The year in review: Brisbane’s biggest openings in 2019
After the blockbuster year Brisbane’s food scene experienced in 2018, you’d be forgiven for thinking that 2019 would be hard-pressed to to follow suit. Our northern neighbour had a banner year as far as blockbuster openings are concerned, and from our point of view, 2019 has not only matched 2018’s gargantuan effort, but has even surpassed it! This year Brisbane was the beneficiary of several new restaurants, bars, cafes, breweries and live-music venues – with homegrown heroes and international names establishing must-try venues all over town. If you’re thinking of making the trip up the M1 over the Christmas period, consider adding one or two of these all-star arrivals to your itinerary!
Howard Smith Wharves
Late last year, Brisbane’s dining landscape was altered considerably with the landmark arrival of riverside dining hub Howard Smith Wharves. Although expectations were high, the long-awaited precinct blew all predictions out of the water, with seemingly all of Brisbane flocking to drink and dine at instant favourites Felons Brewing Co., Mr Percival’s and Greca. Despite the tidal wave of success Howard Smith Wharves experienced in 2018, 2019 held promise of more – with several high-profile eateries set to cement the area as Brisbane’s pre-eminent dining destination. The year fulfilled its promise – in February, ARC Dining touched down at the wharves’ New Farm end, wowing critics and passionate foodies alike with its Anna Spiro-designed interiors, top-notch wine list curated by renowned sommelier Ian Trinkle and menu of enlivening fare prepared by heralded chef Alanna Sapwell. In March, Brisbane’s second Art Series Hotel The Fantauzzo officially opened to the public, boasting top-tier amenities and suites coated in eye-catching work by celebrated contemporary artist Vincent Fantauzzo. The hotel also brought with it two new hotspots of its own – Italian restaurant Polpetta and chic rooftop watering hole Fiume Bar – while also housing a new Betty’s Burgers location and colourful dessert spot Goodtimes Gelateria. The second half of the year brought with it the arrival of two of the precinct’s most anticipated restaurants – contemporary Cantonese restaurant Stanley, and vivid Japanese-inspired restaurant Yoko. The former sees acclaimed chef Louis Tikaram blending the aromas and tastes of traditional Chinese cooking with moody aesthetics and Brisbane’s own maritime heritage, while Greca’s Jonathan Barthelmess doubled up on his Brisbane presence with a venue that pairs a delightfully offbeat aesthetic with the pub-style atmosphere of Japanese izakayas.
When it comes to the biggest success stories of 2019, Joy. might be the best. The culinary combo of Tim and Sarah Scott wrapped stints at some of Australia’s best restaurants and relocated to Brisbane with the purpose of creating their own creative outlet where they could cook food that brought them true happiness. Their idea took the shape of a ten-seat omakase-inspired venue, where they could experiment with a free-wheeling approach to dining that was as-yet-unseen in the city. The restaurant opened on Bakery Lane in March, and immediately set the scene alight with a tasteful combination of Japanese and Nordic cuisines. The offering is designed to be an experience, with long and short set menus showcasing fare prepped, cooked and served solely by Tim and Sarah. This two-person operation has since earned widespread acclaim, being awarded two hats in the latest Good Food Guide Awards, and now a seat at Joy. has become one of the most coveted commodities in town.
South Brisbane’s Queensland National Bank building near the Cultural Centre began to trade in a liquid kind of currency back in March when Maeve Wine took over the second floor of the gorgeous heritage-listed wonder. The brainchild of the team behind Hello Please (which also underwent some changes this year), Maeve Wine is reminiscent of classic European wine bars, with a refined and elegant interior boasting polished timber floors, black curved panelling, brass finishes and marble benchtops. As the name intimates, Maeve Wine specialises in vino, with a list of exceptional drops curated by Movida Melbourne wine buyer Eleanor Cappa. Wines are available by the glass or bottle, and those looking for a more serious sip can look to the Coravin and reserve list to find a clutch of rare bottles from French, Italian and Australian producers. Depending on who you ask, Maeve’s seasonally driven menu is on par with the terrific wine list – morsels such as sourdough crumpets with honey duck ham, hazelnut mustard and thyme, black-garlic waffles with gelatine de vino and blue-cheese parfait, steak tartare with horseradish creme and cured egg yolk, and saganaki doused in fermented garlic honey make for the perfect pre- or post-show snack.
Fortitude Music Hall
Brisbane’s newest (and Australia’s largest) ballroom-cum-theatre-style venue officially opened in August, irrevocably changing our live-music scene for the better. After a few years of construction, Brunswick Street’s Fortitude Music Hall – the brainchild of Scott Hutchinson of Hutchinsons Builders, and The Triffid’s co-owners John ‘JC’ Collins of Powderfinger and Paul Piticco of Secret Sounds – swung open its doors to the masses, showing off it’s cavernous auditorium. Housed where beloved venue Festival Hall once stood, this contemporary successor is designed to be the kind of music mecca that will be shared and enjoyed for generations to come. This premium mid-to-large-scale live-music monolith is equipped with some jaw-dropping bells and whistles, from the purposefully designed tiered mezzanine level in the main room, the numerous bars and intimate on-site band room to the venue’s gear, staging set-up and load-in capabilities. Fortitude Music Hall has already hosted some big names, but its impact on the live-music scene for years to come makes it a bona fide headline arrival in 2019.
