From Greek pool­side snacks to neo-Chi­nese share plates, the scene is set for the Sun­shine State’s next wave of great din­ing, writes FIONA DON­NELLY.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Oct -

From Greek pool­side snacks to neo-Chi­nese share plates, meet Bris­bane’s next wave of din­ing.

“Beau­ti­ful one day, per­fect the next.” The old tourism cam­paign might still be true of Queens­land as a whole, but in Bris­bane

“busy one day, even busier the next” is closer to the mark.

The city is buzzing with ac­tiv­ity and teem­ing with growth, not least in food, drink and travel.

Clues are ev­ery­where across the city. The huge con­struc­tion crater on Wil­liam Street, for in­stance, will be filled by a chunk of the new Queen’s Wharf precinct when it ar­rives in 2022. The $3.6-bil­lion casino re­sort will bring 50 new cafés, restau­rants and bars plus a hand­ful of lux­ury ho­tels in its wake, in­clud­ing The Ritz-Carl­ton, Rose­wood and Dorsett Bris­bane. A sec­ond run­way at Bris­bane Air­port, the fruit of an eight-year project, is on track for 2020.

Howard Smith Wharves, an am­bi­tious $110-mil­lion devel­op­ment of a dis­used wharf at in­ner-city Kan­ga­roo Point, is due to dock be­fore the end of the year. The set­ting will pro­vide digs for an up­scale 164-room ho­tel, con­ven­tion fa­cil­i­ties, Felons Brew­ing Co., and Mr Per­ci­val’s, a bar de­signed by lo­cal Anna Spiro.

It’ll also be home to three promis­ing new restau­rants. Greca, a mod­ern take on the Greek tav­erna, is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween chef Jonathan Barthelmess and de­signer Ge­orge Livis­sia­nis, their fol­low-up to The Apollo in Syd­ney. There’s a new iza­kaya, Toko Bris­bane, and Stan­ley, a two-storey Hong Kong-in­spired 180-seater from Bris­bane restau­ra­teurs An­drew and Jamie Baturo.

Bris­bane scored its first five-star city ho­tel in two decades with the ar­rival in Au­gust of W Bris­bane. Ovolo un­veiled the new-look Ovolo Inch­colm in in­ner-city Spring Hill and is putting the fin­ish­ing touches to Ovolo The Val­ley, a re­brand­ing of the for­mer Em­po­rium Ho­tel in For­ti­tude Val­ley.

At South Bank it’s full steam ahead with Em­po­rium Ho­tel 2.0, a $600-mil­lion project with eater­ies in­clud­ing street-level French pâtis­serie and bistro Belle Époque, as well as a rooftop bar with à la carte of­fer­ings.

Three Blue Ducks opened its first branch out­side New South Wales at the W Bris­bane ear­lier this year. Chef and co-owner Dar­ren Robert­son says Bris­bane hos­pi­tal­ity has a flavour all its own. “Bris­bane is more open to where the scene is go­ing. It’s ready for an in­jec­tion of more restau­rants and bars and brew­eries. There’s an ac­cep­tance and an ex­cite­ment about it.”

Restau­ra­teur-chef Philip John­son has been a vet­eran of the Bris­bane din­ing scene for three decades. In March he re­lo­cated his flag­ship E’cco Bistro from the city-fringe site it called home for 22 years to a space in New­stead. John­son is on course to fire up a South­east Asian al­fresco sib­ling to sit along­side E’cco 2.0 in the Haven precinct in Oc­to­ber. He be­lieves the tastes of lo­cal din­ers have changed sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years. “It’s all about pro­vid­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence now,” he says. “Food only ac­counts for about 50 per cent – in the past it was more like 70 or 80 per cent. Peo­ple just want to have a re­ally great time when they go out.”

