Fare to remember: Brisbane on a plate

Street art, Burnett Lane

Big names, big tastes and serious coffee define Brisbane's dining and cafe scenes.

With seafood leaping from ocean to plate, and forests of tropical fruits, you’re not going to starve in Brisbane, people.  

Beautiful and breezy, River Quay, on Southbank, is the city’s newest open-air restaurant strip. Fast becoming a local’s fave, Brisbane restaurateur Andrew Baturo’s Popolo is just the ticket for family Italian: big plates made to share – the veal cutlet is a winner – or small tastes that let you snack and watch the beautiful people jog the riverbanks in very tight shorts. Order the Kingaroy sucking pig, fast becoming Popolo’s signature dish, just to spite them. 

The other big-news resident on South Bank is Melbourne’s Stokehouse, which now has a Queensland cousin, and chef Tony Kelly has brought ‘The Bombe,’ a frozen white chocolate parfait, to a new wave of adorers. Bar aficionados are making a beeline for the Stoke Bar’s more laid-back tasting plates and signature cocktails. The views here are pure Brisbane: river, cityscape, mangroves.

Harajuka Gyoza, Fortitude Valley
At the other end of the budget, you’ll have to elbow the locals out of the way at Japanese newcomer Harajuku Gyoza, which has a devoted following for its Kirin on tap and grilled duck gyoza. It doesn’t hurt that the Fortitude Valley winner is cheap for snacking – a plate of five gyoza will set you back $8 – and it’s definitely cheerful, with walls of Jap-pop kitch and plenty of shouting. 

Locals will tell you they’re torn between Harajuka Gyoza and the hipper Brunswick Social, another new opener, also serving fried and steamed dumplings, also $8 a plate, but with cocktails for grown-ups, rather than easy-going beer steins. Open til late, late, late on weekend nights, it’s a pleasant alternative to the 1am kebab.   

In times past, southerners would gnash their teeth and swear there wasn’t a decent coffee past the Qld border, but Brisbane’s caffeine scene is a-buzzing. In the city, Brew burrows underground into Burnett Lane, a service lane that’s suddenly gone hip, thanks to local efforts to fashion a laneways culture. Brew’s studenty sofas belie series caffeine intent: not content with its single origin coffees, it’s now serving cold drip and siphon coffee to go, in what’s fast becoming the chic strip of the city. New neighbours on the lane, which runs parallel to Queen St Mall, include The Survey Co Bistro for classic dining in edgy surrounds.

Notable are the the drive-through cafés by Brissy roaster Merlo, which churns out its daily-roasted private blend to loyal locals who zip through, arms outstretched for a hit. Its hour-long Coffee Appreciation brekkys and brunches lets you peek at roasters, sample a few beans and get some expert advice on the best in home brewing.  Classes are held at its five torrefaziones. Don’t know what a torrefazione is? Better turn up.

Wedged amongst the vintage shops and seriously fabulous restaurants on Woolloongabba’s tiny uber-block on Logan Rd, you kinda wish Pearl Café was your local. With smooth brews and a counter of fresh cream cakes from the upstairs kitchen, Pearl’s also finessing its charcuterie table and private dining room. The clientele is bronzed and beautiful, yet the mood is Gallic, so order up with the French toast for a calorific start to the day, and delude yourself that your gentle amble home will work it off.
River delight
Sweet, salty and naughtily buttery, chef Ryan Squires’ grilled sweet corn parfait with caramel popcorn and tarragon is worth the trip north. The Queensland lad, who’s cut it in the world’s top kitchens, now has a riverside home at Esquire and his charcoal grill is working miracles. Time-poor degustation devotees already know about the new lunchtime pre-fixe three dishes for $35 in the pared-down Esq; a fine-dining bargain (145 Eagle St, CBD, esquire.net.au)

Aria, Eagle St Pier, CBD, ariarestaurant.com 
Brew, Burnett La, CBD, brewgroup.com.au
Brunswick Social 367 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley
Canvas, 16 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, canvasclub.com.au
Harajuka Gyoza, 394 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, harajukagyoza.com
Merlo drive-through, 104 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley, 78 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, merlo.com.au
Ortiga, 446 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, ortiga.com.au
Pearl, 28 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba,
Popolo, River Quay, South Bank, popolodining.com
Stokehouse, Sidon St, South Bank, stokehousebrisbane.com.au

Source: Sun Herald newspaper

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