It didn’t take long for The Calile to establish itself as one of the country’s most impressive five-star accomodation destinations. The mix of gorgeous subtropical-inspired aesthetics and top-of-the-line amenities make staying on James Street a dream, and on-site eateries such as Hellenika and The Lobby Bar further bolster James Street’s rep as a gourmand’s go to. This year, phase two of the development was realised, with The Calile’s adjacent micro precinct Ada Lane adding several more top-flight eateries to the mix. First came new locations for Jocelyn’s Provisions and Gelato Messina, with the confection combo kicking off proceedings on a sweet note. In October, Darkhorse Hospitality Group’s Beaux Rumble brought NYC-inspired aesthetics and wood, fire and smoke-touched cuisine from Michelin-starred chef Alan Wise to the strip. One month later, the LONgTIME crew announced the closure of its cherished Thai restaurant and the ensuing opening of its spiritual successor sAme sAme. Nestled in the middle of Ada Lane’s Richards and Spence-designed promenade, sAme sAme has transferred much of LONgTIME’s menu of Thai fare and updated it with some undeniably impressive enhancements. Rounding out Ada Lane’s foodie contingent is SK Steak & Oyster, the newly open restaurant from Hellenika’s Simon Gloftis. The restaurateur has doubled his presence at The Calile with a sophisticated bistro-style venue favouring lovingly cooked protein, seafood and a stellar array of champagnes.
ZA ZA TA
In 2018, Ovolo The Valley made a colourful splash in Brisbane’s inner-city hotel scene. The voguish newcomer added a restaurant to its list of top-notch amenities this year, securing the talents of renowned chefs Roy Ner and Dario Manca to spearhead on-site bar and eatery ZA ZA TA. The eclectically decorated venue has been inspired by Tel Aviv’s vibrant culinary scene, showcasing a union of ideas and tastes between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. ZA ZA TA serves dishes inspired by age-old regional recipes, translating soul, reason and heritage to the plate, while manipulating Queensland with various fermenting, salting, smoking, slow-cooking, and ageing processes. Bolstered by a collection of cold-pressed craft cocktails, plantation rums, Mediterranean-style gin and tonics and small-batch Tel Aviv-inspired wines, ZA ZA TA has set itself as a stellar addition to Brisbane’s resurgent Middle Eastern food scene.
Alba Bar and Deli and Death & Taxes
Brisbane City’s Burnett Lane was the recipient of some phenomenal new boozers in 2019, both of which are conveniently situated right next to each other. April saw the arrival of Death & Taxes, the newest addition to Martin Lange’s portfolio of watering holes, which also includes Cobbler, Savile Row and Finney Isles. The king of Brisbane’s cocktail-bar scene took over an under-utilised alleyway bunker and transformed it into a moody oasis of top-notch drink, and it’s been doing a cracking trade ever since. Behind blackout curtains and ornate wooden doors, guests can perch at the lengthy wooden bar or cushy leather booths, settling in to peruse the 30-strong cocktail list or winging it with a selection of one of Death & Taxes’ 600-plus bottles of exceptional booze. Next door sits Alba Bar and Deli, the brainchild of MasterChef alum Jamie Fleming, who has blended his personal predilection for sherry, Spanish pintxos and hip-hop. Jamie describes Alba as a low-key San Sebastián watering hole if it was located in New York City in 1992. Alba arrived in May, and since doors opened there hasn’t been a weekend where the bar is empty.
City Winery’s Dave Cush and Adam Penberthy – co-owners of nomadic vino operation Gerler Wines – brought the winemaking process back to the heart of Brisbane for the first time since Gerler’s namesake – winemaker Carl Gerler – operated in town during the 1800s. The result of a three-year plan (which also included the opening of Newstead wine bar Carl’s), City Winery’s Wandoo Street space (the former home of Campos Coffee) doubles as a bricks-and-mortar HQ for Gerler’s barrel-ageing process and cellar door. Here, vino enthusiasts can sample Gerler’s full range of minimal-intervention drops and a menu of paddock-to-plate and nose-to-tail dishes at the on-site restaurant.
