Brisbane bounces back
Funky shops, cooking schools and secluded corners in the Queensland capital
I AM in Queensland after Christmas to catch up with relatives and friends, and to do some digging for this report about Brisbane’s lesserknown attractions. Only it is raining. And not j ust raining but pouring relentlessly.
We make the slow drive down to Brisbane from the (ironically named this January) Sunshine Coast in the teeming rain. In the night, the downpour is so heavy the tin roof of the Queenslander in which we are staying sounds like it’s being sprayed by bullets.
We all know what happens next. Shortly after we leave Brisbane, the flood crisis strikes with a vengeance. The houses of friends and family are inundated, possessions and memories washed away. Back in Sydney, we watch the television transfixed as floodwaters creep high in streets where we used to live. Nobody we know is hurt, but plenty suffer.
Months later, with reconstruction under way, friends in the Queensland travel industry have started ringing.
‘‘Can you get something in the paper about how the Sunshine Coast hasn’t been destroyed by flood or cyclone?’’ begs one friend. ‘‘We need people coming back to Brisbane,’’ laments another.
It is definitely time to consider another practical means of helping our Queensland kin: by visiting.
While many of its big-ticket attractions, including the Gallery of Modern Art and Southbank, are perpetually popular, Brisbane is quietly developing into a rich and multi-layered city. 1. Woolloongabba Antiques Precinct: For many Australians, Woolloongabba — or the Gabba, as the suburb is usually called — is synonymous with cricket. But this semi-industrial, semi-residential area just south of the CBD has more to it than its hallowed cricket ground. During the past couple of years, Brisbane City Council has worked very hard to rejuvenate what was a largely rundown area around Logan Road at Stanley Street into a charming ‘‘antiques precinct’’ full of quirky shops and excellent restaurants.
Fossick here for homewares at the 1950s-inspired Absolutely Fabulous or seek more contemporary goods at Lavish Essentials or Miss Mouse, which also carries an exciting range of women’s fashion.
The dining options on the strip are abundant, too: the Crosstown Eating House is loved by the hip crowd for its cool layout and deconstructed menu, while stylish 1889 Enoteca has risen to national prominence for its outstanding menu and wine list.
And don’t miss the Woolloongbabba Antique Centre, around the corner on Wellington Road, which has an exceptional range of vintage and antique finds, often at a fraction of Sydney and Melbourne prices. More: woolloongabbaantiquecentre.com; ourbrisbane.com. 2. Wilson Outlook Reserve, New Farm: On Brisbane’s CBD fringe, New Farm is a suburb of cafes, shops, galleries, parks, Moreton Bay figs and gorgeous tin-andtimber Queenslanders.
It’s a perfect area for exploring on foot and one of its least-known but loveliest spots is Wilson Outlook Reserve on Bowen Terrace, where the view from the park over the Brisbane River towards the sparkling city centre is spectacular.
Follow a map on foot along Merthyr Road on to Bowen Terrace, walking uphill northwards to the park. You’ll find a carpet of lush grass, plenty of seats and, in the spring, flowering jacarandas; and there’s no better spot in Brisbane from which to admire Story Bridge, while below the cliffs the historic Howard Smith wharves are undergoing restoration. The curious might also find this the spot to sit and ponder how such a lovely river could have wreaked so much devastation. More: brisbane.qld.gov.au. 3. Philip Bacon Galleries, Fortitude Valley: Brisbane’s reputation as a magnet for fine art has blossomed since the opening of the GoMA, but the city already had one of the nation’s best private art spaces at the Philip Bacon Galleries on Arthur Street, Fortitude Valley.
Established in 1974 by passionate collector Philip Bacon, the galleries have an astonishing stockroom that holds some of the nation’s most precious artworks, including pieces by Charles Blackman, Ray Crooke, Robert Dickerson, Margaret Olley, Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier and Fred Williams. The galleries also host an annual calendar of exhibitions, and this year’s includes Lawrence Daws ( July-August) and Gary Shead (September-October).
At Philip Bacon you won’t find the madding crowds of the GoMA and there’s no access fee. Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. More: philipbacongalleries. 4. Brookwater Golf Club, Brookwater: This Greg Normandesigned club is one of Brisbane’s true gems, secreted in dense bushland a 30-minute drive west of the CBD. Despite its setting, this immaculately groomed championship course with glistening white bunkers and glassy greens is described by aficionados as the state’s most spectacular course, comparable to Australia’s best.
Open to the public, the course is said to be challenging even to professionals, so be prepared. There’s also a country club equipped with full-sized tennis courts and an expansive clubhouse with a quality restaurant called Magnolia. Golfers will find it quite a change from Brisbane’s older, more established links. More: brookwatergolf.com.au. 5. The Tribune, Fortitude Valley: Fashionista Amber Long has made a name for herself at her high-end retail store Jean Brown in Fortitude Valley’s glossy Emporium complex. But at The Tribune she pursues a quirkier agenda.
A concept store set in an unusual ‘‘reclaimed’’ loft-style space that was occupied by US armed forces during World War II, The Tribune is equal parts fashion outlet, art space and anythinggoes store.
Shop for experimental labels, including those of emerging designers, and oddball high-end European fashion lines including Alexander McQueen and Nicholas Kirkwood.
Check out the array of artworks, mostly from interesting new Queensland artists.
It’s cool, it’s cute, it’s certainly out of the box. More: thetribunebrisbane.com.au. 6. Black Pearl Epicure Cooking School, Fortitude Valley: Brisbane has some world-class restaurants but when foodies come to town they are drawn more often than not to importer and providore Babak Hadi’s exceptional gourmet outlet, Black Pearl Epicure.
Hadi also runs an excellent cooking school that showcases many of the state’s finest chefs in a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere.
On the program this year are Trent Robson (the former chef at Belle Epoque), Aria’s Matt Moran, local favourite Russell Armstrong and Moda’s Javier Codina. The topics are wideranging, too, with j ust about everything on the agenda, from making petits-fours to laying out a charcuterie plate. More: blackpearl.com.au. 7. Martha Street precinct, Camp Hill: New Farm, Fortitude Valley and West End are known for their cute vibes but a quaint spot that’s rapidly emerging as a chic hub is Camp Hill, in particular the Martha Street precinct.
The area, in Brisbane’s innersouthern suburbs, is full of characterful post-war Queenslanders and lush gardens, as well as an assortment of cafes, restaurants and shops.
Arguably the biggest drawcard is Sam Walters’s well-regarded mod-Oz venture Restaurant Rapide (don’t miss the salt-andpepper quail with a green mango and Asian herb salad).
More good eating options abound at the Italian venue, Grande Piatto, and at highly regarded Thai restaurant ( and cooking school) Mons Ban Sabai, which has its own herbs and chilli growing out front on the median strip.
And it’s not all about eating. There are several quality retail outlets, including Kim + Judi (great homewares and gifts), Little Grace boutique (classy, offbeat womenswear) and the Scattered Arts community-based gallery on Newman Avenue. (Stroll around Martha Street, Leicester Street and Newman Avenue, Camp Hill.) More: restaurantrapide. com.au; grandepiatto. com. au; monsbansabai.com.
visitbrisbane.com.au Next week in our Secret Seven series: Sydney.
The stylish 1889 Enoteca, opposite the Gabba, has been praised for its outstanding menu and wine list
The Woolloongabba Antique Centre offers a wide range of vintage goods at excellent prices