The round-up: the biggest foodie openings of the year (so far) – plus more to look forward to!
Can you believe we’re almost halfway through the year? We know, it’s a bit uncomfortable to think about, but that’s what happens when you’ve been too busy enjoying all of the exciting things happening in and around Brisbane, especially in its dining scene! So far the year has seen big openings from established operators, the emergence of some exciting upstarts and the revitalisation of old favourites – each new arrival adding something special to the city’s culinary landscape. We’re taking the opportunity to catch our breath, look back at the year so far and reflect on the best openings of 2021 to date!
Biànca, Fortitude Valley: The anticipated arrival of fire-and-smoke centric restaurant Agnes was the story of 2020 – and its sibling Biànca might just snag the title for 2021. Tyron Simon, Ben Williamson and Frank Li continued their trend of acclaimed openings in April, launching the restaurant (named and inspired by Ty’s partner Bianca Marchi – a Milanese transplant) on Ada Lane, just two doors down from the group’s other acclaimed eatery sAme sAme. A Richards and Spence-led redesign of the space has resulted in one of the most attractive restaurants in Brisbane, with peach, muted pink and terracotta hues setting the stage for a menu of Italian trattoria classics and cocktails that showcase the fun and frivolous side of the storied cuisine. As one would expect, bookings were (and are still) in high demand, but the dining experience at Biànca is worth the wait.
Melrose, Bulimba: The crew behind beloved Woolloongabba cafe and restaurant Pawpaw outdid itself in mid May when it opened Melrose in Bulimba. Summoning the essence of Seminyak and channelling the luxury of Canggu, this Bali-inspired bar and restaurant is perched above the crew’s popular patisserie Darvella, making good use of its elevated position by creating a stylish escape for travel-starved foodies. Melrose’s kitchen, helmed by former Longrain head chef Arté Assavakavinvong focuses on Indonesian and Thai cuisine, with a menu that relishes simplicity in presentation, but complexity in depth of flavour. The spicy fare is accompanied by a 70-strong wine list and plenty of smashable cocktails – the right combination for taking tastebuds on a holiday.
Opa Bar + Mezze, Brisbane City: Michael Tassis – the restaurateur behind riverside spots George’s Paragon, Massimo Restaurant & Bar, Rico Bar & Dining, and Fatcow Steak & Lobster continued his takeover of Eagle Street this year with the launch of Opa Bar + Mezze. Looking to his own Greek heritage, Michael has crafted a breezy eatery that pays homage to the clifftop calderas of Santorini (right down to the sculptural whitewashed walls), which is coupled with a menu geared towards malleability and variety. The likes of Opa’s ouzo-soaked saganaki, flash-fried calamari, moussaka drenched in béchamel, airy taramasalata and lamb souvla fresh from the spit has been keeping tables busy since opening, which means the team is certainly onto something good.
Bisou Bisou and Iris, Fortitude Valley: The Ghanem Group – the highly regarded hospitality group behind Donna Chang, Blackbird Bar & Grill and Byblos Bar & Restaurant – caused a stir with its latest double-header opening at Fortitude Valley’s Hotel X. On the ground floor sits Bisou Bisou – a flirty French-inspired bistro that recontextualises quintessential French tastes for a Queensland palate. Steak tartare with tête de moine and cured egg yolk feature alongside whole New Zealand sole and Australian shorthorn rib eye, while a beverage list encompasses more than 200 wines (including some high-end labels served via EuroCave enomatic dispensers), seven house concoctions and eight reserve sips. On the rooftop sits Iris, an alluring bar and restaurant that traverses the tastes of the Mediterranean coast with a side of some near-unbeatable views. Not short on colour-soaked luxury, Iris has quickly become a popular spot for sundowners and sky-high snacking, with share-style plates and drinks that evoke the Greek Islands, Spain and parts of the Middle East.
Elementi, Paddington: Any opening spearheaded by a team with experience working at the likes of Beccofino, Julius Pizzeria and Maeve Wine is bound to catch our attention. Elementi didn’t disappoint. The brainchild of Pedro Sanson, Stefano Spataro and Mauricio Zarate has caused quite a buzz since opening on Given Terrace in February, with the trio’s unique take on Italian cuisine accented with multicultural twists, a no-boundaries approach to beverage curation and personality to spare. It should come as no surprise that Elementi has gained a huge following from the jump, with almost all of its regular clientele waxing lyrical about the ironbark-fuelled woodfired oven pizzas (including the baciata – a large pizza sandwich stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and mortadella).
