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FOOD & DRINK

Brisbane's Best New Restaurants of 2019

These are the places that you need to try — or revisit — as soon as you can.
By Concrete Playground
January 09, 2020
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Brisbane's Best New Restaurants of 2019

These are the places that you need to try — or revisit — as soon as you can.
By Concrete Playground
January 09, 2020
  shares

BRISBANE'S BEST NEW RESTAURANTS OF 2019

These are the places that you need to try — or revisit — as soon as you can.

It feels like it whipped past quicker than you can pick up a pair of chopsticks, but 2019 is done and dusted. Thankfully, while it was here, it brought with it a huge collection of worthy new restaurants and culinary hot-spots. Opening their doors in the year that was, we saw everything from a two-storey Cantonese restaurant by the river to a tiny degustation-only restaurant and a SoCal-inspired eatery in the Valley.

Here's our wrap-up of all the best new Brisbane restaurants that impressed us in 2019 — make sure you tick them off before 2020's list starts shaping up.

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    Za Za Ta takes its culinary cues from Israeli — executive chef Roy Ner (who previously worked at Nour and Aria in Sydney) was born there, and has long enjoyed mixing his heritage into his cooking. Here in the Valley, you can start with a challah toastie filled with wagyu bits and fried goat’s cheese pretzels, then move on to the likes of octopus with camel ‘nduja or charcoal rainbow trout with cucumber and chilli salsa. Za Za Ta is also open for brunch (and lunch), too. With the bar open until 2am daily, there’s also a considerable late-night focus inspired by Tel Aviv’s after-dark dining scene. Drinks are a big focus, showcasing rum beverages, spice-infused drinks using fresh cold-pressed juices and new takes on old classics. In its design elements, Za Za Ta mixes things up, with the sprawling spot will taking patrons on a bit of a tour — jumping back to the 1940s as well as to the Victorian era. Award-winning interior designers Luchetti Krelle have decked out the space with reclaimed lead light doors, tessellated tiles, wrought iron, velvet upholstery and washed plywood furniture.

     

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  • 9

    The first Brisbane venture from restaurateur Jonathan Barthelmess, Greca is a Greek taverna with an old-meets-new atmosphere. While the Sydney-based chef has two other Greek eateries to his name — both called The Apollo, with locations in Sydney and Tokyo — Greca carves out its own niche. For anyone that’s ventured to either of The Apollo’s two sites, favourites such as wild weed spanakopita, taramasalata (fish roe dip), baked lamb shoulder and saganaki cheese all feature on Greca’s menu. And, of course, the chef nods to the restaurant’s surroundings in his seafood lineup, which includes calamari, prawns, spicy octopus and grilled whole sardines. Cooked over wood or in a stone oven, the taverna-style mains are served in big portions. Drinks and cocktails highlight Mediterranean flavours, with something on offer for all meal styles and there are litres of wine for around $60. And don’t forget dessert, which ranges from Greek doughnuts to gelato to chocolate pudding with metaxa cream.

    Images: Nikki To. 

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  • 8

    Thanks to towering cliffs on one side and the glistening Brisbane River on the other, the Howard Smith Wharves precinct boasts a mighty fine location. And one of the revamped area’s standout eateries, ARC Dining, serves up views in every direction. Interiors are designed by Anna Spiro and feature pink and black marble, a patterned sofa, yellow chairs and plenty of greenery — including a large fig tree in the centre of the structure — so there’s plenty to look at inside, too. Save some of your attention for the food and drink lineup, as the 240-seater has fast become one of Brisbane’s go-to venues. Chef Alanna Sapwell heads up the kitchen, overseeing the seasonally changing menu that focuses on light but satisfying dishes — and given that she came to Brisbane after a stint in Sydney’s wholly fish-focused restaurant Saint Peter, it’s hardly surprising that seafood ranks among the highlights. Start with oysters, before tucking into the likes of raw bream, albacore tuna and squid and fermented persimmon crisps. You’d best dedicate a fair amount of time to perusing the wine list, which offers more than 400 tipples. Ex-Aria sommelier Ian Trinkle has curated the hefty vino selection, which you can sample while you dine, or enjoy at the bar over a smaller snack.

