The perfect place to drink this holiday season is in one of Brisbane’s excellent new bars. That’s if you can find them; secrecy seemed to be one of the themes of the year. Otherwise, it was speakeasies, reborn pubs and craft breweries. Here are the best.
Hope and Anchor
One of 2016’s (and 2015’s, frankly) most anticipated venues finally opened in July. Set in the style of a coastal English pub, Hope and Anchor has since cemented itself as a Paddington neighbourhood favourite with plenty of local brews on tap; a solid wine list; and a short, sharp cocktail offering. Low lights, wood panelling, raw brick and taxidermy dial up the intimacy in the historic, two-storey cottage. Come for a beer, stay for the chip butty.
Seymour's Cocktails and Oysters
This is the second venue on this list owned by Jamie Webb (of Hope and Anchor, as well as Lefty’s and Sonny’s House of Blues). Seymour’s is in the space previously occupied by Webb’s short-lived Ginger’s Diner. Through the curtains on Caxton Street it’s the mid 20th century; there’s incandescent lighting, a brass-band soundtrack, vintage posters in gilded frames and an old piano in the corner. As promised, the New Orleans-inspired bar serves oysters by the half or full dozen, plus a short menu of share dishes.
It might seem out of place in Bulimba – Brisbane’s very own Pleasantville, usually defined by cheap flicks and family-friendly cafes – but Blind Tiger is simply an expansion of owner Robert Harding’s neighbouring barber and man cave, The Moustachery. There are close to 50 whiskies and 16 rums; half-a-dozen rotating beer taps; and an imaginative cocktail menu that references the old-school tunes the bar plays (Chuck Berry, Ella Fitzgerald). Drop in for date night Tuesdays and live jazz on Thursdays.
Aether was first thought up by owners Dave Ward and Jimmy Young five years ago, when the duo worked as fly-in, fly-out oil-and-gas engineers. It’s a big, two-storey, industrial-style pub and craft brewery with an attached restaurant, and it peddles exotic drops such as the crowd favourite Oatmeal Porter. It’s built on North Queensland vanilla beans soaked in a rum blend for five months. Aether is just a block away from the iconic XXXX Brewery, and with Newstead Brewing soon to open a second venue in the area, Milton is once again Queensland’s beer central.
Tomcat is hiding something. The main second-floor drinking den is a grungy, graffiti-covered space that’s half dive bar, half warehouse party. Keep wandering through this Fortitude Valley rabbit warren, though, and eventually, past the pool tables, you’ll find Tomcat’s secret drinking space. The Boiler Room is the Jekyll to Tomcat’s Hyde, a slinky cocktail space with a never-ending hardwood bar. Settle in with a classic cocktail, or buy a bottle of Rémy Martin cognac to keep behind the bar.