Bris­bane’s South Bank is putting on a bright new face, re­ports El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

NEXT year will mark the 20th an­niver­sary of that land­mark in Bris­bane’s cul­tural his­tory, Expo ’ 88. Which just goes to show how quickly two decades can fly by. In­deed, the event seems so freshly etched in the mem­o­ries of any­body who lived in Bris­bane dur­ing those heady days — chicken dances at the Ger­man beer hall and 20,000 peo­ple watch­ing the Hoodoo Gu­rus on the river stage — that peo­ple are still talk­ing about it. On a re­cent week­end visit to the in­ner-city play­ground that has grown out of the Expo site, we have to laugh at a con­ver­sa­tion from a nearby ta­ble at one of the restau­rants jostling for trade on this stretch of the Bris­bane River.

‘‘ Do you re­mem­ber Expo?’’ a man is ask­ing his sig­nif­i­cantly younger date over a glass of wine. ‘‘ Oh, yeah,’’ she says. ‘‘ I was only five. But I still re­mem­ber com­ing with my Mum.’’ Per­haps he would have done bet­ter not to have in­quired.

Al­though for the past 15-odd years the site has been mainly a fam­ily at­trac­tion of gar­dens and pools, the South Bank Cor­po­ra­tion is now sculpt­ing the area’s cul­tural cre­den­tials and en­cour­ag­ing its de­vel­op­ment as a re­tail, din­ing and en­ter­tain­ment hub. While South Bank com­prises 17ha of park­lands, the whole precinct ac­tu­ally cov­ers the 50ha that stretch from the river’s edge to the funky in­ner-city en­clave of West End.

Th­ese days, the fo­cal point of the precinct is the freshly opened Gallery of Mod­ern Art and a host of new restau­rants and bou­tiques that have opened nearby.

‘‘ If there has been a crit­i­cism of South Bank, it is that it is too en­gi­neered,’’ says the cor­po­ra­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mal­colm Snow. ‘‘ What we’d like to see here is a bit more an­ar­chy. I mean that in a good way.’’

The ef­forts of the cor­po­ra­tion cer­tainly show, be­cause if we thought a week­end would be enough to re­ally do South Bank, we were wrong. There’s sim­ply too much to cram into two days and, hav­ing eaten well and seen most of the cul­tural sights, we al­most miss our plane home due to a last-minute spot of shoe shop­ping. Thank­fully, this great space for the peo­ple is con­tin­u­ing to evolve, in the best pos­si­ble ways. CUL­TURE THE beau­ti­ful new Gallery of Mod­ern Art has al­ready be­come one of Queens­land’s pre­mier at­trac­tions. When com­bined with its neigh­bour, the Queens­land Art Gallery, the col­lec­tion has more than 10,000 pieces of mod­ern art, mak­ing it the largest con­tem­po­rary gallery in Aus­tralia. The new space is par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able; when en­ter­ing through the big slid­ing glass doors, the light, air and roomi­ness of this large build­ing are im­pres­sive. I have to say that some of the art­works strike me as be­ing of the ‘‘ I could have done that if I’d only thought of it’’ variety (rows of dum­mies and booties stuck to­gether, any­one?), but other pieces are ex­quis­ite, es­pe­cially in the Asian and Abo­rig­i­nal gal­leries. More:

Be­side the two gal­leries is the re­freshed State Li­brary of Queens­land, prin­ci­pally an ed­u­ca­tional re­source, but one that boasts a rather glam cafe, wine bar and book­shop. The li­brary also has a cal­en­dar of ex­hi­bi­tions worth check­ing out. See, for in­stance, the latest ex­hi­bi­tion, Bro­ken Links: the Stolen Gen­er­a­tions in Queens­land. More:

Just across the way is Bris­bane’s cul­tural grande dame, the Queens­land Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre, a show­case for the best plays, bal­lets, op­eras and other per­form­ing arts the state has to of­fer. Up­com­ing pro­duc­tions in­clude Miss Saigon . More: DIN­ING THE ar­rival of Bob and Brad Hamil­ton’s Era Bistro on Melbourne Street has her­alded a new level of fine din­ing at South Bank. While the area has long en­joyed some good eat­ing op­tions, Era is un­doubt­edly one of the city’s bet­ter restau­rants, with the mod-Oz menu of ex­ec­u­tive chef Andrew Bud­gen a win­ner. The Era com­plex also com­prises a cafe, a bar­cum-tapas lounge and an in­cred­i­ble bot­tle shop with a cus­tom-made tem­per­a­ture­con­trolled wine wall. More: www.cir­carestau­

