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New in Town
By Eliza Crisp
November 30, 2017
By Eliza Crisp
November 30, 2017

Meet Brisbane's lush new garden megapub right on the river.

We may be subject to some gentle ribbing by our southern cousins, but there are some things that any self-respecting Brisbanite holds dear. We cherish the ability to wear flip flops year-round. We are mildly obsessed with the flowering cycle of our local jacarandas. And we resolutely, without exception, have a bit of a secret soft spot for the Brisbane River.

Considering our love of the affectionately dubbed ‘Brown Snake’, it’s surprising that there aren’t more watering holes perched riverside near the CBD. After all, nothing soothes that corporate grind like a cold drink and a balmy breeze.

Which is where Riverland comes in. Imagine this: a giant garden pub, spanning 80 metres of uninterrupted riverfront — the biggest Brisbane has ever seen. An island-like oasis, tucked behind Emirates House, just a stone’s throw from Eagle St Pier. A previously unused plaza, now renovated to preserve the past, but usher in the new. A bustling venue stuffed with lush greenery, and filled with umbrellas and pergolas.

Riverland opened last week, and we’ve got a first look. In partnership with Zantac we’re uncovering the best new restaurants and bars around Australia as they open. We’ve got the lowdown on the team, the design and — most importantly — the menu so that you can head in educated, excited and ready to take it all in — with a few dishes recommended by the chef, no less.

The Team

Riverland is the newest — and first Brisbane — venue from Open Arms Hospitality, a group that was formed earlier this year by members from the Open Door Pub Co. and Armada Hospitality (who owned Beer DeLuxe up until last year).

This entry into the Brisbane market has been spearheaded by husband and wife team Gerard and Lisa Coakley. As well as being part-owners, the pair will be running the show as venue manager and events planner, respectively. 

After launching a huge new pub in Albury (on the border of NSW and Victoria) in May, the group decided to venture north for its next opening. While scouring the Sunshine State for a new site, Gerard and Lisa were immediately smitten with the riverfront location.

“Looking across the river towards the Story Bridge, we were reminded of the view across the Hudson to the Brooklyn Bridge,” Gerard says. This has influenced the Gerard, Lisa and the team throughout the venues design, food offering and drinks menu. 

The Design

But American influences aside, further inspiration for Riverland also came courtesy of Melbourne riverfront success story Arbory.

“The size of the space itself was also appealing. Our final capacity count is yet to come in, but it will definitely be over 500 people — one of the biggest in the city.”

Despite the looming size of the venue, careful design and landscaping means that the larger areas will be corralled into more intimate social spots, so, we’re told, we won’t have to scream to be heard over the music. “Live music will definitely be a big part of Riverland, but we want people to be able to have a conversation,” Gerard says. He is hoping to attract a multi-generational crowd, to make the venue the kind of place you could drink with friends or family alike.

After recently taking over the management for Southbank stalwart The Plough Inn, Open Arms Hospitality were keen to stamp their own mark with their newest venue. The group has kept some existing features, such as the original palm trees and the water feature at the entrance. 

This commitment to preserving the local charm is echoed by architect Greig Carter, from Burton and Carter in Melbourne.

The last thing we wanted was a slick, modern pub feel,” says Carter. “We’ve used mainly timber in the construction, and instead of hiding the metal stabilising brackets, we have decided to make a feature of them.”

Inspired by a favourite outdoor pub in Philadelphia, the design team were keen to infuse the space with opportunities for extensive garden landscaping. “Even over the shaded areas, we’ve encouraged spots for creeper vines to grow through,” he says. “We’ve kept the original pavers, and laid other spots with artificial turf to keep the flooring soft.”

The Menu

With all the focus on creating a tropical, urban escape, it seemed that a large, commercial kitchen could easily become an eyesore. Rather than dominating the space with utility features, Burton and Carter instead designed the ultimate dining hub: three shipping containers, split into space for multiple rotating food vendors.

There is one spot that will be occupied by a permanent resident though, with American soul food experts Carolina Kitchen confirmed to occupy one of the sites indefinitely.

“The other spots will be flexible — but we are hoping to attract not only Brisbane’s favourite food trucks, but also pop-up opportunities for local big-name restaurants,” Gerard says.

Not to be outdone, the slated beverage menu looks equally impressive. With space for 40 taps, and 16 bottled beers and ciders, it may take a full solid sessions to truly work your way through the drinks selection — not that we are complaining.

Riverland is now open at 167 Eagle Street, Brisbane. For more info, visit

Keen to check out more newbies? Have a sift through the newest crop of Brisbane openings.

To find out more about Zantac, visit the website. Zantac relieves heartburn. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist consult your health professional. 

Words: Eliza Crisp. Images: Anwyn Howarth. 

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