George Curtis and James Horsfall always wondered why Brisbane’s CBD has so few wine bars, especially compared to nearby South Brisbane and Fortitude Valley.

“If you think of cosmopolitan cities like Melbourne, Sydney and London, there’s wine bars everywhere,” Horsfall tells Broadsheet. “It’s a gap in the market.”

In July, they plan to help fill that gap with Milquetoast, a 40-seat wine bar with an ironic name tucked in an Elizabeth Street laneway. Positioned in a garage across from late-night bourbon bar Alice, Milquetoast will follow its neighbour’s lead, with plans to trade into the early hours.

Never miss a Brisbane moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.


“You’ve got Alice’s foot traffic late at night, which is where our late-night dining concept came in,” Curtis tells Broadsheet. “On a Friday or Saturday when you have people walking past at 11pm, it would be awesome to have an option for them to have a proper meal instead of a kebab or fried chicken.”

They first floated the idea of opening a bar together while working at Elska (now closed). Curtis later opened Before & After, while Horsfall joined the team at Blume as sommelier.

Horsfall will manage Milquetoast’s wine program, splitting his time between the new venue and Blume. His wine list will feature small producers, with an emphasis on natural and organic wines.

Former Agnes chef Kenta Kusatani will lead the kitchen. (He’ll be part of Milquetoast’s opening team, then join Noma for its 10-week residency in Japan. He’ll return to Milquetoast once finished.) The menu will focus on hearty British dishes – drawing on both owners’ English heritage – like devilled eggs, pickles, pig’s head sausages with spiced lentils, and chicken-and-leek pie. For dessert, expect lemon posset and bread-and-butter pudding made with milk bread from Riser.

Curtis and Horsfall are handling the fit-out themselves. It will feature lots of timber, brick and greenery. Since they can’t install a grease trap in the kitchen, the food will be prepared offsite and heated to order, using equipment like an air fryer and toaster oven.

“We’re just two guys opening a bar against a difficult backdrop of the industry – an industry where big groups dominate,” Curtis says. “If someone sees an air fryer and are like, ‘Why have you got that?’ Because we’re Milquetoast – why does it matter?”

“As long as the food’s coming out hot, what’s the problem?” Horsfall adds. “[It’s] a low-capital startup … it’s Milquetoast.”

Milquetoast will open at 199 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane City, in July.