COPPA, Brisbane City: COPPA is a name that might be familiar to most – when it first opened on Creek Street in 2014, the boutique pizzeria and bar (owned and operated by the Happy Fat Group) helped familiarise diners with spuntino-style dining. More than six years on and COPPA has evolved, moving from cosy nightspot to upscale riverside restaurant. Now situated in the former home of long-running culinary institution Il Centro, COPPA has adopted a visual identity that reflects Brisbane’s tropical climate and COPPA’s breezy coastal-Italian inspirations. Barring pizzas, much of COPPA’s beloved menu remains intact, including its veal-and-pork meatballs, tiger prawn and Fraser Island crab linguine, roast porchetta and bistecca alla Fiorentina. Drinks wise, COPPA’s selection of Italian and Italian-Australian wines remains stellar while a new range of boozy slushies (frozen negroni, frozen prosecco and a pina colada) are bringing drinkers in by the droves.
Bear Boy Espresso, Windsor: Helensvale-born specialty coffee and brunch outlet Bear Boy Espresso is one of the most-adored cafes on the coast, so when owners Brodie and Andrew Howard announced that they were bringing the concept to Brisbane this year, locals were justifiably stoked. The teams new 45-seater locale at Colwill Place became a weekend brunch go-to as soon as the doors opened – the space itself is an Instagrammable delight filled with terracotta hues, crisp whites, warm timber and pops of gold. Bear Boy’s menu isn’t too shabby either – crispy potato waffle Benedicts, buttermilk fried chicken and poached eggs, sweetcorn and zucchini fritters and Curly Wurly acai bowls are sensational day starters, while Single O‘s Killer Bee blend really hits the spot if you need to give your system a jumpstart.
Slipstream Brewing Co., Yeerongpilly: Brisbane’s craft-beer brewing scene has gone from strength to strength in recent years and expanding in lock-step with it has been Slipstream – a second-wave brewery that has become a community anchor for Yeerongpilly locals and a top-tier sip for froth fiends city wide. When they noticed that the operation has reached the limits of its potential at its Wilkie Street location, owners Deale and Elisa Stanley-Hunt decided to take over the neighbouring property and transform it to suit their expansion needs. The revitalised Slipstream headquarters saw the installation of a brand-new kitchen (complete with an Italian pizza oven and smoker), a lengthy bar (boasting 20 taps) and dining space for 250 patrons spread across the interior and street-side beer garden. Now Slipstream is a one-stop destination for terrific brews, Californian-inspired eats and on-point atmosphere, and is well positioned to be one for years to come.
The Arsonist, Manly: Moody, thrilling, memorable – these are just three words that serve to describe the dining experience at The Arsonist. Manly’s new fire-and-smoke-powered restaurant might be one of the newest venues on this list, but praise for the concept is already pouring in. A custom-made fire deck is utilised to cook all manner of local ingredients over flame, with various woods employed to create different smoky flavours. Menu items like smoked beef-fat doughnuts and barbecued local king prawns, woodfired figs with stracciatella, suckling pig from The Schultz Family Farm and 63-day dry-aged Stockyard OP rib on the bone showcase fire cooking at its best. Meanwhile, a stellar whisky selection, wine list and cocktail menu offer the perfect luxe libations to complement the crackling atmosphere and sizzling offering.
More to come: The year’s not over yet – by the end of 2021 Brisbane will boast even more new places to eat! Some openings that we’re really looking forward to include Fortitude Valley Italian restaurant Rosmarino, the arrival of Lune Croissanterie’s Fish Lane flagship, Robertson Street’s Essa Restaurant and Wine Bar, Woolloongabba live-music temple The Princess Theatre, Melbourne’s Baker D. Chirico’s Newstead expansion, deli-style sandwich bar Mr Badger’s, Albion’s 2600-sqm all-in-one hospitality hub Craft’d Grounds, Gold Coast-born distillery Granddad Jack’s Brisbane outpost and Agnes Bakery’s bricks-and-mortar home on James Street.
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