Dan Rodriguez’s (Electric Avenue) new all-day eatery – in an old printshop in Woolloongabba’s Logan Road precinct – is inspired by New York neighbourhood delis. But it also celebrates the history of Brisbane’s old electric tramway system (Joseph Stillman Badger, who Mr Badger’s is named after, was a New Yorker who moved to Brisbane in the late 19th century and later helped develop the city’s original tram system). There are strings of onions, chillies and garlic hanging above the counter and a cabinet stuffed full of cold cuts. And a life-sized mock-up of a tram on the deli floor in which punters can dine. There’s an original tram timetable on the wall, conductor hats hanging in the corner and vintage Brisbane tourism posters in the hallway.
On the menu, it's NYC Bagel Deli bagels and deli-style sandwiches built using local Banneton Bakery bread, washed down by Black Sheep Roasters coffee. After dark, a straightforward share menu of lamb shoulder, T-bone steak and whole roasted chicken takes over. The signature, though, is co-owner Adam Pykett’s baby: Detroit-style pan pizza. Throughout the day there are deli boards, various appetisers, charcuterie, cheese and tinned fish. On the drinks list is a keenly priced selection of wine, tap and tinned beer, and bottled cocktails produced at Electric Avenue and The Canvas Club (also owned by Rodriguez and Pykett).
Angela Sclavos describes her latest venue, The Green, as an “ecosystem”. It’s fitting, given the space is teeming with plants. What she means is that every aspect of the business – restaurant, deli, plant shop, ceramics store – works together as one. The concept, by Sclavos and business partner Christina Habchi, is an evolution of their popular James Street pop-up nursery, The Green Space, which opened in mid-2020. When the pop-up finished, the duo found a large, airy space just down the street – formerly Redsea Gallery – and paired the nursery with a restaurant that tapped into their Lebanese heritage.
Executive chef Warren Turnbull and his team serve breakfast dishes like green shakshuka with smoked labneh, chilli and turkish bread, and tahini granola with blood orange, cacao, coconut yoghurt and barberries. The lunch menu features mezze options such as hummus, muhammara and smoked eggplant dip, with Lebanese pita or fried pitta. Mains are suited for sharing and include roasted barramundi with saffron, mussels and tomato tagine. And grilled zhug-marinated lamb cutlets with smoked onion puree. The deli focuses on takeaway Ottolenghi-style salads and falafel. There’s also coffee from Melbourne roaster St Ali and a concise wine and cocktail offering.
After launching in 2020 as an online- and delivery-only concept, Kid Curry the restaurant finally opened in September, six months later than planned. What was a quick pivot by brothers Cameron and Jordie Votan born out of Covid-19 is now an intimate 45-seat eatery next to their other eateries Happy Boy and Snack Man. The core six or seven curries have expanded into a broad menu that incorporates raw and small plates, and a long selection of mains – all the better to take in as many styles of cuisine as possible from India to Indonesia.
You might start with kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche with coconut milk, chilli and herbs; Indonesian ayam goreng fried chicken sandwiches served with sambal and house pickle; or flame-grilled seekh kebab lamb skewers with pickled onions and mint chutney before moving on to rogan josh and butter chicken, Indonesian ayam bakar chicken, and Thai beef-cheek green curry. As always, wine is a big focus for the Votans. Kid Curry packs a tight 25-bottle list that favours small producer (and often Italian) drops that are powerful enough to stand up to the flavours of the curries but also acidic enough to cleanse the palate after such rich flavours. And if you want to go large, you can always arrange for something from Snack Man’s enormous cellar next door.
Essa might be the opposite of James Street’s typically summery and ostentatious venues. Where other eateries in the precinct tend to be full of light, Essa is dark and charismatic. Architect Craig Channon’s (Channon Architects) fit-out comprises black timber and banquettes, green marble tables, and hidden lighting. He’s also turned its covered windows into waiter’s stations. Concessions to natural light come in the form of a curtained window at the front of the venue and a fabulous garden out back.
Co-owner and former Gauge head chef Phil Marchant has prepared a local produce-focused menu anchored by a woodfired grill custom-built in Melbourne by The Brick Chef. You might get burnt kohlrabi that’s pickled and served with fresh curds, bay leaf, pistachio and nasturtium; wild venison tartare with bergamot, buckwheat, hibiscus and grilled sourdough; or fried chickpea beignets served with a caramelised scallop cream. Larger plates might include house-rolled gnocchetti sardi served with Fraser Isle spanner crab, nduja and carrot. And spatchcock quail with brown butter, caper leaves and salt bush. Before and after dinner service, a short raw menu that includes oysters and charcuterie is served at the bar.
Rosmarino is one of the first tenants of the newly redeveloped Stewart and Hemmant building, which dates back to the 1890s (up until recently it was the relatively forgotten Great Wall Shopping Centre). Its owners are Hellenika veterans Lauren Smith and Andrea Gatti, aided by chef Dario Manca, who’s cooking a menu of elevated Italian comfort food – house-baked breads, antipasti, house-made pastas and mains. You might eat kingfish crudo with verjus, bottarga, green apple and burnt buttermilk followed by pasta dishes such as casarecce with rabbit ragu, shallot, goat curd and lemon tyme; and 24-hour slow-cooked lamb belly with radish, salsa verde and mustard greens. It’s refined food delivered with a traditional twist that recalls Manca and Gatti’s Italian homeland.
Still, it’s wine that arguably comes first at Rosmarino, with Smith, Gatti and head sommelier Nathan Hurst kicking off with a list 150-bottles-strong, and a plan to push that up towards 800 bottles in the coming months. The focus is on Italian varietals and expressions from Mount Etna, in particular. Many are biodynamic or sustainable, although that comes more by way of tasting rather than design.
Does James Street need another Italian restaurant? It’s an area already stuffed with good pasta and pizza, and last week new Italian restaurant Gemelli landed on the corner of McLachlan and James streets, right in the middle of it. The 120-seat Gemelli is different, though. In a precinct big on statement dining, this is a much more family-oriented restaurant. It’s a warm, rustic and unfussy space. The Italian philosophy of “cucina povera”, which translates to “poor kitchen” drives the menu’s uncomplicated selection of antipasti, pasta and Napoli-style pizza.
Think woodfired Queensland king prawns with parsley, capers, garlic and chilli or grilled calamari with a radicchio- and roasted-walnut-salad, followed by mains such as NSW black Angus scotch fillet served with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables; eight-hour oxtail and pork shin ragu rigatoni; and a four-cheese gnocchi with gorgonzola, fontina, asiago and parmigiano-reggiano. For drinks there’s a 200-bottle wine list that lines up small producer biodynamic Italian wines next to ballsier Australian shiraz and cabernets, plus a clutch of tap and bottled beer, and an Italian-leaning cocktail selection. Next door, find it’s Milan-inspired aperitivo-style sibling bar, Bar Tano.