Brisbane's Best New Bars of 2019
The city's very best boozy additions of the year.
December 11, 2019
BRISBANE'S BEST NEW BARS OF 2019
The city's very best boozy additions of the year.
While it feels like it was only yesterday that we were eating boozy Christmas pud with nan, it's somehow already December (again) — which means, yes, we're almost at the end of 2019. And Brisbane's bar scene has continued to grow at an impressive (alarming?) rate. Not only have new drinking holes popped up across the city — opening everywhere from on top of the Brisbane River to inside historic 1824 buildings — these libation stations are multi-faceted, doubling as breweries, micro-wineries and karaoke joints. So, here are our favourite ten bars to throw open their doors in 2019. Add them to your list. Tick them off. Just as Santa's doing now.
Home to brews, bands and giant-sized board games since 2014, Ann Street’s Woolly Mammoth Alehouse now has an in-house sibling venue: a tropical-themed watering hole called Ivory Tusk. The bar has taken over Woolly Mammoth’s Mane Stage area and given it a Palm Springs-inspired revamp, complete with plenty of pastels. As well as transforming the Fortitude Valley’s site’s existing garden terrace into a tequila-focused party space, Ivory Tusk boasts three bar areas, all serving up cocktails on tap. As well as eight different cocktails, you can nab either a cocktail tasting paddle or a tequila flight. Food-wise, the venue champions Mexican cuisine, with the kitchen overseen by Executive Chef Graeme McKinnon (Covent Garden) and Head Chef Jack Thompson (The Line & Label, Port Lincoln). Think gazpacho tequila shooters, lamb barbacoa, chorizo sliders, black bean chilli and roast pork, as well as vegetarian, vegan-friendly and gluten-free options. Ivory Tusk’s entertainment lineup spans regular DJs, live bands and rockaoke — aka karaoke, but with a live band playing as you sing.
Five nights a week, Brissie beer lovers will find the amber liquid flowing at Stone & Wood’s Fortitude Valley brewery and taproom. Of course, even when the doors aren’t open at the heritage-listed building, the eight-hectolitre brewhouse and its five fermenters are still be operational. It’s brewing one-off small batch tipples that are only served at the venue — and, even better, they’re poured straight into your glass from tanks located behind the bar. Don’t expect cocktails, wine or spirits to sip on, or pub-style entertainment like TVs or pokies, either. While you’re here, you’ll drink beer, talk about beer, look at beer-making apparatus and just generally be made fully aware that you’re in a brewery. Oh, and you’ll also be able to eat — thanks to a rotating array of local food vendors. First up is Mr Bunz, because steamed buns and brews go together mighty nicely. If you’re keen to settle into the 150-person space, start knocking back cold ones and take in the view over the street, the venue doesn’t take reservations, so just walk on in.
Located in the fast-growing Howard Smith Wharves precinct underneath the Story Bridge, Mr Percival’s looks out over the Brisbane river — and, if that’s not enough, the octagonal bar and restaurant is actually perched right on top of it. Here, you can grab a beverage and a bite to eat while both peering at the snaking central waterway and sitting in a structure elevated above it. It’s Brissie’s first venue of its type since Oxley’s on the River in Milton was destroyed in the 2011 floods, although Mr Percival’s is less about sit-down dinners and more focused on chilling out in a scenic and stylish spot. Here Brisbanites can relax in a watering hole that’s been designed with European beach clubs and the Brisbane’s own park rotundas equally in mind. Think decking, six arched doorways, outdoor seats with a view underneath salmon-pink umbrellas. With Damien Styles (The Fish House) taking on head chef duties, Mr Percival’s menu aims to match its look and feel. And to think locally, too, with everything on offer inspired by produce from Moreton Bay and the general east coast region. As for the drinks selection, it includes 17 different cocktails — complete with several types of spritz — as well as a 50-strong wine list that heroes rose and aromatic whites from artisanal producers. Beer-wise, Mr Percival’s keeps things super local by pouring four brews from fellow HSW spot Felons through its taps.
When the Emporium said goodbye to its old Fortitude Valley digs and relocated across the river at South Bank, it took its luxe look and feel with it. The relocated hotel is staycation central — but even if you can’t book a room and make an indulgent night of it, you can still drop by the venue’s glitzy new Piano Bar every day of the week. A cascading gold and crystal chandelier, plenty of shiny black mirrored surfaces and — of course — a piano are just the beginning at this cosy but lush spot, which is located on the hotel’s ground floor. Naturally, live music is a highlight. Hear a pianist tickle the ivories from 4pm from Monday–Saturday, and from 3pm on Sundays. On Friday and Saturday nights from 7.30pm, live jazz also echoes through the space. While you’re enjoying the decor and the soundtrack, make your way through the Piano Bar’s hefty 14-page drinks list. Classic cocktails including four types of martini, take pride of place, but wine, beer and spirits lovers won’t leave disappointed. Piano Bar also offers a small food menu, starting with a cheese and finocchiona salami toasted sandwich , as well as smashed avocado with poached eggs and smoked salmon, all for brunch from 10am.
Taking over the slice of Newstead that Chester Street Bakery once called home, Hello Gorgeous has one thing in common with its now-defunct predecessor: wherever you look, something catches the eye. In the site’s previous incarnation, colourful and inventive cakes screamed out for attention. Now, it’s the vivid decor. Given its name, this new watering hole isn’t pretending to be modest. It might be compact in size, accommodating up to 100 people, but Hello Gorgeous is designed to make an impact. Emblazoned with the venue’s moniker, a pink neon sign lights up one corrugated iron wall. Elsewhere, tropical prints and plants are scattered around the joint. Patrons grab drinks from a bar decked out with pastel pink tiles and gold detailing, then sit and sip at teal banquettes. House cocktails on tap and by the glass take pride of place on the drinks menu, and Hello Gorgeous’ staff can make most classic and contemporary concoctions by request; however, the venue’s list of non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beverages is just as sizeable. Here, you can indulge in a few Hello Gorgeous gimlets or a trio of tipples made from the booze-free spirit Seedlip — or, back on the strong stuff, choose from more than 45 wines, 20-plus beers and ciders, and over 100 different types of spirits.
