It’s been a brilliant start to the year for Brisbane’s booze lovers with a number of unique, eye-catching venues touching down.
Breweries continue to have their moment with several new beer-orientated venues, including Range Brewing’s neighbourhood bar in Rosalie. There’s also a trend towards nostalgia, with a 1970s-inspired speakeasy in the Valley, and a charming wine bar in West End with antique plates and glassware, while in Newstead the city received its first Japanese-inspired listening bar, with Queensland joining the growing number of states embracing the trend of Japanese jazz-kissatens.
Here are seven of our favourite new bar openings of 2023 (so far), in alphabetical order.
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Bar Francine, West End
Technically, Bar Francine opened in late December last year but it was after we’d already published our list of 2022’s best bars, so we’ve included it here. Owners Adrienne Jory and Rick Gibson (also El Planta) are behind the venue, which is set in a 100-year-old building in West End's hospitality and cultural hub. Warm-toned timber furniture anchors the chic setting where diners can sip natural wines from antique glassware and share plates of seafood and veg-focused dishes. Think crisp onion fritti, grilled razor clams with garlic butter, and sweet swimmer crab atop creamed corn and chilli butter.
Future Magic Brewing, East Brisbane
After five years of planning, Future Magic Brewing finally opened in late January 2023. Co-founders Sean Astill and Rhys Pike gutted the warehouse space on Manilla Street, erasing all traces of the venue’s previous life as a food packaging plant. There’s a bunch of large picnic tables, lots of exposed brick, an open kitchen (including a woodfired pizza oven) and a wall of shiny silver brewing tanks. The kitchen churns out classic pizzas – think margherita, pepperoni and quattro formaggi – and there are 12 taps at the central bar. The craft selection is impressive, with a mango and passionfruit sour, a pale ale, a lager and a number of IPAs.
Patio by Range, Paddington
A far cry from Range Brewing’s original brewery and taproom in Newstead, or its Melbourne taproom, Patio by Range is Gerard Martin and Matt McIver’s love letter to classic Australian drinking holes – except you won’t find any XXXX on tap. Instead, there’s 10 Range beers, plus two wine taps made in collaboration with Latta Vino. Like the Newstead taproom, the full Jacopo’s Pizza menu is on offer, along with a few more snacks. There are additions like gildas (Spanish skewers), a sardine and radish toast, and charred broccolini with black miso. Out front you’ll find the eponymous patio, with red brick, burgundy-tiled tables and timber bench seating. Indoors, the space resembles an old-fashioned Australian bar with dark timber (made from native Australian spotted gum), brick and a beautiful 18-metre curved bar.
Although this is technically a re-opening, after a nine-month, $3.5 million renovation Riverland (which re-opened in May) feels totally fresh. Now the three-tier, 800-square-metre deck has capacity for a thousand people, offering great views no matter where you are positioned. There are three new bars, with plenty of beer on tap, plus a new cocktail menu that includes a spicy watermelon Margarita and the Burst My Bubble (Husk Ink gin, lemon, apple and raspberry). Two new food concepts have also opened: The Queenslander, which highlights local produce, and The Traveller, a rotating menu that will pick a different international cuisine to highlight each quarter.
Ruby, My Dear, Newstead
In April, Brisbane scored its first listening bar – a concept modelled on Japanese jazz kissatens – chicly designed by Adam Laming from Shaun Lockyer Architects, with black accents, tan-coloured booths and timber finishes. There’s a fittingly Japanese influence with cocktails like a Toki whisky highball and a sake Negroni, plus an izakaya-style menu. You might start with some oysters with pomelo, cucumber and ponzu, before snacking on crispy chicken skins dusted with togarashi spice mix, and then moving onto a hefty pork katsu sando. DJs play four nights a week (Thursday to Sunday) with the music booming from four sweet Pitt & Giblin speakers.
The Nixon Room, Fortitude Valley
This hidden 1970s-inspired bar might be serving some of Brisbane’s best bar snacks. It’s a bold claim, but this isn’t just any bar. It’s from the team behind Essa, the moody high-end diner next door. The entrance is hidden behind a brass door down a vine-covered alley. Inside, the low-lit room features tanned leather, marble, and walnut panelling. The menu puts an elevated spin on retro classics: a caviar bump with a shot of iced Belvedere vodka; an elevated fish finger sandwich; or a fried nori crisp topped with tuna tartare. The bar includes around five signature cocktails and four Martinis, and a concise by-the-glass wine list of premium options.
Working Title Brew Co, Newstead
Brisbane has a lot of breweries and Luke Shield and Mark Howes didn’t want to add to that noise. But Working Title Brew Co is not just another brewery. There’s no core range of beers. Sure, you’ll always find a pilsner, pale ale, west coast IPA and red IPA among the venue’s 12 taps, but they’re constantly switching things up with their experimental brews. The food offering is arguably as unconventional as the beer. While you’d expect burgers and pizzas from most breweries, Working Title is serving fried ponzu crocodile; Riser sourdough toasties filled with ox tongue, kimchi and gruyere; and beer-basted octopus skewers.
Additional reporting by Becca Wang.