It's been a period of change for the Fortitude Valley bar scene, but as the old adage goes, "when one bar closes, another cooler, Japanese-themed bar opens." And so it has. The new Heya Bar has taken up residence in the hip basement that once housed Brunswick Social.
Heya is designed to look and feel like a genuine Japanese izakaya, decorated with colourful noren (traditional hanging dividers), lanterns and vintage posters. What completes the authenticity, however, is the hum of the crowd on a busy night. It's atmospheric. Wooden partitions and booth seating provide perfect semi-private shelter for small or large groups, but are open enough to invite general socialisation. Above the seating area, opaque, street-level windows give a hazy impression of the outside world, which at once adds excitement and intimacy to the ambiance; a distinct 'baby it's cold outside' feeling is the only way to describe it.
We suspect what gets people there and creating such a buzz is the Street Eats menu. A more comprehensive menu is offered before 10pm and an abridged version from 10pm until late, both in the style of classic Asian street fare fused playfully with Aussie standards.
We recommend the adventurous among you try the cheeseburger spring roll ($4) or the crab and corn Chiko roll ($4). Otherwise the Heya Special Dirty Fried Rice ($8) or the miso grilled fish with sweet potato fries ($14) offer a more substantial option. After 10pm, you can't really go past a generous serving of the sriracha and cheese fries ($5). If you want to down it all in one hedonistic spree, consider stopping in on a Tuesday night, as everything on the Street Eats menu is half-price, so both wallet and stomach will thank you.
When you head to one of the four themed bars to order a drink (a trip generally free of long waits), you can't go past a Japanese draft beer served in a chilled glass mug. If you want to get fancy, try a can of Sapporo ($14 from Lonely Bar) or chance the enigmatic Turtle Destruction Wave cocktail ($12), a mix of Absolute Vodka, Blue Curacao, yuzu sake and sparkling soda pop.
And don't be misled by the abundance of seating and happily overfed punters; an oft-pumping dance floor is concealed to the right of the entrance. Despite a shaky start with some dubious entertainment bookings cramping up their Saturday style, Heya has now resumed its standard programming with B2B battle royale DJs playing a dancey mix of pre-2000s party bangers.
Once your groove is satiated, head to the other end of the joint, drop some coins into a pinball machine or pool table and your night is set.
Imogen has previously been employed for one DJ gig at Heya Bar.