On the outside, Death and Taxes leans into its name — the first part, at least. Painted black, the Burnett Lane venue is presided over by a giant mural of the grim reaper, as well as a wall filled with lions. Complete with carved wooden doors with lion door knockers, it’s an entrance that makes a statement. Step inside, and the dark colours continue. Eager drinkers will also find leather armchairs, padded green booths, mosaic tiling, wooden floors and lit candles, befitting the site’s old-school whiskey bar feel. The heritage-listed site dates back to 1824, so part of that vibe just comes naturally with the territory. A wall filled with 500 whiskeys (and whiskies) causes plenty of excitement on its own, naturally. If you’re a cocktail fan, you won’t be disappointed either — there’s 30 to choose from, including new takes on old favourites and more creative options. The Green Man combines two types of whiskeys, dry white port, pandan and crème de menthe, while the Stone Soupblends gin, peach, fino, bitter orange, maple and goat milk. Of course, you’d expect all of the above given Death and Taxes’ pedigree, with the CBD bar marking the latest venture from the folks behind Cobbler, Savile Row and Finney Isles.
Throw a stone in Brisbane’s inner city, and it’ll likely hit a bar. Try to find somewhere that doesn’t just pour wine, but makes it, and it’s a completely different story. Until now, that is. Thanks to the opening of Brissie’s first urban micro-winery, stomping and sipping in the shadow of the CBD now go hand in hand. Located inside Campos Coffee’s old 500-square-metre warehouse in Fortitude Valley, City Winery Brisbane is a barrel room, cellar door and a 70-seat restaurant that’s open Wednesday–Sunday for lunch and dinner. Highlights on the food menu include small plates of smoked mussels, pork and liver terrine and grilled red claw, plus smoked fish rillette and roasted pumpkin with toasted grains. From the large plate selection, diners can choose from pork, sheep, beef, fish or sirloin, then match it with crunchy potato, grilled corn on the cob and cucumber sides. With a big fresh produce focus, Crane and his team source their ingredients from the establishment’s own market garden in Rosewood. They also butcher and dry-age their own meat, and make all of the bread, butter, yoghurt, cream and charcuterie that patrons will be eating.
Images: Grace Elizabeth.
A gin joint that falls somewhere between a lounge bar and club, Shhh! is serving up plenty of strong drinks and snacks to go with them. And, if you’re feeling extra luxe, it also boasts three large booths, VIP bottle service and butlers to pour your selected beverages. Around 70 different gins sit on its drinks menu, spanning tipples from Australia, France, Germany, the UK, the US and Iceland — with a separate lineup from Adelaide Hills Distillery. Take your pick from a six-drink gin-and-tonic range or opt for one of ten other cocktails, such spritzes, negronis and mules. If you’re keen to pair your chosen drink with something to eat, Shhh!’s food lineup includes plenty of share-friendly favourites; think pork belly bao, haloumi fries, pea and mint arancini, fried chicken tacos, and both charcuterie and cheese boards. The Valley newcomer has been decked out with dark hues and gold all featuring throughout. When you’re not settling into a booth, you can also take a seat in a chesterfield armchair or along the bar. And for those in a party mood, there are live piano tunes on Wednesday and Thursday nights, plus a DJ spinning retro tracks on weekends.
After opening 90 bars over the past eight years, bringing its worldwide footprint to 94, Scottish brewery BrewDog has finally set up shop in Australia. And, sprawled across a hefty parcel of land by the banks of the Brisbane River, it has arrived with a splash. BrewDog’s $30-million street art-covered Brisbane site boasts a heap of reasons to drop by — the first and foremost being to sip freshly poured cold ones on a 485-square-metre riverside patio, of course. BrewDog’s beers (including its famed Punk IPA) sit alongside a heap of small-batch brews from the local craft beer scene. Food-wise, it’s a lineup of familiar bar favourites. Think 11 types of burgers and eight kinds of pizza — plus Korean-style chicken wings, crispy pork, baby squid and barramundi fritters. On weekends, a brunch menu features chicken and waffles, eggs benedict and other classic meals, while you can tuck into two-for-one vegan dishes on Mondays. In addition to 16 blue leather booths and high-top tables, DogTap’s industrial indoor area also has arcade games, including Addams Family and The Munsters-themed pinball machines.
Image: Pandora Photography
When a character steals the show in a big movie franchise, they usually end up getting their own film spinoff. The same thinking applies in the restaurant trade, too — at least in the case of Brisbane eatery Billykart and its beloved cheeseburger. Billykart owner-chef Ben O’Donoghue has served up plenty of house-made dry-aged beef patties in his time, slathering them with ketchup and mustard mayo, topping them with cheese, pickles and onions, and placing them on milk buns. It’s one of the West End spot’s signature dishes, and now it’s leading the menu at the latest venture from O’Donoghue and Billykart co-owner Ben Roberts: a new burger pub called Bender’s Bar. Bender’s takes over the Boundary Street spot previously occupied by Copperface Jacks and DA’Burger. Seating 80 and boasting a more casual vibe to its older sibling, it serves up a five-burger menu. And if you’re looking for a drink, well, this is a pub after all — so expect plenty of local, interstate and international brews. There’s also of entertainment while you’re downing burgers, including trivia nights, live tunes and DJs, and a heap of sport on the screens.