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  • 7

    The latest venture from ex-Moda duo Kevin Docherty and Sebastiaan de Kort (also behind the kitchen at The Cheese Pleaser), Nota serves up seasonal dishes that won’t break your bank account in the space formerly home to French fine diner Montrachet. The menu aims to be uncomplicated, accessible and approachable, while still highlighting quality ingredients. That means snacks from $5, including smoked sesame cheese and semi-dried tomato-topped puffed rice crisps; mains kicking off at $32, like the standout slow-cooked octopus with raspberry emulsion, fennel and citrus; and desserts starting at $12, such as the warm house crumble with vanilla anglaise. Nota’s decor takes the same straightforward but stylish tact — think exposed brick walls, mirrors aplenty, small but elegant light fixtures, and a palette of white, black and camel. And drinks-wise, Nota keeps its range small in number but big on taste, spanning a 14-strong wine list, plus beers on tap and draught from Stone & Wood, Balter and Bridge Road. Split into old classics and new house favourites, seven cocktails are also available, including a smoky old fashioned and Nota sour with Frangelico.

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  • 6

    After working across a range of Australian restaurants, including Urbane and Gerard’s Bistro in Brisbane, plus Sepia, Automata and Sixpenny in Sydney, chefs Tim and Sarah Scott branched out on their own. The concept behind their Fortitude Valley restaurant couldn’t be more straightforward, which suits their cosy Bakery Lane space — it only seats ten people. At Joy, customers perch themselves at the laneway eatery’s chef’s table. On the other side, the Scotts get cooking, all in plain view of their hungry diners. The duo is basically welcoming their patrons into the kitchen while they put on each night’s set menu, offering one of Brissie’s more intimate and atmospheric culinary experiences. On the regularly changing eight-course menu (for $120) you’ll find dishes with Japanese, Nordic and modern Australian influences. Egg custard with truffles, cured scallops with dashi, zucchini with confit squid, venison tartare paired with sesame and herbs, king prawns with fermented chilli, and a soft cheese, white chocolate and matcha have all previously starred. Drinks-wise, the small selection includes wine, sake, spirits, beer and soda.

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  • 5

    If you’ve ever visited Tokyo’s izakaya and music bars, you’ll be well prepared for Yoko Dining, Jonathan Barthelmess’ second HSW venue. Think tunes spun on vinyl, an upbeat vibe and a retro-yet-futuristic feel both in the downstairs restaurant and on Yoko’s mezzanine level. Decor-wise, renowned interior architect George Livissianis has jazzed up the heritage building’s original timber framework with bursts of yellow, concrete fixtures and blonde wood, plus an interesting lighting design, all while keeping to a box-style structure. In the kitchen, Kitak Lee leads the charge cooking a a smoky, seafood-heavy menu on the hibachi (a Japanese charcoal grill). You’ll also find noodles, tonkatsu, wagyu, charcoal chicken and pork kakuni bossam, which is braised pork belly Japanese-style. As for dessert, choose between shaved ice kakigori, mochi and miso caramel and mango soft serves. As for drinks, prepare to sip your way through yuzu slushies, vodka-splashed iced teas, ten different types of sake, and a range of umeshu (plum wine), yuzushu (yuzu liqueur) and shochu. Japanese whiskeys, Japanese and Australian beers, and sodas with optional booze are also available — as is wine on tap and in bottles from a 100-strong list.