Yet there’s no short­age of good-food cre­den­tials at one of the city’s most keenly awaited projects. The Val­ley’s $100-mil­lion ho­tel com­plex on James Street,

The Calile Ho­tel, has drafted Ki­tak Lee, for­mer head chef of The Chef’s Ta­ble at Mel­bourne’s Kisumé, to over­see its all-day Lobby Bar. And out by the pool sits the Bris­bane branch of Hel­lenika, the cel­e­brated Greek restau­rant from Gold Coast restau­ra­teur Si­mon Gloftis.

An­other out­fit in ex­pan­sion mode is the Ghanem Group. Di­rec­tor Nehme Ghanem is bullish about the fu­ture of the Queens­land cap­i­tal. His eater­ies in­clude pop­u­lar river­side restau­rant Black­bird Bar & Grill, and the elab­o­rate fit-outs at the group’s lat­est projects, a neo-Chi­nese eatery Donna Chang and its bar, The Boom Boom Room, are bud­geted at $4 mil­lion. Both are lo­cated in the city’s new Ad­ina Apart­ment Ho­tel.

“We want to mar­ket to our ex­ist­ing clien­tele,” Ghanem says, “but with the amount of money and ef­fort we’re putting in, we’re ready – and we think Bris­bane is ready – to take it to the next level.”


This bold river­side re­de­vel­op­ment at the edge of the CBD will bol­ster the din­ing scene with restau­rants, a 164-room ho­tel, a brew-pub (Felons Brew­ing Co.), the oc­tag­o­nal-shaped bar Mr Per­ci­val’s and more. It’s slated to un­fold be­fore year’s end with Greca, the new restau­rant from Jonathan Barthelmess and Ge­orge Livis­sia­nis, due to open in Novem­ber.

The chef and the de­signer’s best-known col­lab­o­ra­tion is The Apollo in Syd­ney, and Greca prom­ises sim­i­lar clean lines and fresh takes on Greek cui­sine. Ex­pect the likes of grilled lamb in­ter­costals with wild weeds, oys­ters with lemon and sor­rel, and plenty in the way of grilled seafood, as well as flat­breads and tarts from the stone oven. Greca will be com­ple­mented by iza­kaya Toko Bris­bane, and Stan­ley, a two-storey restau­rant that takes Hong Kong as its muse. The draft menu in­cludes lob­ster, chive and gin­ger noo­dle rolls, More­ton Bay bugs fried with chilli oil and prickly ash, and hand-picked mud crab and bam­boo pith sautéed with noo­dles, while chef Kym Machin also flags Hong Kong-style roast goose as a high­light.

5 Bound­ary St, Bris­bane, howard­smith­

“It’s all about pro­vid­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence now. Peo­ple just want to have a re­ally great time when they go out.”


A jack­fruit soft-serve with green ants. Hong Kong-style milk tea-and-cof­fee turned into a crêpe cake with

wat­tle­seed cream. Dessert is di­alled to max­i­mum im­pact at Donna Chang. There’s a sprin­kling of Aus­tralia, too. Crisp-skinned roast duck could ar­rive with David­son’s plum, char siu pork neck with rock­melon blos­som honey and there’s Queens­land grouper and Fraser Is­land span­ner crab in the tanks. An ex­ten­sive yum cha lunch of­fer­ing will be served in a strik­ing din­ing room mix­ing neo-Clas­si­cal de­tail­ing with soft pink, sage and duck-egg blue tones. Three pri­vate din­ing rooms in­habit a mez­za­nine level, and The Boom Boom Room, a flam­boy­ant ta­ble-ser­vice bar by the same team, oc­cu­pies the base­ment. 171 Ge­orge

St, Bris­bane, (07) 3234 4388, don­


Ki­tak Lee, a for­mer head chef of omakase des­ti­na­tion The Chef’s Ta­ble at Mel­bourne’s Kisumé, is aboard as ex­ec­u­tive chef over­see­ing The Calile’s all-day venue, Lobby Bar, where he plans to of­fer the likes of duck con­fit, cured in shio koji, with baby car­rots, and honey-cider jelly with grated pecorino. Over by the pool, mean­while, cel­e­brated Gold Coast eatery Hel­lenika brings its famed tara­masalata, char-grilled oc­to­pus, Junee lamb and Greek salad with a breezy of­fer­ing that in­cludes cock­tails and ca­banas. 48 James St, Bris­bane, (07) 3607 5888, the­calile­ho­