Other good din­ing choices are to be found in Grey Street. Cafe dell’Ugo, an Ital­ian bistro with a well-re­garded sis­ter es­tab­lish­ment in New Farm, looks promis­ing; there’s a mod­ern bistro-bar op­tion, The Point, two no­table Turk­ish venues, Ah­met’s and Mado, plenty of cheap Asian op­tions and, my favourite, the Batavia, a cafe filled with shabby-chic an­tiques and faux an­tiques. Stone Restau­rant in the Sav­ille Ho­tel of­fers stylish cafe fare, while along the wa­ter­front, es­tab­lished places such as River Can­teen have great wa­ter views. SHOP­PING ANY­ONE whose fa­mil­iar­ity with South Bank is based on im­pres­sions formed five years ago would be sur­prised to learn there are now some ex­cel­lent and eclec­tic shops. One of the best is Polder & Amis, a tiny bou­tique stocked with an ec­cen­tric col­lec­tion of deluxe French goods that range from vin­tage chil­dren’s wear to mod­ern de­signer ap­parel, soaps, ar­ti­san jew­ellery, hand­made shoes and ex­quis­ite tins of sweets. Owner Chris­tine De­mer trav­els to France twice yearly to source wares. More: www.pold­

Nearby, T’Li­cious is a de­light­ful em­po­rium de­voted to all things to do with tea. Look out for para­pher­na­lia such as pots and spoons, as well as an amaz­ing ar­ray of loose­leaf teas. More: www.tli­

Flow­ers of the World is a lovely florist and home­wares ven­ture of­fer­ing vases, can­dles, cards and gifts. It also has a tiny or­ganic cafe. A cou­ple of doors down, at the clothes and shoes bou­tique Jonak, I buy the most dar­ling pair of heels, and on sale, too. PAM­PER­ING GLOW Salon isn’t huge but the T-shirts worn by the staff — read­ing ‘‘ Beauty is My Duty’’ — say it all. Glow’s beau­ti­ful young owner, Mary, pro­vides good con­ver­sa­tion and ex­cel­lent pedi­cures. And for moth­ers, Mary is con­sid­er­ing start­ing a child­mind­ing ser­vice to make pam­per­ing even more stress­free. Un­for­tu­nately, the lux­ury of hy­drother­apy is not presently avail­able in drought­stricken Bris­bane. Newly opened is sis­ter salon Glow Re­treat, around the cor­ner at 161 Grey St, un­der the Sav­ille Ho­tel. More: www.glowsa­; www.glowre­

For men, an op­tion is the No. 19 Men’s Day Spa, which spe­cialises in mas­sages, hair­cuts and skin treat­ments for blokes. More: www.num­ FAM­ILY-FRIENDLY FUN IT is not pos­si­ble to go past the well-used but still pleas­ant la­goon beach as a win­ner for chil­dren. A fix­ture of the site since its con­ver­sion to park­lands, the beach’s sand and wa­ter look as fresh as when they were first de­vel­oped. One of the la­goon’s sev­eral pools is closed dur­ing our visit due to a leak (wa­ter is so scarce in the Queens­land cap­i­tal that leaks are treated very se­ri­ously) but this doesn’t dampen the spir­its of the ju­niors splash­ing about in the avail­able wa­ter. Kids can also run about on the grassed Rain­for­est Green, while a busy mar­ket on Fri­day nights and week­ends — sell­ing such wares as chil­dren’s clothes, pot­tery, wood­work and leather goods — of­fers colour and ac­tion. There are also sev­eral ice-cream par­lours. STAY­ING IN STYLE THE year-old Sav­ille Ho­tel is said to be fourand-a-half stars but it cer­tainly has a five-star fitout. Our two-bed­room suite is thought­fully ap­pointed and there’s a good view across the river to Par­lia­ment House, the Botanic Gar­dens and the dra­mat­i­cally lit Kan­ga­roo Cliffs. There is a mini-kitchen and even a swish lounge­room in which we can spread out and re­lax. While the air­con­di­tion­ing is re­as­sur­ingly cool, the win­dows also open, a rare and won­der­ful thing in a city ob­sessed with max­i­mum re­frig­er­a­tion. A lap pool, gym, Stone Restau­rant and pam­per­ing fa­cil­i­ties such as Glow Re­treat make this an ex­cel­lent place to bed down af­ter a busy day ex­plor­ing all that South Bank has to of­fer.

The Sav­ille Ho­tel, 161 Grey St, Bris­bane. Phone (07) 3305 2500 or 1300 554 632; www.sav­ille­hotel­ El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment was a guest of South Bank Cor­po­ra­tion.


South Bank is a 30-minute drive from the air­port or a 10-minute walk from the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict. En­try to the park­lands and pools, the art gal­leries and the li­brary is free. There are fre­quent bus, train and ferry con­nec­tions. There are three large car parks in the area. Trans­port in­for­ma­tion: 131 230.


Expo space evolves: Clock­wise from main pic­ture, South Bank mar­kets; river­side sun­bak­ers; Cafe dell’Ugo; Gallery of Mod­ern Art; and cen­tre, the Sav­ille Ho­tel

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