My City Brisbane
A lot has changed in brisbane over the last decade with the food and wine scene taking off to make it one of Australia's most vibrant destinations
The first time I came to Brisbane was in 1994 on a wild road trip from Sydney in a mate’s Bedford van to indulge in the Livid festival at Davies Park (now home to one of the best farmers markets in South East Queensland).
My next foray to Brisvegas was in 2000 when I journeyed here with my good friend Jamie Oliver, promoting The Naked Chef 2 and the accompanying cookbook, both of which featured yours truly...an unremarkable experience I recall!
So, on returning in 2008 from London, Brisbane seemed an unlikely place to move. But I’d been told good things by some close friends and a recent move north by my mother-in-law was enough to tip the scales in Brisbane’s favour.
Brisbane was a city hungry for new things and in the subsequent nine years has matured into a uniquely independent city with some amazing food, beverage and lifestyle opportunities.
On the south side
If you’re after some serious liquor and cocktail therapy, head to The Gresham, an old bank building at the bottom end of Queens Street. These guys know their spirits, reflected in the fact they’ve won Best Bar in Australia.
Once the hunger sets in after a few stiff well mixed old fashioneds stumble next door to Red Hook, a well-executed New York-style burger joint. They knock out a classic cheeseburger and do some damn fine things with ground meat in general.
Now, if you find yourself in South Brisbane's West End I would be remiss not to direct you to my new wine bar, Billykart Bar & Provisions adjacent to my newest restaurant, Billykart West End. The wine focus is on Australian and NZ producers, spirits from boutique Australian and imported distilleries, and Australian craft beers, both on tap and bottled. The food focus is tapas-style dishes with a global influence. It’s a great place to relax and for intimate gatherings and functions. But if you’re after something more substantial, pop next store to Billykart West End.
Still on the south side, venture out to Annerley. There loads of new places popping up around here. This is where you’ll find the original Billykart kitchen. A renovated 1930s Queensland corner store turned café restaurant, it’s open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and Friday evening for a monthly changing menu with a specific cuisine focus
Still in Annerley, on Dudley Street, is the Dudley Street Café, serving some of the best coffee on the south side and yummy toasted sambos.
You might be starting to realise I live south side and in Brisbane there is a bit of north-south rivalry. But when it comes to bread and pastries, you’ve got to head to the Brisbane MarketPlace at Rocklea and visit Lutz and Rebecca from Sprout Artisan bakery. They produce some of the best bread in Australia and the quality of Lutz’s croissants is legendary – we’re talking layers and layers of buttery goodness!
Eat, move, repeat
Now after eating and drinking all this food and booze, you’ll need some park life and Mt Cootha offers great hiking within 5km of the city! There are great views across the Brisbane River Valley from the lookout and you can grab a bite to eat at the cafés. The walks range from easy to mildly difficult and it’s great to go after some rain when the creeks are flowing. Also check out the botanical gardens at the bottom of Mt Cootha.
Recent development in south Brisbane has seen the precinct come to life. The Aria group have made it their mission to revitalise Fish Lane. Running parallel to Melbourne Street in the heart of South Brisbane, the laneway features some great bars and restaurants. They run an awesome street festival in May, where all the local operators put on food with live entertainment.
At the bottom end of Fish Lane on the corner of Grey Street, you’ll find Julius restaurant and pizzeria. It's always buzzing, the pizzas are awesome and the menu is simple and tasty. It’s a great family favourite of ours and my son Herb can smash the nutella calzone by himself! They do a good negroni as well.
Just opened on Melbourne Street is the Sydney icon Messina Gelati. You know what you are getting with Messina – dedication to quality and the most amazing flavours of gelati. They even own their own cow, controlling the product from the bottom up!
For art's sake
If it's arts you want, stay south side where the Goma Gallery is one of the most visited galleries in Australia. There's always something on and during the holidays the kids are well catered for.
For music, one of my fave destinations in Brissy has to be The Triffid – one of, if not the, best live music venue in Australia! Whether it's a gig you're after, or just a good beer and burger in the beer garden, The Triffid is a must when you're hanging in Brisbane for a few days.
If you're self catering and you need some supplies of the continental variety, head to Panisi on Balaclava Street for everything from antipasti to tacos and Italian/Spanish/South American products.
For more up market eating, Gerard's Bistro in Fortitude Valley is my pick, or Esquires for something long and indulgent! For good vino, head to 1889 Enoteca in Woolloongabba is the go. And for a long standing icon, Phillip Johnson at e'cco.
There's so much more to the real Brisvegas and so much on its door step. So, as they say, what are you waiting for? Get amongst it!