The stretch of Brunswick Street between Wickham Street and St Pauls Terrace has long been forgotten by Brisbane’s food and drink scene. Until the opening of Netherworld in early 2017 it was best known for its adult shops, strip clubs and convenience stores.
Since then there’s been a slow awakening at this end of the Valley. Soapbox Beer opened a block away in an old dance studio, and Ben Williamson, Tyron Simon and Frank Li’s 22 Agnes will open just up the hill in 2020. Baja, Dan Quinn’s swish new Mexican restaurant, is just weeks away.
But in terms of size, at least, they all pale in comparison to Foresters Restaurant and Bar. The 140-seat collaboration between FV developer Tim Gurner and Signature Hospitality Group opens in the heritage-listed Forester’s Hall at the bottom of the enormous FV Peppers hotel and residences on Thursday. The intention is for it to help activate the entire area.
“There’s a major development at the train station and [The Coterie] development behind us [on Alfred Street],” says Foresters general manager Simon Barnes. “[There’s a lot of investment] in this area and … it’s going to bring a lot of people through.”
Foresters is a significant switch-up for Signature Group, which is best known for restaurant chains TGI Fridays and The Sporting Globe. Hence the hiring of Barnes and chef Peter Popow, who between them have experience working for multifaceted hospitality groups such as Keystone, Solotel, Merivale and Seagrass.
“When James [Sinclair, Signature CEO] connected with Tim [Gurner], he was revelling in the fact that it's a new challenge,” Barnes says. “What they've done to this point is amazing, the venue is stunning.”
It’s certainly a looker. Elements of Flatiron-era New York have been tied into the design of the old Forester’s Hall (originally built in 1889 it was later Cook’s Picture Palace, the Valley’s first movie theatre). It has plush quilted leather-backed lounge seating and bar tables topped with gold-trimmed marble. The restaurant proper has enormous windows looking out over Alfred and Brunswick streets, letting in plenty of natural light, and the bar has a darker, more intimate feel.
Popow’s brief was to create a modern Australian take on gastropub food. “So it’s not that real London style,” Barnes says. “We have a chicken parmigiana, an old pub favourite, but done with prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella to take it to the next level.” Popow is also making damper produced with milk stout from Sea Legs Brewing in Kangaroo Point, and flipping a Hawaiian pizza with San Marzano tomato, double smoked ham and caramelised pineapple.
Drinks include a well-rounded wine list, plenty of tap beer and a lengthy cocktail selection that mixes classics with contemporary drinks.
Barnes says the aim is for Foresters to be a first point of call for FV residents and the professionals who work in the area. “It works for all walks of life,” he says. “When I come to work, I see people wearing suits and so forth … we want to give them somewhere nice on a Friday, and then switch around on Saturday for a general, younger crowd to come through. We want people to feel comfortable no matter what day of the week it is.”
Foresters Restaurant and Bar
209 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3188 3161
Sun to Thu 6.30am–10pm
Fri & Sat 6.30am–12am