The year in review: 2020’s biggest openings
Wowee. What a year. We all went through it, there’s no need to remind you. What we care to focus on are the positives. Despite 2020 being the most difficult year ever for our hospitality friends, our fine city was still blessed with some phenomenal new cafe, restaurant and bar openings – a feat that should be celebrated. So while many of us are trying to forget most of the year that was, we’re excited to look back on the hospitality heroes that made this year one to remember … at least for our tastebuds.
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. Due to open just as the pandemic hit, the restaurant was temporarily put on hold, with the team acting quickly to transform the downstairs wine bar into Agnes Street Pop-Up Bakery + Bottle Shop. The pop-up kept spirits high throughout lockdown restrictions – each day saw (safely distanced) lines stretching around the corner, filled with hungry punters waiting to get their mitts on a flaky kouign-amann. When Agnes finally opened in August, reservations were snapped up months in advance, with locals eager to savour the flame-licked and smoke-caressed fare coming from the venue’s two charcoal pits. The ever-changing menu features the likes of malted sourdough with smoked cultured butter (a nod to the bakery), scarlet prawn doughnuts, lamb ribs lathered in sesame whey caramel, octopus with black lemon, dry-aged grass-fed Angus sirloin with candied onion, and smoked pineapple cake with toffee and cultured cream. Pair that with a list of cocktails similarly influenced by smoke and woodfired flavours, and a wine list boasting hundreds of bottles to choose from, it’s no surprise Agnes has been one of the most exciting openings of the year. Now, excuse us while we refresh the booking page.
Fish Lane’s Town Square
Helping to end 2020 strong was the highly anticipated opening of Fish Lane’s new Town Square. The Richards & Spence-designed precinct has transformed the space beneath the rail overpass into a striking urban jungle, bringing with it a host of exciting new openings from some of Queensland’s most-loved operators. Long-time Fish Lane resident Julius Pizzeria has gained a sibling in spritz and snack bar Bar Brutus, which serves as a cosy spot to wait for a free table at Julius, enjoy a pre-theatre aperitivo and spuntini (hello, focaccia with mortadella and buffalo mozzarella), or while away an evening dreaming of an Italian sojourn. Venture deeper into the square’s tropical oasis and you’ll discover Kiki – a leafy kiosk slinging craft coffee, punchy cocktails, Asian-inspired street eats and funky wines from the brains behind Rick Shores and the sorely missed Little Valley. Kiki is the playful sibling to the group’s newest project, Southside, which opened in early December. Southside, at its core, has been designed from the outset to cater to the time-pressed pre-show set, casual and curious laneway wanderers, and the culinarily courageous. The menu’s foundations are rooted in traditional Chinese cooking, but also boasts a cross-pollination of flavours from East- and Southeast-Asian cuisines, as well as European techniques. Expect to find a stellar selection of dim sum, share plates, rice and noodles dishes alongside a tight wine list and zesty Asian-inspired cocktails. While Bar Brutus, Kiki and Southside are exciting additions to Fish Lane’s already incredible offering, there’s still plenty to come in 2021 – Lune Croissanterie, anyone?
Confidently gunning for the title of ‘Best New Cafe 2020’ is Plentiful – a youthful and inviting cafe that cropped up in Graceville back in March. The venue exudes a playful personality across its interior and outdoor spaces, with a crisp and modern aesthetic setting the cafe head and shoulders above the standard. Here, locals can pop in for some incredible barista-brewed specialty coffee (Five Senses is the cafe’s coffee supplier of choice) and a bite of elevated brunch classics. Locals have gone gaga over signature dishes like the Get Some Spork on Your Fork (crispy potato rosti topped with spicy grilled pork, poached eggs, spinach and hollandaise), Croffle Kid (a chocolate crossiant-waffle hybrid served with berries, basil meringue, lemon gel, brownie crumb and vanilla ice-cream), Spiced Lambo (lamb kofta with kale and quinoa salad, labneh, spiced hummus and toasted garlic tortilla), and the Plentiful KFC (Korean-style sweet-and-spicy fried chicken served with rice cakes, pickled daikon cubes and a fresh plum Asian slaw). This cafe is one worth visiting as soon as possible.
