Heritage and happy hours – five stunning Brisbane City bars with a secret past
There’s no denying the charm of a heritage-listed space – from the original architectural details to the old-world vibe, there are gems studded all around Brisbane City. As much as we like admiring them from afar, these structures take on a new significance when you’re able to step inside and immerse yourself in the past lives of the space – and what better way to do that than with a drink in hand? Some of The City’s best bars do double duty as heritage-listed sites loaded with homages to their history. We’ve trawled the archives to bring you five Brisbane City bars that have a secret past you’ll want to know about.
When a venue holds the only Heritage Bar License in Queensland, you know it’s going to go all out to respect the history of the space. This is exactly what The Gresham is about – from the menu to the fit-out, every detail has been thoughtfully considered to reflect the building’s past life as the Gresham Hotel. Prior to its demolition following flood damage in 1974, the original building was completed way back in 1885 and played a pivotal role in Queensland history (you can read more on The Gresham’s website). Nowadays, you can sip on some of the finest rum, whisky and wine in the country as well as cocktails crafted by experts in mixology. As if that wasn’t enough to win you over, The Gresham has another trick up its sleeve – how do you like the sound of barception? We’re talking a bar within a bar. Housed behind a fancy button-tufted red leather door in the back corner lies The Drawing Room, the venue’s intimate secret bar where patrons can sip cocktails based on Queensland history.
When you’ve nabbed a tenancy as beautiful as the Old Mineral House, it would be an absolute disservice not to maximise on the site’s old-world beauty. Luckily for us, restaurateurs Andrew Baturo, Paul Piticco and Denis Sheahan decided to keep the fires of tradition burning bright when they opened Walter’s Steakhouse in the space. The building’s origins date right back to the 1890s, so it’s a joy to see that the team behind Walter’s has gone the extra mile to preserve the charm and feel of the iconic space while still injecting new life. From the moment you walk into the plush lounge-style bar right through until finishing your perfectly cooked steak in the main dining room, the venue exudes heritage detail coupled with good old-fashioned hospitality. Indulge in a little slice of New York meets Brisbane – your eyes and tastebuds will thank you for it.
Doo-Bop Jazz Bar
If you’ve ever found yourself walking down Edward Street and caught a glimpse of bright neon beckoning you down a stairwell, allow us to educate you on what lies beneath. Constructed in 1910, the Federation-era warehouse featuring its original unrendered brickwork, large wooden beams and fine detailing is now home to Doo-Bop Jazz Bar, a swingin’ den of sophistication where you can get your kicks into the wee hours. The venue combines a stylishly appointed restaurant and piano lounge with a late-night underground jazz bar to create the best of both worlds. The upper-ground level is an Art Deco dining destination with a menu of shared bites and fine wines, while the basement bar provides more hearty bites for dinner-and-a-show vibes. It’s not just local legends who play here – you can also catch big-name acts on the regular.
John Mills Himself
If you like your Brisbane history with a modern local flavour, be sure to make time for John Mills Himself. Standing proud as one of the tallest original heritage brick structures on Charlotte Street, the John Mills Himself building was originally home to (you guessed it) a chap named John Mills, a printer who built his office, printery workshop and warehouse on this site previously occupied by Markwell’s Cottage in 1919. These days, JMH is actually home to a host of awesome tenants – one of which you can sip and snack at. By day, the John Mills Himself cafe serves up perfectly poured brews from local coffee roasters accompanied by mouth-watering sweet treats. When the sun sets, the space transforms into a rad little bar that has a ‘drink miles’ ethos – the team has calculated the kilometres each product has travelled (by road) and presents its menu in such a way that you can make choices to reduce your carbon footprint by drinking local.
Fancy a modern American feast with all of the fixings served with a side of heritage charm? Buffalo Bar has got your back. The beautifully maintained Coal Board Building dates back to 1888 and was originally used as a warehouse. Back in the day it housed fine china, leather and hardware supplies, but these days it is home to The City’s premier destination for USA-style eats. The building’s integrity has remained, with loads of original details peppered throughout the venue’s four distinct areas. Whether you’re knocking back a whisky in the wood-panelled surrounds of Hank’s Bar or tucking into a hoagie in the old-school dining hall, historical vibes abound at Buffalo.
This article was created in partnership with our friends at Brisbane Marketing.
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