It was a big year in Brisbane for new restaurants. We saw interstate venues exported north, the long-awaited introduction of more late-night haunts and the revival of suburban dining. Here are some of the best.
Brisbane’s newest Italian restaurant taps into the legacy of the Sydney original. Like the Woolloomooloo establishment, Otto is in a waterside setting, overlooking the Brisbane River and Story Bridge within the 480 Queen Street development. The food also references Otto’s link to the sea, with Sydney export Will Cowper creating a menu in tune with the Mediterranean.
Caxton Street as you once knew it has been undergoing an almighty change and even a granddaddy like Casablanca wasn’t immune. In its place, late-night burger joint Fritzenberger has reinvigorated the top end of the precinct. Matt Fosker (The Story Bridge Hotel) worked with Ryan Squires (Esquire) to create a menu of simple burger combinations. But it’s arguably the loaded and seasoned frites that have been the star attraction, with diners able to choose from “fritzensalt” flavours including roast chicken, Vegemite and beetroot.
Opening on busy Sandgate Road, Vaquero Dining is cleverly protected from the noise of the main drag by The Albion Butchery. Beyond the frontage, the restaurant’s long, narrow space flows through to a small cobblestone courtyard. Chef Damon Porter’s menu focuses on protein cooked using a Josper charcoal oven, with diners watching on through the open kitchen. Out front, the boutique butcher sells charcuterie, pickled vegetables and other cured meats, providing an added sense of theatre for diners.
The opening of the The Apo in January was months in the making, and it shows. A two-storey bistro and bar set in a heritage-listed former apothecary, The Apo boasts an intimidating degree of character and flair. The ever-changing menu is served in the moody eatery and upstairs bar. The drinks menu is to the point, balanced evenly between beer, wine and cocktails (the bottled versions are a sly nod to the venue’s medicinal history).
In an empty lot under a train line on Fish Lane, Daniel Ward and high school buddy Maris Cook transformed a shipping container into an outdoor Vietnamese eatery. With street art, festoon lighting and greenery, the urban setting of Hello Please is a big part of its charm. Fittingly, the menu focuses on street-style food that is intended for sharing, along with cocktails, craft and Vietnamese beers, or wine. Lunch is just as casual, but geared more towards fast, grab-and-go eats.
Serving up French classics such as steak frites and confit salmon, Greenglass is a clear change of pace for Happy Boy’s Cameron and Jordie Votan (who are co-owners along with Nick Turner and Michael Larsen). Like its enormously popular predecessor, Greenglass is located in an unassuming location, but the wine-focus is taken a step further: 110 bottles are displayed on the wall, with even more in the cellar. It sounds high-brow but it’s not – the most expensive menu item tops out at $15.
Serving American-style fried chicken until late, Winner Winner continued this year’s revival of Paddington’s dining scene. The kitchen may be small, but it churns out crispy chicken in a range of cuts that can be ordered in original, medium or hot. There’s also a signature chicken burger, and it wouldn’t be an American joint without curly fries, onion rings and pickles. Chicken may be the hero here, but this is also a drinking establishment, meaning you’ll find a good list of wine and local craft beers.
Jerome Dalton and Angel and Oliver Markart have run venues across Brisbane for more than 15 years, and their confidence shows at Blockhouse – a crisp black-and-white bolthole housed in a former bikie hangout. The venue was inspired by Dalton’s love of champagne, but there’s also a selection of wines and craft beer if sparkling isn’t your thing.
When Gordita closed, the fate of the space – troubled by a severe wind tunnel – was unclear. Rising to the challenge, Mary Randles has crafted a French bar and bistro that deliberately shuts out the elements. The central bar and booth seating remains, and the addition of heavy red-velvet curtains, a moody colour scheme and wall of French poster art culminates in a much more intimate experience. Chef Matthew Short (formerly Olé Fuego) is in charge of the French-inspired menu developed in collaboration with Randles’ husband, Philip Johnson (of E’cco fame).
Sichuan Bang Bang and Pizzeria Violetta
Renata Roberts saw the potential of suburban dining in 2012 when she opened Sichuan Bang Bang in Kenmore. Pizzeria Violetta soon followed, taking up residence next door. This year, she inched closer to the city, opening new editions of both restaurants in Paddington and Wilston. The venues operate alongside each other at the two locations, and the focus remains on authentic offerings of both traditional Italian pizza and Sichuan cuisine. With this shared logic of fast-paced food done well, the twin restaurants continue to make happy bedfellows.
The team behind Brooklyn Standard brought Melbourne’s Chingón taqueria to town this year, opening up right next door to their Eagle Lane bar. Like a true Mexican cantina, the menu is limited to just seven tacos and a handful of sides. You’ve got more options when it comes to drinks, with the alcohol strong and flowing freely. Mexican-inspired cocktails are on offer alongside house sangria, imported beers, ample tequila and an eclectic offering of South American wines.
Bird’s Nest Yakitori
Emi Kamada and Marie Yokoyama have built Bird’s Nest Yakitori into a humming West End institution. This year, the time came to expand. While this new Fortitude Valley edition is smaller than the original, there are more dishes on offer. First-timers should order the omakase course (amuse bouche, sake, nine skewers, rice course and dessert) or a set (seven chicken or vegetarian, or 10 mixed skewers). Alternatively, dine as the Japanese do by choosing a few sides and skewers, grazing, drinking sake and then ordering some more.
Little G is a Dutton Park family affair. Owner George Diacos opened his pizza shop next to his sister’s cafe, Gertrude and Mabel, and enlisted his mother to work in the restaurant. The menu is divided into simple sections: pizza, not pizza, sweet and drinks. There are classic pizzas such as margherita and prosciutto and pear. Other items include calamari fritti and fried octopus. To finish, the Nutella arancini is a playful variation on the savoury standard.
After establishing The London Club in Teneriffe, Beau Vedelago wanted to bring a similarly adaptable venue to the southern suburbs. The result is Factory 51, a bar, laneway bistro and function space in a former Laminex factory – one of Coorparoo’s few remaining heritage buildings. It offers an Italian-inspired menu alongside chargrilled meats, while lunches have more of a gastro-pub theme. There are plenty of boutique wines by the glass to encourage experimentation, and 10 craft beers on tap.