La Costa Bar and Cielo Rooftop Bar, Fortitude Valley
When news spread that the 11th best bar in the world was embarking on a Brisbane expansion, we had to pinch ourselves to ensure we weren’t dreaming. Thankfully, we weren’t – the team behind lauded Sydney bar Maybe Sammy has joined forces with the Salt Meats Cheese and Eterna crew to open La Costa Bar and Cielo Rooftop Bar – two of a promised four venues that look to bring a touch of classic hospitality back to The Valley. Taking over the space vacated by Foresters Restaurant and Altitude Bar on Brunswick Street (next to Accor’s FV by Peppers hotel), both venues are serving eye-catching (and tongue-tantalising) cocktails created by a crack team of world-class bartenders, a menu of eats evoking the flavours of Liguria and a setting that’ll have you thinking you’ve been transported to Italy’s picturesque coastline and riviera. Downstairs at street-facing La Costa Bar you’ll be treated to an array of breakfast and brunch classics by day, until 5:00 pm when the aproned waitstaff starts serving a selection of tapas and small plates inspired by aperitivo culture. Think blue swimmer crab bruschetta, spicy ‘nduja risotto and charcuterie boards served alongside meticulously crafted cocktails such as the Mango Coffee Margarita and the Whiplash Negroni. Up on level six sits Cielo Rooftop Bar – a venue boasting a killer vantage point and a menu to match. Here the menu draws heavily on the sea’s bounty, with the likes of Hiramasa kingfish ceviche, octopus carpaccio, and beetroot-and-gin-cured salmon bruschetta sharing menu space with baked focaccia and prosciutto, bocconcini and honey en croûte. Cielo’s exceptional cocktail list draws influence from other coastal locales, with the St. Tropez Colada and Azzuro making for perfect summer sipping.
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. While it began as an online-only concept, Kid Curry’s popularity soon saw it take over Snack Man when it was forced to pause operations due to COVID-19 restrictions. As of early next year Kid Curry will no longer operate as a pop-up – the restaurateur brothers are set to take over the entire East Street strip, securing the space formerly occupied by streetwear boutique Project. to give Kid Curry a permanent home. Much like its sibling venues, Kid Curry’s focus is on food that is traditionally simple, humble and ‘peasant-style’, but packed full of flavour. Where Happy Boy and Snack Man celebrate the regional and street cuisines of China, Kid Curry pays homage to the staple dishes of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Once open, chef Tom Swapp will expand the current offering and while curries will still feature on the menu, they will be joined by a broad selection of flavourful dishes – think Happy Boy, but Southeast-Asian style. The dark, intimate space will be illuminated by a large open kitchen, so you can watch the magic happen as you salivate from your seat. Kid Curry and Snack Man are set to reopen in their own spaces concurrently in late January.
Broken Hearts Burger Club, Morningside
For burger purists, it’s hard to go past a classic American-style smashed-patty burger. Sadly, this is not something that is easily found here in Australia. For Jay Gordon, it was the thing he missed most when moving home from LA, so he decided to take it upon himself to start making hand-smashed burgers from scratch. During the pandemic he started up an Instagram account to document his journey – Peer Reviewed Burgers – and promised to make and deliver his 30-odd followers free burgers as he mastered his new craft. Before long, Jay’s American-style burgers (and quest for simplistic perfection) started to gain a loyal following (ourselves included), all keen to get a taste of these juicy buns. Unanimously his taste testers agreed – Jay needed to open a burger joint. He called upon his long-time friend Ché Quaedvlieg who immediately jumped on board and, after much experimentation, they announced their first pop-up, which sold out in advance online in mere hours. Jay and Ché were overwhelmed by the response and set about not only planning the next pop-up (which sold out in 12 minutes, mind you), but scouting a bricks-and-mortar venue and renaming Peer Reviewed Burgers to Broken Hearts Burger Club. Their permanent burger joint opened in early December, consistency attracting lines of people waiting to wrap their mitts around Jay’s finely honed creations. At the core of the offering is the classic hand-smashed burger, a no-nonsense two-hander which is expertly executed by kitchen overlords Chè and Dale Hay. The classic boasts a perfectly cooked patty (made using a blend of chuck steak, a slightly more upscale cut like porterhouse, sirloin or oyster blade, and bacon – seasoned with a pinch of salt), slices of American cheese, bread and butter pickles, and a dollop of house-made pink sauce all gently smushed between a lightly toasted potato bun (which the team finishes baking in their on-site combi oven). While the menu remains simple for the time being (you can level up your burger with extra patties, lettuce, tomato and onion, or add a side of fries), expect to find some exciting new additions and pop-ups in the new year.
