The Queensland capital might have taken a bit of time to emerge from the shadows of its east-coast cousins, but boy, has Brisbane ever gotten its cool on. Enough so to have Lonely Planet proclaim it as Australia’s hippest city in December last year; and it’s only going to get better. Here’s why.
1. It’s a rising hub of gastronomic creativity
Do we dare declare Brisbane as Australia’s most hot-right-now culinary corner? Whoops, we just did – sorry Melbourne. With a host of lively and über cool watering holes, chic wine bars, excellent fine dining, and cute and cosy cafés, Brisbane has enough to please even the fussiest of tastebuds. So where to start your gourmet gallivant?
For multicultural flavours, Fortitude Valley is the hub to go; walk through Chinatown or along bustling Brunswick Street for a multitude of global flavours. Inspired by street food in Asia’s most delicious cities – Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok – the new-ish Kwan Brothers is the place to go for tasty Asian bites and great cocktails. And when another cocktail seems like a good idea, head to The Bowery, a New York-style speakeasy.
Dress in your best and book at table at Caxton Street’s Black Hide Steakhouse for some fine dining (it was awarded a chef’s hat in the 2014 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide Awards). Or, for a casual bite, stop in at beer den Brewski Bar, on Petrie Terrace, for a wood-fired pizza washed down with some Aussie craft beer. Also on Petrie Terrace, Peasant is one of the many Spanish restaurants that have influxed the city in recent times; rustic Spanish fare here is served in a moody intimate space coloured with street-art murals. Its little sister, Cabiria, is a wine bar, luncheonette and oyster bar getting rave reviews, as is PUBLIC, a sexy establishment melding inventive fine dining with a casual atmosphere (the unique dishes are designed to share) in the CBD.
Head to the inner-west suburbs of Paddington and Rosalie to cute specialty stores like Monty’s Chocolates (order the hot chocolate here!) and the old-world Paddington Deli & Epicerie (olives, French cheese, sliced meats) on Latrobe Terrace. Or try the Sourced Grocer in Teneriffe, for fresh gourmet produce (it’s also a great spot for coffee and breakfast); and in nearby New Farm, The Foraging Quail is an elegant restaurant serving a delicious shared degustation with an eclectic wine list. Satisfied?
2. The (nice) nightlife is thriving
Gigs have been cool since we were cool (or thought we were) and Brisbane has plenty going on. In the Valley, the back alley underground bar Greaser serves all-American food and plays some great bluesy/rock ‘n’ roll tunes in the cellar of a 130-year-old building, or Black Bear Lodge, in Brunswick Street Mall, is a low-lit funk, soul and rock ‘n’ roll club with free shows on the weekends.
The West End has Max Watt’s ‘House of Music’, which features a constant line-up of big name international and home-grown acts; as well as the much smaller, but funky The Waiting Room, which used to be a recording studio but now hosts regular gigs, exhibitions and workshops.
Former gentleman’s club Lefty’s is a beloved bolthole – drink whisky and listen to old-time rock at this Caxton Street venue. For a laugh, Powerhouse in New Farm hosts comedy shows, as well as live music and theatre. And jazz lovers can’t go past Brisbane Jazz Club in Kangaroo Point.
3. You’ll find culture, art and more
Who knew Brisvegas would become a cultural hotbed where flocks of culture vultures head for a fix? South Bank is buzzing with creativity – its cultural strip is an exhibition in its own right with public artworks, like the iconic Mates sculpture. The Bank is also home to GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre; upcoming events include 30 Years of Japanese Fashion (from 1 November at GoMA) and Le Noir, the dark side of Cirque du Soleil (from 1 August at QPAC).
The industrial-cool Brisbane Powerhouse (a disused power station in New Farm) is a venue for comedy, visual arts, music and theatre. It also comes alive on the second and fourth Saturday of each month with farmers’ markets and throughout summer with its moonlight cinema.
4. There’s shopping. Good shopping.
Believe it or not, Brisbane is beginning to nip at Melbourne’s fashion-forward heels. Head to James Street in Fortitude Valley to find a trail of super cute fashion boutiques like Calexico, Easton Pearson, camargue, Aje., Maryon’s and Samantha Ogilvie. And while you’re here, make sense of that hefty (but very necessary) handbag investment by dropping into Bag Beauty, specialising in bringing your Hermès, Chanel or Burberry back to life.
Once suitably suited up, head to Ivy + Bird on Arthur Street, which stocks one-off exotic jewellery, homewares and more; then get your stationery in order at Happiness Place on Paddington’s Latrobe Terrace.
If you’re a vintage maven, Paddington is your Mecca – try Hobohemia, Adornments, Blake & Taylor, and Retro Metro – or Woolloongabba Antiques Centre, a huge treasure trove warehouse with a cute ’50s-style milk bar for refreshments.
5. It’s all clear skies ahead
While Sydney shines in summer; and Melbourne appeals in winter, that balmy Queensland weather means Brisbane is a cool (or warm) capital year-round. Bike and walking paths have popped up across the open-planned city to take advantage of the sunshine. Cycle or walk along South Bank’s Promenade, finishing up at River Quay for a coffee in one of the cafés. Pack a picnic for New Farm Park and sit under the gorgeous Jacarandas (there’s also free Tai Chi classes and a five-kilometre fun run every week). Or walk across Story Bridge to Kangaroo Point, well known for its cliffs and gardens from which you have amazing views, then catch the ferry back across the river to the city.
And then, when the day is ending, head back to one of the city’s trendy hotels. Limes Hotel, part of the 8 Hotels Collection, in Fortitude Valley has 21 sophisticated guest rooms, each with its own unique hand-painted feature wall and bespoke furnishings. But the best bit is the hotel’s own rooftop bar and cinema. From $440 per night.
Then there’s new contender Gambaro Hotel on Petrie Terrace; a fresh faced boutique hotel with spacious rooms, lush bedding, an extensive pillow menu and a warm, brown and gold colour scheme. Their onsite award-winning seafood restaurant is a must. From $199 per night.