Bris­bane bounces back

Funky shops, cook­ing schools and se­cluded corners in the Queens­land cap­i­tal

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - EL­IZ­A­BETH MERYMENT

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: wool­loongab­baan­tique­cen­; our­bris­ 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: bris­ 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: brook­wa­ter­ 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: thetri­bune­bris­ 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: black­ 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.; grande­piatto. com. au; mons­bans­

vis­it­bris­ 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

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