Do you know your way around Brisbane’s laneways? Are you familiar with the off-menu delights you can quietly order at its top eateries? If you’re looking for a side of Brisbane that isn’t tainted by a wave of tourists, here are a few suggestions.
It doesn’t get more Queensland than Little Big House, a bar and restaurant fashioned like one of the state’s iconic Queenslander-style homes, seemingly magically transplanted to South Bank’s prestigious Grey Street. It’s hard to miss the establishment itself but even locals will be surprised to discover it hides a dedicated karaoke room downstairs, where you can belt out ballads with one of its signature cocktails-in-a-can in hand.
In the city there’s no shortage of fine-dining establishments from which you can enjoy a view of the Brisbane River but finding one away from the crowds takes a little bit of nous. A quick ferry ride from the CBD, however, can take you straight to Watt. Nestled underneath the city’s Powerhouse Theatre – a towering former power station converted into a riverside arts hub in New Farm Park – Watt offers a menu of modern Australian cuisine designed by chef Michael Harris in an open, minimalist space perched on the edge of the water. Once you’ve finished dinner, you can enjoy a drink on one of the Powerhouse’s balconies, explore the park or get lost in the industrial maze of corridors and nooks in the Powerhouse itself.
Cloak and dagger
While Brisbane might not share Melbourne’s penchant for laneways, it does indeed have them – and if you’re walking down the right laneway off Elizabeth Street of an evening, you’ll happen upon a suited-up bouncer who will escort you up through a fire escape and into one of the city’s best-kept secrets. You’ll find no menus at The Cloakroom Bar but you will be greeted with a hot or cold towel (depending on the weather), a complimentary palate cleanser and a conversation with the bartender, who will tailor a cocktail to you. Your adventure to find Brisbane’s most secretive cocktail bar starts at 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
If Brisbane were a boasting city, it wouldn’t shut up about its craft beer scene. One of the latest additions to its already formidable portfolio of small-batch breweries and boutique beer bars is Archer’s Bunker (07 3227 1999) and it’s well worth a visit – if you can find it. Calling it a “bunker” is no stretch of the imagination; the bar is hidden beneath the International Hotel (525 Boundary Street, Spring Hill) and accessible either via a set of doors disguised as a beer fridge in the hotel’s bottle shop or through a TARDIS-esque phone booth. Decked out with on-theme pieces of World War II iconography, the bar has a range of beers brewed on site, in addition to its curated tap list of other Australian craft beers. If you’re feeling peckish, it also serves charcuterie boards.
There’s a particular thrill that comes with ordering off-menu; the delightful sensation of being let in on a conspiracy, a secret. You can indulge that feeling at Red Hook, a New York-inspired restaurant and bar in the Brisbane CBD’s burgeoning Gresham Lane dining precinct. Request the Unicorn Ice-Cream Burger – a sweet brioche bun filled with vanilla ice-cream dipped in hundreds and thousands – for a dessert as magical as its name suggests.
Top image: The Cloakroom Bar
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