Siffredi’s Spaghetti Bar, Teneriffe
Perhaps one of the biggest cases of setback to success is the story of Teneriffe newcomer Siffredi’s Spaghetti Bar – a product of “redundancies and ‘rona”. When South Bank culinary institution Stokehouse Q shuttered in August, it cast head chef Ollie Hansford and sommelier Aleks Balodis adrift in the uncertain waters of Brisbane’s post-pandemic dining scene. In situations such as these, it’s always best to search for silver linings – in this case, Ollie and Aleks were free to forge a new path in their careers. With redundancy cheques stuffed into their pockets, the duo decided to turn some lemons into lemonade and make good on a shared dream of theirs – opening and operating a venue of their own. The tandem reached out to long-time friend Stephen Overty (formerly a top drinks slinger at Stokehouse), coaxing him to swap his corporate lifestyle for a return to hospitality, thereby completing the brains trust for Siffredi’s Spaghetti Bar. While spaghetti sits at the heart of Siffredi’s culinary offering, the trio is eager to avoid being pigeonholed as strictly Italian. Ollie is eschewing the traditional trappings of Italian cooking, allowing himself the freedom to build his dishes around a concise array of flavours and of-the-moment ingredients using spaghetti as a blank canvas. His gastronomic artistry has thus far resulted in a menu featuring five kinds of spaghetti dishes and four snacks, sitting alongside Aleks’ curation of new and old-world wines favouring small-scale producers (as well as fun inclusions like new-wave bagged wines). The menu is constantly changing, but we promise you – you’ve never had spaghetti quite like this.
Superthing, West End
Lovers of baked goods have been spoiled rotten by 2020’s bevy of arrivals, including West End bakery Superthing. 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.
Pasta Club, West End
Fans of CJ’s Pasta’s Secret Pasta Club were crushed when the cosy eatery and providore closed just before the pandemic. Spirits were lifted, however, when the Secret Pasta Club’s originators Leila Amirparviz and Darcy Adam secured a new home for the concept on Boundary Street in West End. This new iteration of Pasta Club is no longer secret – this is a bona fide local star specialising in home-style Italian fare. Pasta Club’s menu is designed to be easy to navigate, with a handful of ever-changing entrees, salads, pasta dishes and desserts forming the bulk of what will be on offer at any given time. Start with a serve of truffled-mushroom arancini or salad of radicchio, goats cheese, caramelised onion and balsamic before twirling your fork through plate of cacio e pepe or braised beef-cheek ragu, or savour bite-sized portions of pumpkin agnolotti lathered in burnt butter. To top it off, Pasta Club recently secured a liquor licence to pour a selection of new-world wines and refreshing spritzes. The only wrong choice is electing not to check this place out.
Ping Pong, Newstead
If you want a feast for all your senses, not just your tastebuds, then pencil in a visit to Ping Pong – the pink-hued eatery from the team behind Morning After and Yolk. Sitting snug in the heart of Gasworks Plaza, this vivid Derlot-designed eatery is an Instagrammable delight that backs up the aesthetics with a popping menu of Thai eats. Co-owner and head chef Khanittha ‘Bowyo’ Muangsong has taken a fun multi-sensory approach with the menu, dipping into her own Thai heritage for Ping Pong signatures like betel-leaf wraps, beef-cheek massaman curry (a side of flaky roti is a must), lamb-neck rendang, wild-caught-prawn curry, sticky beef short ribs and whole fried reef fish. This spot is perfect for group dinners, with most dishes suited for sharing. Park yourselves under the sea of floating ping-pong balls or nab a booth in the secret jungle room at the venue’s rear and tuck in!
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 roasted portobello mushroom with thyme, garlic and iron-bark-smoked whipped potato. At full flight MICA will also open for lunch and dinner – we can’t wait!
Commercial Road Public Bar, Newstead
Italian-inspired bar food, natural wines and an interior inspired by Peter Gabriel’s 1986 smash-hit single ‘Sledgehammer’? Yep, we’re interested. Much like the music of Peter Gabriel, neighbourhood watering hole Commercial Road Public Bar is loud, fun and unafraid to take risks. Owner Kyle Weir has aimed to create a welcoming bar that caters to Brisbane’s varied demographic, where the only mandate was to avoid sameness or predictability – and he’s done just that. Commercial Road Public Bar’s inconspicuous entrance is located on Wyandra Street, marked by a sign boasting a vivid rainbow-like spectrum of colour reminiscent of the SMPTE bars – a test pattern commonly used to measure luminance in CRT television screens. Inside, neon light fixtures bathe separate corners of the space in lush hues, while plops of spray paint help break up black-and-white posters that have been pasted to the walls. The bar itself is sturdy and understated (aside from the bright-pink beer taps), with attention angled primarily to the shelves of wine, beer and spirits on hand. The resulting combination makes for a suitably lively hub for relaxed daytime dining or nighttime revelry, with a tasteful playlist blending 80s hits and current jams maintaining the vibes well after sunset. When it comes to drinks, Kyle has been determined to make natural, biodynamic and organic wines a key focus of the venue’s offering from the outset. Familiar faces such as La Violetta, LATTA, Brave New Wine, Aphelion, Unico Zelo and Architects of Wine are featured alongside party-friendly plonk such as canned red and whites from Garage Project’s Fairy Bread range, and 375-ml bottles of funky wines from Tasmanian outfit Brian. These pair perfectly with eats such as Vanella hand-tied burrata with dill oil, wagyu bresaola and white anchovies with gremolata, or the five-strong list of classic pizzas – think the likes of four-cheese pizza (ricotta, fior di latte, gorgonzola and fontina), classic margherita, pork and fennel sausage, mushroom and thyme, and pizzas topped with wagyu bresaola and burrata.