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  • 4

    Revamping the two-storey, heritage-listed, 1930s-era former water police building in Howard Smith Wharves precinct, Stanley features three bars, can cater for 220 guests and includes seating on a deck by the river. And, if you’re a fan of peking duck and dim sum, it boasts separate kitchens dedicated to both. That means that, food-wise, Cantonese dishes are well and truly in the spotlight — as is plenty of fresh, local seafood. Head chef Louis Tikaram’s (ex-EP/LP Restaurant in West Hollywood) menu includes peking duck pancakes, honey-glazed char siu, steamed Hervey Bay scallops and wok-fried Moreton Bay bugs, as well as crispy skin spatchcock, stir-fried wagyu, and salt and pepper Queensland banana prawns. You can also tuck into desserts such as deep-fried ice cream, as well as Stanley’s version of a ‘Splice’, which is made with fresh pineapple, vanilla gelato, and lime and pineapple granita. Head sommelier Thibaud Cregut (ex-Nel. in Sydney) has curated a 400-strong wine list that spans both local and international tipples.

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  • 3

    Sprawling across 400 square metres over two levels in the newest part of James Street, Beaux Rumble will eventually operate as an all-day eatery. For now, it’s open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. The menu changes daily; however, diners can expect smoky tastes from the open kitchen, which includes a sizeable custom grill. Think comte with smoked honey, barbecued pipis and clams, pork with charred peach and ironbark roasted lamb rump with labneh and miso onions. Patrons can enjoy all of the above on a dining terrace overlooking Ada Lane, in a ground-floor main dining room or in one of the two private dining room upstairs. Taking its design cues from Grand Central Station’s Beaux-Arts architecture, the restaurant features ornate vaulted metal, marble benches and tiles, brass fittings and oak flooring, as well as archways, domed ceilings and intricate Art Deco touches. While the restaurant opened with Michelin-starred, Victorian-born chef Alan Wise helming the kitchen, Wise has since handed over the reins to Chris Mann, who was the head chef at the now-closed Pony Dining.

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  • 2

    When Brisbane favourite Longtime shut up shop this year, it marked the end of an era. The Ann Street restaurant had only been open since 2014, but the Thai joint had amassed a hefty following. Thankfully, when one door closes, another one opens — in this case, new upscale eatery Same Same from the same crew. The focus on street-inspired Thai cuisine remains the same — think soft shell crab bao and whole crispy fish with red nahm jim — however Same Same has plenty of surprises in store. This isn’t just a case of transplanting a successful concept to a new spot and giving it a new name. You can pick from five types of curry, featuring the likes of Bundaberg bag bugs, charred pork belly and fried cauliflower. Spread across two levels, Same Same is a place with clean lines, concrete and wicker design flourishes, and, on the ground level, a long bar curving around an open central kitchen.Drinks-wise, expect a heavy focus on riesling, rose and rhone on the 140-bottle wine list, as well as a nice range of natural, organic and biodynamic Aussie drops. Given the restaurant’s overall Thai flavour, Thai-inspired cocktails are also a highlight. And, if you’re particularly keen on having a few beverages, Same Same’s upstairs level is home to dimly lit bar LOS — and more than 140 tequilas.

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  • 1

    Mexican cuisine, Southern Californian vibes, Japanese influences and Queensland fresh produce — that’s what’s on offer at Baja Brisbane. A newcomer to Fortitude Valley’s growing FV precinct, it’s the latest venture from Milk Box Tuckshop‘s Daniel Quinn. And while tacos, guacamole, mezcal and tequila all feature on the menu, this isn’t the kind of restaurant that’s filled with sombreros. Instead, Baja Brisbane serves up its SoCal-style Mexican dishes in a laidback, minimalistic space — think neutral tones, hints of pink and green, terracotta tables and a window cactus garden. Overseen by Quinn’s partner Sarah Vize, the fit-out is designed to not only to exude a relaxing vibe, but to direct everyone’s focus onto the food and drink lineup. Arriving in Brisbane via Berlin after a stint working in Oaxaca, head chef Valerie Frei whipped up her menu when she was still in Mexico, opting for a simple and fresh spread. As well as tacos with a choice of grilled flank steak, mushrooms and mozzarella, slow-cooked pork neck or beer-battered kingfish, highlights include the Mexican fruit stand, which combines watermelon, melon, cucumber and carrot with a mint and a citrus chilli vinaigrette, plus the twice-cooked octopus tentacles, which comes with citrus, chilli oil and a squid ink-infused burnt jalapeño soy sauce.

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Top image: Same Same

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