakfast kulcha, and a spicy egg omelette served with fresh coriander, grilled onion, tomatoes and mushrooms on sourdough. The crew is also currently constructing a bar, which will be serving local craft beer, cocktails and whiskies once completed.
Moonshine Coffee, Kangaroo Point
Byron Bay-born coffee outfit Moonshine Coffee softly opened its own Brisbane in early May, taking over a vacant space on Main Street in Kangaroo Point (across the road from Sea Legs Brewing Co.) and converting it into a casual cool cafe. Initially opening for takeaway only, Moonshine Coffee has been luring in foot traffic with its organic Moon Runner blend and fresh single-origin batch brew and filter coffees. A streamlined menu featuring sizeable toasties (including Ruebens and truffled-mushroom varieties), treats from Jocelyn’s Provisions, doughnuts from Doughluxe, and Wardell Pies is also available, with plans in the works to add avocado toast, fresh salads, 63-degree eggs and smoothies to the offering.
Honourable mentions: This isn’t the be-all and end-all of recent foodie openings. Other noteworthy arrivals include MAYA Mexican in Fortitude Valley, Hey Joe Coffee Co. in East Brisbane, Potato Boy in Bowen Hills, Mama Taco in West End, Sprout Artisan Bakery’s James Street pop-up, Joedy’s Cafe in New Farm, Amalfi Pizzeria in Clayfield and Bao Bar in Teneriffe.
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