Craft-beer breweries and bars
Brisbane’s craft-beer scene barely missed a beat this year, with several established and new outfits staking out territory across town. The team behind wildly popular Howard Smith Wharves brewery Felons Brewing Co. took over Howard’s Hall at the booming riverside hub, transforming it into Felons Barrel Hall – a new brewpub that puts a modern-Australian spin on a classic German beer-hall concept. Four gleaming beer tanks feed into 80-odd taps, each pouring steins of Felons’ core range and Barrel Hall brews (concocted in French and American oak barrels). Cocktails and lo-fi and natural wines are also available alongside punchy Southeast Asian-inspired menu of eats. In November, Burleigh-born beer crew Black Hops Brewing purchased East Brisbane’s Semi-Pro Brewing Co., amalgamating brewing teams and establishing Black Hops’ first dedicated Brisbane brewery. The brewery’s bar boasts 16 taps, which are dedicated to Black Hops’ core range and some small-batch beverages brewed on-site. Another Gold Coast outfit made inroads into Brisbane’s beer scene this year. The froth-mad brains behind Miami-born Lost Palms Brewing Co. opened an inclusive millennial-pink taproom and eatery in Sherwood, giving suburban sippers easier access to its core beers – plus a clutch of beer-infused cocktails and a refreshing gluten-free peach seltzer. Woolloongabba scored a two-level brewery of its own in October when anticipated arrival Easy Times Brewing Co. opened its doors. Tapping into some Bavarian roots, Easy Times cycles through a mental rolodex of close to 200 recipes to create an ever evolving range of beers, from hazy double IPAs, tropical pale ale and a Bavarian-style Helles lager. The crew from Proof BBQ & Booze has set up shop on Easy Times’ upper level, pairing the brewery’s refreshing frothies with a menu of mouth-watering meats by the pound. A notorious brewing dead zone was finally gifted a beery beauty in the form of Stafford’s Happy Valley Brewing Co., which took some of the area’s history and imbued it within its range of experimental recipes. Here the brewing team is gently pushing drinkers outside of their comfort zones with beers that might be unfamiliar at first, but could turn into their new favourite. Most recently, Brisbane’s bayside welcomed Hudson Brewing, an independent operation situated in an out-of-the-way industrial strip in the heart of Wynnum. The brainchild of avid home brewer Richard Hudson, this newcomer has already become a haven for froth-loving locals with an eight-tap bar cycling through familiar and experimental styles.
Will & Flow, Brisbane City
Considering Brisbane is commonly known as the River City, it’s certainly lacking in the way of riverside bars. Treasury Brisbane decided to help right this wrong, opening overwater bar Will & Flow in late November. Perched on the banks of the river between the QUT Gardens Point ferry terminal and the city side of the Goodwill Bridge, the 130-seat custom-designed venue is the newest concept to come from the team at Treasury Brisbane and is the company’s first concept to open outside of its stately heritage-listed home in the heart of The City. For its first foray outside of its sandstone premises, the Treasury team has absolutely nailed the location (which sits inside the Queen’s Wharf precinct). Will & Flow boasts panoramic views of South Bank and the Cultural Centre, with the riverfront venue offering some of the best seats in town to catch the sunset. Will & Flow is designed to be a multi-purpose go-to for all comers – think early risers soaking in the salutary morning atmosphere underneath the shade of the deck’s umbrellas, or cocktail sippers catching the day’s final rays as the lights of the city skyline twinkle on the water at dusk. The menu stretches from light morning bites through to succulent seafood and woodfired pizzas – paired perfectly with a cocktail or two in the sun.
Honourable mentions: This isn’t the be-all and end-all of this year’s notable foodie openings. Other arrivals include MAYA Mexican, Lloyd’s General Store, The Prince Consort and Winston Quinn in Fortitude Valley, Joey’s and Moonshine Coffee in Kangaroo Point, Dovetail Social in Highgate Hill, El Planta in South Brisbane, Suburban Social’s new bar in Holland Park, Mama Taco and Kulcha’d in West End, Sprout Artisan Bakery’s James Street pop-up, Joedy’s Cafe in New Farm, Smokey Moo in Newstead, Amalfi Pizzeria in Clayfield, Naga, The Maillard Project and Industry Beans in Brisbane City, Emily Yeoh Restaurant in Paddington, Honour Ave Cellars in Graceville, and La Patrona Mexican Cuisine and Bao Bar in Teneriffe.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.