There’s plenty to choose from at the new Em­po­rium. Belle Époque is an up­dated reprise of the team’s orig­i­nal French bistro, which opened at For­ti­tude Val­ley a decade ago, in­cor­po­rat­ing a pâtis­serie and Cham­pagne bar. The Ter­race, a rooftop pool­side eyrie, has à la carte of­fer­ings to go with the dra­matic views. As we go to press the ho­tel’s planned fine diner, Opal, is on hold and await­ing a new name, fol­low­ing last-minute changes in the kitchen.

For­mer Gold Coast Palazzo Ver­sace ex­ec­u­tive chef Chris Nor­man has re­placed Jo­sue Lopez as head of food and bev­er­age. 267 Grey St, South Bank,

1800 346 835, em­po­ri­umho­


This remixed Chi­nese eat­ing house is a sib­ling for Burleigh Heads’ Rick Shores. There are no dra­matic ocean views – in­stead ex­pect mod­ish ware­house in­te­ri­ors with blond par­quetry floor­ing, black ban­quettes and strik­ing brass scaf­fold fea­ture light­ing. It cre­ates a buzzy back­drop for the kitchen’s fast-paced re­gional hits, cherry-picked from across China. Dive into dumplings, per­haps chive and lob­ster har gow, or caviar-topped prawn and XO siu mai served in steamer bas­kets. Or try re­mas­tered clas­sics such as a hand-cut wagyu tartare funked up with Sichuan mayo, potato crisps and pick­led veg­eta­bles. Roast pork neck comes pol­ished with a char siu glaze, steamed snap­per is pris­tine in a broth of Shaox­ing wine, gin­ger and sesame oil, while mush­rooms score a kung pao sauce. 6 Warner St, For­ti­tude Val­ley, lit­tle-val­


The Ducks’ new­est nest is a re­laxed de­sign-savvy mix-and-match af­fair. Three storeys up, it sits in the well-up­hol­stered quar­ters of the W Bris­bane ho­tel, open­ing to a curvy bal­cony over­look­ing the Bris­bane River. En­thu­si­as­tic din­ers have made grilled More­ton bay bugs with XO but­ter and charry cavolo nero a sig­na­ture but co-owner chefs Dar­ren Robert­son and Mark Labrooy’s Thai-style whole fish with co­conut brown rice, the rôtis­serie chicken slathered in fer­mented chilli and the dips with puffy flat­breads warm from the wood-fire oven are on high ro­ta­tion, too. There’s a de­cent line-up of nat­u­ral wines lit­er­ally on tap and prices are keen. Or score an A-1 break­fast with great Sin­gle O cof­fee and wa­ter views. Level 3, W Bris­bane, 81 North Quay, Bris­bane, (07) 3556 8833, three­blue­­bane


When Tokyo meets Bris­bane in a scruffy For­ti­tude Val­ley back al­ley, good things en­sue. A crack­ing lob­ster katsu sando, say, or whole snap­per karaage with pick­les, per­haps, while a nicely di­verse wine list is backed up by a strong show­ing of Ja­panese whiskies and fun cock­tails. This darkly glam­orous 70-seater is the lat­est venue from Ty­ron Si­mon, a key mem­ber of the orig­i­nal Rick Shores team and co-owner of bustling Thai des­ti­na­tion eatery Long­time. In­te­ri­ors are a study in con­trasts with ex­ten­sive use of shou sugi ban charred tim­bers, eye-catch­ing chan­de­liers and an open kitchen com­manded by Nathan Lastevec, for­mer head chef of Long­time. Ja­panese chef Kogi Ohori heads up the cen­tre­piece raw bar. There are no book­ings af­ter 6.30pm un­less you bring a gang of eight or more but a sep­a­rate bar called ÔÔ (pro­nounced “dou­ble-O”) makes a suit­ably so­phis­ti­cated, mood­ily lit hold­ing pen at busy times. Alden St, For­ti­tude Val­ley, (07) 3193 7392,


