Brisbane is no “Meat and three veg” city. Its diversifying culinary scene emphasises high quality produce, often locally sourced and seasonal. More than 20 new bars and restaurants have opened across the inner city in the past 12 months, catering to gourmand palettes, beer budgets and everything in between. For casual breakfasts or fine lunches, divine dinners and dance floor drinks, the selection below is an entrée, a small taste of the spread. Bon appetit!
5/182 Grey St, South Bank
Ph: +61 7 3846 5026
Don’t let the word ‘bistro’ in the full title lull you in to thinking there’s no gourmet experience to be had here. Piaf is casual and understated, tucked into a string of restaurants at the edge of South Bank Parklands. It seems there’s nothing remarkable to distinguish it — until you actually eat. As the name suggests, there’s a French flavour here (yes, escargots are on the menu) but it’s not so persistent it precludes diners with other preferences. Carnivores are well catered for and vegetarians aren’t left completely wanting. Piaf’s pumpkin gnocchi with tarragon butter, tomatoes, pine nuts and fetta is truly a dish to savour. Open 7 days, 7am until late, it’s easy to see why repeat business is high.
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley
Ph: +61 7 3852 1500
Tartufo is Italian for ‘truffle’, one of Neapolitan owner/chef Tony Percuoco’s favourite ingredients. Tony is passionate about Brisbane too, feeling it is still an ‘untouched’ and ‘romantic’ city. When he found a space here that reminded him of restaurants in his home town, the Tartufo love affair began. Tucked next to the Emporium hotel, the service is faultless and the menu is based upon chef’s favourite dishes from Umbria, Tuscany and Naples. If it’s not in season, you can’t order it. Finito. Open for lunch and dinner, 7 days.
Watt Restaurant + Bar
119 Lamington St, New Farm
Ph: +61 7 3358 5464
Of course the waterfront restaurant at a former power station had to be called ‘Watt’ — this is a venue that enjoys playing to its strengths. Adjacent to the ever-popular New Farm Park and on the ground level of the Powerhouse arts complex, Watt is energised by a vibrant atmosphere on weekends (tip: be seated for lunch before 2pm) and dining during the week can have a serene, get-away-from-it-all quality. Décor-wise, it’s a minimalist affair but this leaves room for the share plates and well-proportioned mains to make their mark. There’s a one- or two-course pre-theatre dining option too and all menus are changed seasonally. Lunch served Tues–Sun, 12–3pm; dinner Tues–Sat, 6pm–late.
There’s not a hint of rivalry between Adam Barton and Jason Coats, owners of these side-by-side restaurants at the revamped eastern end of South Bank. Both are enthusiastic about their new ventures — and rightly so — in plum water-facing positions. Cove’s fine selection of champagne, wine and cocktails complements an enticing upmarket menu, but there’s a lot of talk about the signature oyster creation, “Bubbles”. It comprises Moët and Chandon gel, San Pellegrino emulsion and king salmon pearls. Open weekdays 11am–late and from 8am–late on weekends.
The Jetty South Bank’s sister restaurant in Bulimba (The Jetty) is a local favourite and for the city site Jason has conjured his love of the Balinese beachfront, communal dining and fresh, locally-sourced produce. “I want to create an atmosphere where everyone is welcome and feels comfortable,” Jason says. He oversaw all the fine details during construction and the attention shows. Few restaurants offer cocktails on day beds and fish and chip baskets perfect for eating with the kids on the lawn.
641 Ann St, Fortitude Valley
Ph: +61 7 3872 6600
This is drinking and dining in designer Nic Brunner’s down-the-rabbit-hole, Mad Hatter-esque setting. From a ground-floor bar/ dining/dancing space, festooned with greenery, you can see the clouds from Cloudland, through a roof that usually isn’t there. Wending upwards through two more levels of illuminated bars and private booths fusing materials and decor not usually paired, all is an intriguing visual cacophony. Open for lunch Wed–Sun, and dinner Wed–Sat, bookings are highly recommended for Friday and Saturday nights. A word to the wise: tuck in to the modern Australian menu and orient yourself within the closest bathroom before indulging in signature cocktails, imported beer or sampling the wine list. The lavatories conspire to bamboozle even the sober senses.