It’s been a hectic year for the Brisbane dining scene, and the back and forth among the Broadsheet team in settling on the best restaurant openings of the past 12 months is an indicator of the strength of the class of 2018.
We’ve seen a resurgence in Chinese food, some high-profile Greek openings and an interstate superstar or two cross the border. It's also been a big year for hotel openings, with many great restaurants sprouting up inside classy digs such as The Calile and W Brisbane.
Finish off 2018 in style by checking out some of the best restaurant openings of the year.
Superfly Funk Eye
The Pop Mega Hospitality Group (Hai-Hai Ramen, King Tea, Remy’s, Special Rub) added Superfly Funk Eye to its impressive portfolio of restaurants. The izakaya has a fit-out unlike anything else in Brisbane right now, a semi-alfresco brick bunker draped in festoon lighting and fronted by a bunch of mushroom-shaped structures. There are eight rotating dishes including karaage chicken, rare duck udon and kingfish served with kohlrabi, roasted nori and finished with a miso and yuzu dressing. The wine list is curated by Chris Fullerton from Cork and Co, who spotlights low-interaction drops from sustainability-minded producers such as Billy Button and Unico Zelo.
After 22 years at Boundary Street, E’cco Bistro upped sticks and moved to its new Newstead digs in March. A Brazilian Scheer Parilla is now the driving force behind the new restaurant’s menu, which is split into three sections: vegetable, seafood and meat. Vegetable dishes include coal-roasted sprouts with sambal matah (a Balinese chilli relish), soft egg and fried onion. The seafood section features a visually stunning coal-grilled market fish with harissa, currants and sorrel. Meat dishes include two steaks, suckling pig and veal cotoletta. Architecture company Twohill and James is behind the fit-out of plush leather seating; lots of marble; and heavy, dark curtains.
La Cache a Vin
After a three-year break from the Brisbane dining scene, Montrachet founder Thierry Galichet is back. La cache a vin roughly translates to “a stash of wine” – a fitting moniker given what greets you when you walk through the door: more than 250 Burgundies line the entrance, with 50 champagnes in the fridge. The wider list is unapologetically French; more than 90 per cent of the wines are imported by Galichet himself. The menu is full of timeless, approachable French dishes such as foie gras, escargot and confit duck. The restaurant is located beneath the old St Paul’s Tavern, in a space that makes you feel like La Cache a Vin has been there for years.
There are no rules at Greca, the latest addition to Howard Smith Wharves. Owner Jonathan Barthelmess wants people to use the 210-seat Greek taverna however they want and the menu reflects this flexibility. There’s lots of grilled seafood and meats, as well as plenty of traditional Greek dishes such as taramasalata, spanakopita, dolmades and a rare dessert from Barthelmess’s ancestral home called katoumari (smashed filo with custard). The space is painted white like a traditional Greek taverna but there’s also greenery in the form of olive trees, custom-made straw furniture and some timber to complement the building’s existing structure. The drinks list is highlighted by three wines on tap: a white, rosé and red – available by the half or full litre.
It might have arrived a year later than expected, but Hôntô was worth waiting for. The Longtime crew’s moody-looking Japanese restaurant is hidden down a gritty Valley backstreet. Inside, the use of shou sugi ban – a traditional wood-burning technique – has left most of the walls and hard surfaces charred black. The result is a darker-than-dark space with the barest of light cast by hanging chandeliers. The Japanese-inspired menu is split into four sections: Raw, Bites, Bigs and Greens. Raw dishes feature scampi ceviche with ginger, crushed macadamia and finger lime; Bites includes prawn doughnuts with yuzu curd; and Bigs features snapper karaage with sweet and sour cucumber and papaya pickles. A 130-bottle wine list is backed by an impressive selection of sake and Japanese beer. A separate bar, called ÔÔ, is home to around 150 bottles of whisky.
Restaurant Dan Arnold
Dan Arnold’s name may not be familiar, but the Brisbane-born chef boasts a bunch of impressive credentials, including a year spent at L’Espérance – a three-Michelin-star restaurant at the time – followed by six years at the two-Michelin-starred Serge Vieira. He also came eighth at the Bocuse d’Or World Final in 2017. In July he and wife Amelie unveiled Restaurant Dan Arnold beneath the Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments on Ann Street. The space is modern and contemporary with open glass windows and an open kitchen. Three- and five-course menus change frequently but feature dishes such as flank steak with roasted celeriac, horseradish sauce and potato “Lorette”, or charcoal duck breast with braised leg, pumpkin and baby leek. Wine matching is available for both menus.
Three Blue Ducks
Following venues in Sydney (Bronte, Roseberry) and Byron Bay, Three Blue Ducks crossed the border in June and landed in Brisbane. Located inside five-star hotel W Brisbane, the restaurant’s fit-out is a contemporary stunner with an understated colour scheme. Breakfast ranges from a cheese omelette to more elaborate options such as hay-smoked salmon kedgeree; the lunch menu includes a duck cheeseburger; while dinner shifts the focus to woodfired dishes such as lamb shoulder with pea, zucchini, squash, red onion, mint and lemon dressing. There are seven beer and cider taps and an extensive wine list with a couple on tap.
The Rick Shores team is behind Little Valley – a self-proclaimed “neo-Chinese” dining hall. Inside, the custom lighting structure on the ceiling is designed to imitate bamboo scaffolding. Otherwise, the Fortitude Valley venue has a dash of old-world charm courtesy of the century-old building, with expansive windows allowing plenty of light into the space (or neon light from the surrounding clubs at night). The Guangdong, Shandong, Hunan and Yunnan provinces feature heavily in a menu split into six sections: raw bar, cold cuts, rice, meats, wok and dim sum. The drinks list features plenty of pinot noir and an extensive selection of varietals such as riesling that match well with Asian cuisine.
Brisbane locals no longer need to cruise the M1 to get their spanakopita fix; Simon Gloftis has opened a second instalment of Gold Coast superstar Hellenika inside Fortitude Valley’s stunning boutique hotel, The Calile. Gloftis called on the hotel’s architects, Richards & Spence, to head up the design of the new restaurant. There’s plenty of white, marble and timber features, and a smattering of soft pastel and greenery. Smaller plates include dips, grilled cheese, grilled seafood, and Greek meatballs. Large plates feature eggplant moussaka, chicken souvlaki and Hellenika’s signature 1.2-kilogram baked lamb. The wine list has around 500 bottles in total, many international, with a bunch imported from Greece.
Donna Chang joins Ghanem Group’s diverse portfolio of restaurants and bars, which includes Blackbird Bar & Grill, Byblos and Lord of the Wings. Located inside a 1920s-era bank in the CBD, the fit-out is light and spacious with hanging chandeliers, plenty of pastel colours and some greenery. Starters include stir-fried egg noodles with lobster and XO sauce, while on the dim sum menu you might order chicken and caviar siu mai (open-faced dumplings originating from inner Mongolia). For something larger, there are plates of roasted half duck with Davidson’s plum and five spice and whole giant grouper roasted in paperbark. Group sommelier Penny Grant has compiled a 100-bottle wine list with plenty of riesling and light reds.
The new yardstick for Brisbane fish and chips from the Hello Please team.
A meat-centric brasserie in the heritage-listed Old Mineral House.
Indian food and native-Australian ingredients combine at this restaurant inside Brisbane Quarter.
A stunning all-day diner inside The Calile.
The Golden Pig cooking school relaunches as a pan-Asian Restaurant