Stranded is not a rock’n’roll bar. Not entirely, anyway.
Yes, it’s a sister venue to The Zoo, connected by an upstairs gangway, and yes, there are vinyl DJs spinning old rock records. And yes, the lights are low and bricks have been stripped raw and much of the furniture is pre-loved.
Co-owners Shane Chidgzey and Luke “Boo” Johnston will tell you they wanted to bridge the gap between the cocktail joints and dive bars that each likes to frequent. But ask third co-owner Cat Clarke about her inspiration and she’ll opt instead for the storied Ristorante La Madonna in Venice, where she and husband Johnston dined on their honeymoon.
“You felt like you were stepping back into the 1950s there,” she says. “They have these plates with their branded logo on them and we now have our own on order. We’ve spent a lot of time in Italy and we love Luigi [De Santo, Stranded’s Italian-born head chef] who helped come up with these ideas, so there’s quite a heavy Italian influence in there too.”
The vinyl. The furniture. An Italian-inflected late-night food menu. A backbar stocked with 50 bottles of hard-to-find tequila and mezcal. Clarke and Johnston’s history working in the music industry. A name inspired by The Saints’ debut single and album (I’m) Stranded. Artistic hangouts such as Max’s Kansas City in New York, a famous bolthole for Andy Warhol, David Bowie and Lou Reed.
All these loves and influences and life experiences have been poured into Stranded to create something entirely unique. It may sound scattershot, but there’s a method here.
“It was important for this not to be a themed place,” Clarke says. “We’ve got memorabilia but it’s not a rock’n’roll bar – it’s inspired by those things. We don’t have a thousand guitars hanging from the wall like the Hard Rock Cafe.
“It’s a combination of all our previous experiences rolled into one. Mine and Luke’s experiences with music and dive bars. Shane’s travelled the world over and gone to the best restaurants and cocktail bars. It’s just a combination of all those things and … [we’ve] somehow managed to make it all work in harmony with each other.”
The upstairs venue itself sits across Winn Lane from The Zoo (together in their early years, the venues were a motor supplies company and then a peanut shelling factory) and mirrors that space with its brick walls, timber floors and vaulted ceiling. Instead of a stage, though, there’s a long bar lined with diner-style leather stools. The rest of the heritage-listed space is populated by high bars, and booths and upcycled furniture from old restaurants. It’s dark and moody, but friendly and relaxed.
For food, De Santo is preparing share plates such as burrata with baked cherry tomatoes, rocket and a five-year aged balsamic vinegar; schiaffoni (large tubular pasta) stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella served with tomato chutney; slow-cooked lamb ribs with mint yoghurt and pita; and 32-hour slow-cooked mezcal-infused beef cheeks. Food will go late so you need not make that 1am run to New York Slice.
Beyond the mezcal and mezcal-driven signature cocktail list, drinks are a clutch of Mexican beers and other internationals backed by local craft brews, including a Stranded lager on tap that’s produced by Fonzie Abbott. For wines there’s a sparkling list that leans French, and a selection of whites, reds, rosés and pét-nats that lean Australian.
It adds up not to a rock’n’roll bar but somewhere you go after a rock concert. Not a musician’s bar, exactly, but more a grown-up music fan’s bar – a haven for those longstanding Zoo types who want somewhere to retreat to after a gig, but also somewhere to go after dinner or after work.
“It’s a unique concept … and something I certainly haven’t found in my travels,” Clarke says. “You can walk in, in a band T-shirt and Chuck Taylors and not be frowned upon, and you can walk in, in a suit and tie. Anyone’s welcome.”
3 Winn Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3185 0720
Wed to Sat 5pm–Late