It was a tough job narrowing down the best of the bar openings in 2017 – just look at the list of honourable mentions at the bottom of this story. But in the end we couldn’t go past these boozy favourites. This year it was all about campy fun in Petrie Terrace, a new lynchpin for Woolloongabba nightlife and a brilliant terrace with some of the very best views in the city.
It seems like Woolloongabba may have thrown off its “antique” vibe for good. While hip restaurants and cafes have been slowly taking over for years, Electric Avenue has finally given the suburb a real shot in the arm. Part bistro, part wine bar, part secret whisky den, Electric Avenue is a space where people can drop in for a drink before dinner or a nightcap and a toe tap, or settle in all night. The two-storey space is filled with collectibles and antiques as a nod to the area’s history. And don’t forget to seek out Jack Rabbits, a speakeasy hidden upstairs. Somewhere.
The Cloakroom Bar
When it finally wrestled its way through a heap of red tape to open in September, The Cloakroom turned out to be unlike any other bar in town. This is bespoke, exacting mixology in a moody, candlelit setting. First, you find it, down a laneway and up a fire escape; then, the bar staff ply you with a palate cleanser and find out what you typically like to drink, before turning your preferences into something they think you’ll love. Once you’ve ordered there’s plenty of intimate corners to hole up in, as well as a larger outdoor area.
La Lune Wine Co
Seven long years after Paul McGivern first visited Burgandy and dreamed of owning his own wine bar, he finally unveiled La Lune Wine Co, bringing a dash of moody, old-world style to rapidly developing Fish Lane. The 42-seat venue features wooden tables and chairs, a long black booth and a mixture of timber and tile flooring. The focus, of course, is a 120-strong wine list but maybe take a seat at the marble bar at the edge of the open kitchen – the chefs can then talk you through a deftly curated menu separated into charcuterie, raw, cheese and hot sections.
Hidden behind a bright orange door on the Valley’s busiest intersection is Savile Row, a hive of lively, sophisticated fun for the serious drinker. Glittering on the back bar are over 750 different spirits. The rest of the walls are adorned with wallpaper, bare brick and artwork, while upstairs a balcony looks over what can be a rambunctious scene on a Saturday night. It’s unlike anything else in the Valley and good thing too, seeing as it took almost 18 months to fit out. While spirits are the hero here, two dozen wines and a few beers on tap keep the other bases covered.
Netherworld’s power combo of arcade games and craft beer has proved absolutely irresistible since opening in early January. The large corner-pub is consistently packed with punters keen to try its dozens of arcade games, as well as classic consoles and board games (or maybe just burn through a bag of gold on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Then there’s the beer, with 14 varieties on tap and more by the bottle served in the heritage-listed, green-tiled front bar. The venue’s restaurant, the Hellmouth Diner, serves an all-vegan American-style menu with Japanese influences and optional omnivore add-ons.
Proud Henry is colourful, fun, and maybe a little hedonistic – characteristics exemplified by the eye-catching taxidermied peacock hanging behind that bar. That’s Henry, and he looks over this Fortitude Valley ginoteca. Offering around 100 gins from Australia and around the world, as well as a short, sharp wine list and a simple menu of cheese and charcuterie (and delivery from Tara Thai across the road), Proud Henry is nothing if not a crowd pleaser. Look out for live music on Friday nights, and the Gin Junkies events where you can learn more about the spirit of the moment.
Not content to only dominate Italian fine dining in the CBD, this year Otto Ristorante set its sights on also becoming the go-to for sophisticated grazing and drinking. Bar Otto, situated next to Otto Ristorante, four floors up at 480 Queen, has some of the most stunning views in the city. It’s the perfect place for a mushroom and truffle arancini ball, or delicate charcuterie as the sun sets. The drinks menu pleases both the Italian love of wine and aperitif and Australian craft beer and cocktail fans.
Mrs Brown’s Bar & Kitchen
In October this year the Newstead warehouse formerly home to Blue Sky Coffee threw open its doors again, reimagined as laid-back bar and restaurant Mrs Brown’s. New owners Tarryn and Ben Brown have brought some homely hospitality to a stunning space with high ceilings, a marble bar and teardrop light features. The menu offers a new take on the roast: chicken, lamb, pork or mushrooms, with a range of hearty sides and salads. You can even order pizza from nearby Gianni’s to have with your booze. The drinks list features Australian and overseas wines, as well as cocktails and craft beer on rotation.
At the start of the year Scout Owners Susannah Whitehouse and Candy Smith took over the former premises of dark and intimate café Hop Scotch and Beans with the ambition to turn it into something fun, bright and a bit camp. The result is Jessie’s Girl, a refreshingly unserious take on cocktails and share plates. With a big neon cocktail glass out the front, and soft pink lighting through the bar, there’s a playful, feminine feel to the place. There’s also that whole menu of spritzes, including The Britz, The Ritz, The Titz and The Shizz – all guaranteeing a good time.
The Valley Wine Bar
Lyndon Kubis, Renton Carlyle-Taylor and Mark Hopkinson are the owners of highly regarded wine joints down in Melbourne and Sydney. Little surprise, then, there was a lot of excitement for the The Valley Wine Bar when it opened on Alfred Street in late September. The concept behind The Valley Wine Bar is fairly unique: a specialty wine shop and bar at night, with standard charcuterie, jerky, cheese and pate available, then a switch to coffees and pastries during the day. The space is dark and moody, with wine bottles lining every shelf. You’ll find quite a few natural drops in the line-up, as well as some Queensland producers.