The Gam­baro fam­ily’s sec­ond steak­house, a 155-seat city-cen­tre sib­ling for its Cax­ton Street ven­ture, oc­cu­pies high-ceilinged quar­ters in the Trea­sury Bris­bane casino. The look is clubby, with plush vel­vet bucket chairs and a mix of mar­ble- and tim­ber-topped ta­bles, built on the bones of a her­itage build­ing with tall tim­ber-framed French doors and wood pan­elling. Ser­vice is for­mal but friendly. As you’d ex­pect, beefy clas­sics are pre­cisely ren­dered – the tartare of An­gus eye fil­let, for in­stance, is hand-chopped, topped with a raw quail egg, and plated with shal­lot, cor­ni­chons and chilli. Steaks in­clude or­ganic and grass-fed op­tions, all ac­com­pa­nied by a haul of pota­toes roasted in wagyu fat. The Gam­baros’ new stand­alone of­fer­ing Per­sone, a smart-ca­sual Ital­ian ven­ture with even bet­ter river views, is set to open as we go to press at Bris­bane Quar­ter along­side the W Bris­bane. Din­ers can ex­pect a clas­sic, lengthy menu from crudi to re­gional treats such as bis­tecca alla Fiorentina and riga­toni with rab­bit ragù and pecorino. Pizze and snacks such as arancini and polpette will also fea­ture at the bar. Black Hide by Gam­baro at Trea­sury, top of Queen Street Mall, Level 1, Trea­sury Bris­bane, Bris­bane, (07) 3306 8420, trea­sury­bris­; Per­sone, 300 Ge­orge St, Bris­bane, (07) 3369 9500, per­ Chef-owner Dan Arnold’s first restau­rant is a fam­ily af­fair, with his French-born wife, Amelie Arnold, man­ag­ing the floor. It’s the owner-op­er­a­tor cou­ple’s bid to share all they’ve learned dur­ing 15 years in hos­pi­tal­ity. Both Arnolds worked at two-starred French restau­rant Serge Vieira and while this back­ground in­forms the kitchen’s am­bi­tion, no one takes them­selves too se­ri­ously here. The com­plex dishes dis­play con­tem­po­rary French flair: pink-tinged oca yam carpac­cio and con­fit Jerusalem ar­ti­choke come with sliv­ers of black truf­fle and foamed hazel­nut cream, while lamb belly and loin is com­ple­mented by a cele­riac pureé with Espelette pep­per, lightly pick­led onion and wedges of roasted cele­riac.

959 Ann St, For­ti­tude Val­ley, (07) 3189 2735, restau­rant­da­


This joint en­deav­our by Bris­bane restau­ra­teur Nick Pinn (Malt Din­ing, Malt Traders et al) and Gold Coast op­er­a­tor Srid­har Penu­mechu (Saf­fron) is a mod­ern take on re­gional In­dian cui­sine. Ex­pect re­worked In­dian hits and fu­sion twists from a kitchen over­seen by chef Man­ju­nath Mu­ral, of the highly re­garded Sin­ga­pore restau­rant Song of In­dia. You might have co­conut­poached lob­ster tail with chilli and makrut lime, or per­haps flambé lamb with heir­loom car­rots, French beans and mint chut­ney. Street food, small plates and tan­door-cooked treats fea­ture on the bar menu. Bris­bane Quar­ter, 300 Ge­orge St, Bris­bane,


Ka­t­rina and Mark Ryan’s cook­ing school and café, which was re­born af­ter a light­ning re­jig in July as a pan-Asian restau­rant, is worth track­ing down. There’s a Thai in­flu­ence on the street-style menu that re­flects Ka­t­rina’s for­mer ten­ure at the cook­ing school at Spirit House on the Sun­shine Coast, but you’ll also find the likes of Sichuan-spiced half duck, pot­sticker dumplings and deep-fried ice-cream. In­te­ri­ors are low-key with pol­ished con­crete floors and trail­ing green­ery. 38 Ross St, New­stead, (07) 3666 0884, gold­en­


