Author name A once sleepy Brisbane has finally shrugged off its reputation as a gateway city, having well and truly joined in on all the late-night food and dark alley, speakeasy adventures.
Good things take time; that’s why you’re starting early in the afternoon at Brisbane Distillery Company. While it’s tempting to pull up a seat at the bar and browse the drinks menu, you’re really here for the gin school. Enter the classroom at the rear to find test tubes, stoves and Ukrainian copper stills boiling away, and be guided as a master distiller helps you choose from more than 140 botanicals to craft your own personalised gin. Distilling does require patience and devoted research, which is why the experience includes multiple rounds of cocktails to help you better study the craft.
BRISBANE DISTILLERY COMPANY
99 Jane Street, West End bstill.com.au
A short walk northeast brings you to the bustle of Fish Lane. This arterial laneway leads right into the city’s arts district and once serviced South Brisbane’s rough-and-tumble working-class docks. Browse luxury furniture and knick-knacks at La Casa Vita or pause to admire the vibrant street art splashed on every wall, including an enormous octopus enveloping a hot yoga studio. Bomb shelter turned boho bookshop, Paladar Fumior Salon, is the ideal place to sip a tactical mid-afternoon espresso, while beer nerds will froth Saccharomyces Beer Café (try saying that three times fast after a few pints). For a classy touch, settle in at Fish Lane’s newest addition, Southside, and enjoy a drink in the lush jungle beer garden.
Hail a cab and scoot along the river’s edge to Will and Flow. The city’s newest overwater bar, dotted with dwarf palm trees and a centrepiece wood oven, brings distinct Miami vibes to the Brisbane River. Soak in the sunset while tucking into an eclectic menu that caters to the grazers and the bottomless pits. Unsurprisingly for a bar set among mangroves, the star of the show is the seafood, with a cavalcade of prawns, salmon, oysters and crabs ready for devouring. Try the scallops Saint Jacques – a dreamy collaboration of scallop, crispy prosciutto and bechamel sauce that will have you licking the shell when nobody’s looking.
Catch a different side to the city from the water aboard a CityCat Ferry as you cruise north to Riverside Ferry Terminal before walking to Howard Smith Wharves, the city’s latest nightlife hotspot. Heritage-listed, but abandoned since the 1960s, the wharves have been given new life and filled to the brim with stylish eateries and moody bars. Grab a beer at sprawling Felon’s Brewing or opt for playful cocktails and oysters at pastel-hued Mr Percival’s. If you prefer to be above the water rather than on it, The Fantauzzo Hotel’s rooftop bar offers stellar views of the wharf and Story Bridge.
The Greek name Agnes means ‘pure’, and what’s purer than fire? That’s the philosophy that chef and co-owner Ben Williamson has taken to heart at this dimly-lit restaurant housed in an old brick warehouse in the Valley. Williamson eschews gas and electricity in favour of wood-fired cooking, using flame and smoke to create hearty dishes designed to share with friends, like smoked lamb neck or hay-roasted mussels. Yes, everyone is dressed in black and the lighting is spare, but don’t be fooled – underneath lies a gregarious heart, and the chatty bartenders are more than happy to show you some of the restaurant’s hidden secrets if you ask nicely.
Want to imbibe a liquid burger, slurp down some zombie brains or sip from a glass stiletto? Located just off the Valley’s main drag, Viscosity is a mad lab of cocktail creations where mixology and millennial nostalgia meet in a fluorescent wonderland full of cartoon and video game references. You won’t find traditional cocktails shaken and stirred here, but instead a revolving range of creatively imagined bevs constructed using tweezers and droppers, then served in bespoke glasses. Go all in with the Slurpee shot rack.
Once you’re done with glowing test tubes, head around the corner to At Sixes and Sevens on James Street, a uniquely Queensland white-gabled cottage and public house that combines the city’s history with the casual glam of Fortitude Valley. The tiered and astro-turfed patio out front, with its festoon lights and charming tendrils of low-hanging ivy, is the place to be seen. Inside you’ll find two bars and more intimate settings for romantics or groups of friends looking for extra space while they share a jug of white peach sangria.
AT SIXES AND SEVENS
67 James St, Fortitude Valley sixes.com.au
It’s time to burn some calories on the dance floor. Backtrack west towards Chinatown, where you’ll find a not-so-secret speakeasy waiting in Prohibition. Inspired by the glamour, bootlegging and hard liquor of the 1920s, this cavernous underground nightclub gives you the choice of four distinct sections: the speakeasy-styled Blind Tiger bar, intimate Peacock Lounge, the Main Hall for dancing up a storm and the VIP-exclusive Wall Street lounge for high rollers.
With your feet now hurting and all the signs pointing to a dirty hangover tomorrow, stumble down the road to Greaser Bar – perfect for a last-minute, and is perfect for a last-minute fried chicken burger and old-school arcade game while you await your Uber back to home base.
259 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley
Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas are all now flying into Brisbane. The city’s compact centre means it’s easy to walk between places, while Uber and the CityCat ferry are also great ways to navigate a night out.
The swanky new Hotel X in Fortitude Valley, mid-way between Howard Smith Wharves and James Street, is the ideal place to rest your head in style. Come morning, nab a bed by the rooftop pool and ward off a hangover with a special gem elixir – sparkling water that has been positively charged in moonlight. From AU$295 per night. hotelx.com.au
For more ideas on where to eat, drink and be merry, check out the city’s official guide. visitbrisbane.com.au