Restaurant revolution: why Brisbane is now a city to eat

Like a fine bottle of Shiraz, Brisbane just gets better with age. Luxury hotels continue to claim; innovative bars are always looking for new ways to seduce and surprise. However, if there is one aspect that really deserves a moment in the spotlight, it is the restaurants.

From a fusion of native ingredients and art to cooking exclusively over fire, the capital of the Sunshine State is now a mecca for creative chefs and restaurateurs, with an evolving food culture pushing the scene in new and exciting directions. unexpected.

Ben Williamson, co-owner and chef of the Agnes-owned restaurant in Fortitude Valley, believes Brisbane’s culinary renaissance is due to renewed local confidence and pride in the city.

Chef Ben Williamson in the kitchen at Agnes Fortitude Valley.

The transformation has been going on for over a decade, but has really taken off in the past two years.

“Brisbane is now, more than ever, a city that is confident in itself and in its identity,” reveals Williamson, while citing the relatively low impact of the pandemic and subsequent migration from Sydney and Melbourne as other potential reasons for the restoration revival.

Located on the river in South Bank, Otto Ristorante celebrates the people, the place and la dolce vita.

Located on the river in South Bank, Otto Ristorante celebrates the people, the place and la dolce vita.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Kevin Puglisevich, F&B manager and wine director at the famed Bacchus restaurant, a fine dining hotspot in the Rydges South Bank.

“Brisbane was always destined to be the next culinary city…it just took a little longer than expected,” he says. “The quality of the culinary scene has always been there; the difference between Brisbane and the big cities is that it’s always been humble.

Kevin Puglisevich, Food and Beverage Manager at Bacchus South Bank Restaurant.

Kevin Puglisevich, Food and Beverage Manager at Bacchus South Bank Restaurant.

The 2020-2021 closures are another key reason for the city’s culinary renaissance, according to Puglisevich.

“The pandemic has helped us appreciate our own backyard, which has resulted in sites opening due to demand. From the operator’s point of view, it pushed us to pursue our dreams. Our freedom is far too precious to be wasted on mediocre food.

Travelers are also taking note. Recent data from the Brisbane Economic Development Agency shows visitation to the city has increased by more than 12% in the last 12 months alone, while overtaking the neighboring Gold Coast to the south in terms of spending.

Indulge in delicious Cantonese fare at Stanley, on the Howard Smith Wharves waterfront.

Indulge in delicious Cantonese fare at Stanley, on the Howard Smith Wharves waterfront.

Food centers on James Street in Fortitude Valley, Howard Smith Wharves and Fish Lane in South Bank are packed with eclectic dining options, from cheap and cheerful bites to multi-course tastings worth savoring.

“The Calile Hotel is absolutely world class and, in conjunction with the James Street Precinct, has really led the charge in Brisbane’s recent evolution and helped set Fortitude Valley apart from its grimy nightclub roots,” Williamson adds. .

At Agnès, which made its debut in the valley in August 2020, a back-to-basics philosophy centered on a wood-burning oven and two charcoal pits – without electricity – has captivated local palettes, winning a chef’s hat in the process. chef of the Good Food Guide 2021.

Agnès revolves around an open kitchen with a wood fire and two coal pits.

Agnès revolves around an open kitchen with a wood fire and two coal pits.

Beyond his other four venues, Williamson recommends grabbing a table at Essa, adding “Phil’s food is so sexy and delicious, and never disappoints,” along with Otto and Stanley, who he describes as perfect for a higher level of sophistication.

“In both places, you can really feel the confidence in Will and Louis’ cooking respectively,” Williamson divulges. “Neither tries to reinvent the wheel, but simply delivers exceptional, honest and transparent experiences.”

Although a few years old now, the city’s Birrunga Gallery is also worth a mention. The First Nations Art Gallery, which offers bush-inspired eateries, art tours and workshops, is a multi-sensory journey into local indigenous culture.

Otto Osteria emphasizes casual bites, cocktails and stellar views.

Otto Osteria emphasizes casual bites, cocktails and stellar views.

Further afield, newcomers include Butler Wine Bar in South Brisbane, an intimate 30-seater from the team behind Moon Croissanterie; the French-inspired restaurant and bar Hervé’s in Albion; and The Lodge Bar & Dining in Fortitude Valley, a subsidiary of Kiwi fashion brand Rodd & Gunn.

For Puglisevich, a great restaurant should satisfy all five senses. With that in mind, Maeve Wine Bar – focused on “quality rather than Instagrammable” – and the Dan Arnold restaurant are must-sees… in addition to Bacchus, of course.

“I believe that a restaurant should produce food that cannot be prepared at home, that’s where the value of fine dining lies,” says Puglisevich.

Butler is described as

Butler is described as “rooted in European bar tradition with a modern Australian outlook”.

“With artistic dishes, emotional service, elegance and exceptional wine pairings, Dan Arnold is a restaurant that lives up to the role of excellent service providing the perfect seasoning to a dining experience.”

Although long shunned, Brisbane is now a city worth biting into, with Bacchus and Agnes just two of the restaurants at the forefront of its reinvention. The hardest part is just integrating everything.

About James K. Bonnette

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