Breathing new life into the River City
Rocked by floods, the efforts to transform the Queensland capital are starting to pay off. The city has bounced back and is regaining tourism appeal, writes Angela Saurine
AS FAR as major Australian cities go, Brisbane has always had a tough time keeping up with its east coast counterparts.
While Sydney has unrivalled natural beauty and Melbourne has its cultural drawcards, cool laneway bars and restaurants, Brisbane has . . . well, skyscrapers.
This time last year the Queensland capital was also struck by devastating floods, which did nothing to enhance its appeal to tourists.
But over the past 12 months the city has done an impressive job pulling together and cleaning up. There are few signs of the devastation which made front-page news around the country last January and there is a sense that the city is transforming.
There are some who say the floods have had a positive impact on tourism, spurring many businesses to take the opportunity to refresh their offerings.
Major city hotels, including the Novotel Brisbane, Hilton Brisbane and Marriott have had major makeovers this year.
In the last three months of 2011, the city welcomed 30 new bars, cafes and restaurants. At riverfront South Bank, which was rebuilt after the floods, the new River Quay dining precinct – previously known as River Bend – will offer five swish new restaurants when it is complete.
Cove Bar + Dining and The Jetty South Bank opened in November, followed by Stokehouse, which became a place to be seen in the lead-up to Christmas.
The restaurant, which has a sister venue in Melbourne’s St Kilda, has a light, open feel with glass bi-fold doors leading on to a narrow balcony, high ceilings and white tablecloths. It is a great place to while away an afternoon watching the paddlewheelers and Citycat ferries glide by.
Back in the CBD, the new ‘‘ food emporium’’ Spring is also attracting attention. With well-known former restaurant critic and chef Lizzie Loel at the helm, Spring is a clever concept. In the finance district on the corner of Felix and Mary St, it is a kind of modern-day mixed business selling mostly local, organic produce. It offers everything from marinated olives to macaroons, has a cooking school and will begin selling wine next month.
The emporium has an inviting feel. Sit on the corner outside on large wooden tables, sip coffee on tree-