The new venue from se­rial restau­ra­teurs Thierry and Carol Galichet is in the cel­lar of an old Spring

Hill tav­ern. A fol­low-up to Mon­tra­chet, which they sold in 2015, this rus­tic of­fer­ing favours the same ro­bust, tra­di­tional French fare – pissal­adière on but­tery puff, plates of duck char­cu­terie – per­fect with a glass or three from the in­spir­ing cache of all-French wines. From gutsy cas­soulet to Gruyère-laced souf­flés, the Gal­lic greats rule. 215 Wharf St, Spring Hill, (07) 3924 0501, la­


A Bris­bane in­sti­tu­tion, E’cco re­lo­cated in March to digs on the ground floor of a high-end New­stead apart­ment build­ing. Smart, con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors mix­ing stone, blond wood and mar­ble are in tune with chef-owner Philip John­son’s pre­cise, pro­ducedriven ap­proach. Braised short rib might be paired here with pick­led shi­itake mush­rooms and smoky Jerusalem ar­ti­choke purée, while fried cau­li­flower is an­chored by fried sage leaves and an an­chovy custard. The wine list is con­cise yet of­fers a sur­pris­ingly broad range, in­clud­ing a line-up of nat­u­ral wines.

Sis­ter ven­ture The Ter­race, a more ca­sual al­fresco South­east Asian-in­flu­enced 55-seat venue, is set to open this month. 63 Skyring Tce, New­stead, (07) 3831 8344, ec­co­


Mercedes-Benz’s new city-cen­tre show­room brings un­ex­pect­edly tasty ben­e­fits – a café-restau­rant owned by Sam Pask, for­mer restau­rant man­ager at Otto Bris­bane. Break­fast might in­clude pipis and house­made chorizo with fer­mented chilli and spiced cab­bage, while lunch and din­ner step up with charred king oys­ter mush­rooms with dashi buck­wheat por­ridge, pick­led chilli and sesame pressed car­rots, and yel­lowfin tuna sashimi with cau­li­flower sor­bet and squid-ink crisps. 300 Ade­laide St, Bris­bane,


Open­ing in early Novem­ber, The Westin of­fer­ing in­cludes The Charles’, a café-wine bar at street level, and Eden’s Ta­ble, a smart-ca­sual health-fo­cused eatery on the first floor. The five-star ho­tel also has Nau­tilus Pool bar, a re­sort-style 300 square-me­tre pool with swim-up bar and a huge deck to match. 111 Mary St, Bris­bane, (07) 3557 8888, star­wood­ho­

Three Blue Ducks, Bris­bane. Op­po­site: cod with cau­li­flower, ar­ti­choke barigoule and ver­mouth emul­sion at Restau­rant Dan Arnold.

Clock­wise from top: roast chicken glazed with fer­mented chilli, corn purée, pick­led radic­chio and jus at Three Blue Ducks; co-owner ofThree BlueDucks, Dar­ren Robert­son;Donna Chang; Restau­rant Dan Arnold; Black Hide by Gam­baro at Trea­sury Bris­bane.

Clock­wise from top left: Lit­tle Val­ley; roasted More­ton Bay bugs with salted egg yolk and fer­mented chilli at Donna Chang; Hôntô; Lit­tle Val­ley co-di­rec­tors David Flynn (left) and Frank Li; truf­fle har gow, roast pork neck with char siu glaze, lob­ster and chive har gow, and duck egg noo­dles with strange-flavour sauce atLit­tle Val­ley.

Clock­wise from above: fried cau­li­flower with sage, golden raisins, al­mond and an­chovy custard at E’cco Bistro; Black Hide by Gam­baro at Trea­sury Bris­bane; Golden Pig chef-owner Ka­t­rina Ryan (left) and head chef Sarah Hock­ings. Op­po­site: the view of the Bris­bane River from ThreeBlue Ducks.

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