Daniel Quinn – the operator responsible for Fortitude Valley caffeine and bagel joint Milk Box Coffee & Tuckshop – expanded his portfolio in 2019 with what may be Brisbane’s best Mexican eatery. Baja, located at the base of FV on Brunswick Street, is inspired by the Mexican state of Baja California – a region renowned for its beachy Cali-Mex style cuisine. Julio Aguilera – one of America’s most exciting young chefs – has wowed diners with dishes such as burrata with a smoked-cashew salsa macha, twice-cooked octopus tentacles coated in a squid-ink and burnt-jalapeno soy sauce, and the signature Baja fish taco with beer-battered kingfish and chipotle slaw. Doing away with the cheese-laden trappings of Tex-Mex cuisine, Baja’s fresh seasonal approach to clean flavours and textures has made it a popular dining spot for Fortitude Valley revellers.
It’s been a banner year for Brisbane’s craft-beer scene, with global players and established local veterans opening new brewing operations around town. Scottish craft-beer institution BrewDog finally launched its gargantuan (and highly anticipated) $30 million state-of-the-art brewing and distribution operation in Murrarie back in early November, which includes a includes a 25-hectolitre brewing system, eight 50-hectolitre fermenters, a fully-automated canning and kegging line, cold room facilities and sizeable taproom-meets-beer-hall DogTap (which comes equipped with 28 taps). Closer to the centre of town, Byron Bay icons Stone & Wood opened a Brisbane micro-brewing operation in Fortitude Valley’s heritage-listed Trails Ltd Ice & Cold Stores, housing an eight-hectolitre brewhouse and a 150-seat brewpub where fans could see, touch, feel and taste Stone & Wood’s product without having to make the pilgrimage south. The city’s small-scale brewing scene was further bolstered by the arrival of Sea Legs Brewing Co. in Kangaroo Point, new breweries from established outfits Ballistic Beer Co. and Aether Brewing, as well as the recent opening of Northgate-based operation Fick Brewing Company.
October brought with it the arrival of a big name in the Australian cafe scene – Industry Beans. After conquering tastebuds in Melbourne and Sydney, the brand decided to expand into Queensland, opening an impressive all-in-one roastery, brew bar and cafe on Proe Street in Newstead. A 12-month design, development and build period yielded what might be one of Brisbane’s most breathtaking venues, with a 700sqm warehouse space boasting a palette of clean, crisp and minimalist aesthetics. Most impressive, however, is the approach Industry Beans takes to caffeine – espresso-based and filter coffee menus list the region of origin, flavour profiles and notable pieces of information across all choices, highlighting the educational element underpinning the entire coffee service. The brunch fare is similarly considered, with dishes walking the line between food and art. If repeat custom is a measure of success, then it’s important to know that Industry Beans has been open for a couple of months and weekend trade has yes to calm down, indicating we may have a new icon in the making.
Daniel and Hannah Bowles followed up the success of their New Farm cafe Miss Jones with stellar newcomer Sister in May, delivering a superb family-friendly atmosphere on top of their already heralded approach to breakfast, lunch and coffee. This sun-soaked street-side cafe boasts an aesthetic of adorable illustrations, peach, lavender, white and timber, with a menu that suitably matches the space with freshness, colour and quirkiness. If you can manage to snag a seat (this place as been a hit with Hawthorne and Bulimba locals), you’ll be able to savour the likes of breakfast gnocchi topped with mushroom ragu, bacon crumb, pecorino and a poached egg, gingerbread waffles with cinnamon custard and honeycomb gelato, and sticky Asian-style pork-belly benedict served on potato hash with greens and yuzu hollandaise.
The Elizabeth Street Arcade was reborn as a multi-faceted Asian-food hub FudoDori half way through 2019, bolstering the inner-city dining scene with a selection of novel concepts. The precinct opened in stages, leading with Chinese restaurant, bar and tea dispensary LUCHA Kitchen + Bar and Kyoto teahouse-inspired cafe Koto Sanpo. Soon after, FudoDori added several new eateries, including Japanese barbecue joint Yakiniku Hachi, Harajuku-inspired crepe dispensary Amai Kawaii and colourful Thai restaurant Na Bangkok. FudoDori has been busy ever since, but the action doesn’t stop there. The strip is set to fill in with even more tenants in the new year, including a Chinese hot-pot restaurant and a Japanese izakaya located on one of FudoDori’s mezzanine levels.
Brisbane’s dining scene underwent a Thai renaissance this year, with several restaurants (see: sAme sAme, Phat Boy, Mekhong, Na Bangkok) not only bolstering the number of choices available, but elevating the cuisine’s standing amongst diners. Brisbane City’s Jumbo played an important part in increasing Thai food’s profile by presenting the fare in a more ambitious restaurant setting. Andrew and Wasana Park have moved away from casual neighbourhood dining to serve traditional Thai fare in a more polished way, while still paying tribute to its lively and informal origins. The stunning interior decor is ably matched by the menu, which has been specifically designed to complement and challenge the maturing palates of Brisbane’s dining crowd, pushing the boundaries by showcasing the most authentic tastes possible.
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