It was a busy year in Brisbane for new restaurants. We saw the arrival of a Melbourne Vietnamese superstar, a Spring Hill icon up-sticks and move to brand new digs in the Valley and one of the city’s most talented chefs finally open his own venue. If there was a theme to 2017, it was casual and it was suburban. Long gone are the days when Brisbane dining was just about crisp tablecloths on Eagle Street. Here are some of the best openings of the year.
Original Dave’s Low & Slow BBQ
David Hillman had been smoking meats for 20 years in Canada before he moved to Brisbane. When Hillman arrived in the Queensland capital to work on an oil and gas project he noticed a lack reasonably priced American barbeque. Earlier this year he and his wife Alix finally decided to do something about it, opening Original Dave’s Low & Slow BBQ on Hardgrave Road. The menu revolves around free-range beef and pork cooked until it’s falling off the bone, coated in thick, flavoursome sauce. American-style desserts such as apple pie and pecan pie round out the menu, while the beers keep it local with brews from Brisbane Brewhouse and Newstead Brewing Co. There’s also a separate list of whiskey and bourbon, and a short selection of wines.
Happy Boy Fortitude Valley
Why mess with a good thing? To make it even better, of course. That was the thinking behind Spring Hill’s popular Chinese joint Happy Boy moving to Fortitude Valley earlier this year. The new space has room for more people and more kitchen equipment but packs the same high-flavour food and high-energy vibe. Booze-wise, there’s a stronger focus on craft beers with six on tap, as well as a longer list for Happy Boy’s always-imaginative wine list. Minimal changes have been made to the white-walled subterranean space, with its fairy-lit front deck home to casual drinking and snacking.
Alfredo’s Pizzeria has been transformed into Alf’s Place, a venue anyone can take over to run their own pop-up restaurant. Owner Damian Griffiths is planning to launch a new restaurant in the New Year, but didn’t like the idea of leaving the space empty until then. The resulting pop-ups have given us some of the most interesting food of 2017. So far we’ve seen Texas barbeque from Sticky Fingers Smokehouse, and an enormously popular midnight dining club by Danielle Dixon, formerly of Bucci. Alf’s is currently playing host to Sydney vegan Mexican juggernauts Bad Hombres.
Martha Street Kitchen
There’s a reason the word “Italian” isn’t anywhere near Martha Street’s name. This is pizza and small-plate-style food done differently. Owners Patrick Laws and Jennie Byrnes have built a menu around what they love to eat. That means dishes such as beef-brisket pizza; linguini with mussels and garlic confit cream; and, on the weekends, a breakfast pizza with bacon and eggs. The fit-out is simple and slick, with wooden floorboards, black and white walls and a brick bar area. Three Green Beacon Brewing Co. beers (Laws’s favourite) are offered, as well as a mostly Australian organic and biodynamic wine list, with nothing over $12 a glass.
Banoi describes its food as “traditionally Vietnamese; authentically Australian”. It’s rooted in family and history, served in a way that’s exciting, new and playful. The King Street restaurant is bright and sophisticated, with green tiling, light-wood furnishings and plenty of plants. The most popular dish, both at Banoi’s Brisbane location and its two Melbourne restaurants, is the beef pho. It’s a variation on the classic dish owner Viet Nguyen calls “home pho” because it’s packed with way more aromatics and spices than most regular restaurant versions.
Chu the Phat
Chu the Phat is hard to miss. But then that’s what happens when you build an enormous, boldly lit 300-seater on Melbourne Street. Chu the Phat is the team behind inner-city Chinese fine diner Madame Wu letting its hair down and dabbling in Asian street food. It’s a pop-in-anytime kind of place, with food served from mid-morning until late. The menu is nothing if not playful: try red-fried pig tails; brioche stuffed with a meatball, cabbage and aioli; or mung-bean pancakes with kimchi caramel. Pair it with a lychee-topped cocktail, a local wine or beer from the respectable drinks list.
You might recognise Damon Amos from his time heading up the kitchen at CBD fine-diner Public. In January, after many delays, Amos finally managed to swing open the doors of his own venue, Detour, in Woolloongabba. It’s a beautiful space of copper and timber, with rustic elements from its former life as an antique store. The menu is in two parts – omnivore and herbivore – both full of innovative and surprising meals, such as gunpowder-seasoned salmon; green curry and black ants; and fossilised (slowly dried over a number of days) carrots with smoked almonds and chia. Dine looking out over the handsome Logan Road precinct, or face inside and watch as Amos plates up the meals himself on a custom-built timber bench.
Margo Restaurant and Bar
This mid-November opening just slipped in under the wire – but it’s hard to ignore the first restaurant from former Urbane and The Euro chef Americo Fernandes. Margo has taken over the space formerly occupied by French institution Montrachet and much of that venue’s classic bistro charm remains. Fernandes is also skilled in French cooking techniques, but his food draws its influences from across Europe as well as beautiful local produce. The robust drinks list leans towards Australian and French wines and classic cocktails.
Early this year Neighbourhood joined Kenmore favourites The Single Guys, Sichuan Bang Bang and Pizzeria Violetta in offering first-class suburban dining. It’s comfortable, modern and inviting, with a short menu of pizza and bar-snack classics done very well. Neighbourhood’s wine list of small Australian producers is carefully chosen and keenly priced, while the beers are anchored by the Neighbourhood pale ale, brewed in-house and designed to complement the pizza. Look out for the record player, the staff will provide the soundtrack to your meal with its impressive vinyl collection.
Betty’s Burgers Newstead
Enormously popular Noosa burger institution Betty’s Burgers’ expansion to Newstead was a long time coming. The beachy-but-polished space from Paul Kelly Design was under construction for close to a year. Throngs of customers greeted its eventual opening in early November, keen to grab one of its much-lauded burgers. The menu deals in classics such as the beef, fried chicken, mushroom and pork belly (all available “naked”, with no bun); and the now-iconic “concrete” – a creamy, house-made frozen custard. There seems to be no slowing down for Betty’s, with over a dozen more locations planned around Australia over the next two years.