Bring your sunglasses and an appetite, because Brisbane’s thriving dining scene is in love with the outdoors.
By Jac Taylor
If ever a city was made for alfresco dining, it would be Brisbane. The subtropical climate, combined with a river with so many twists and turns that it’s easy to find prime riverside locations, means that any day or night of the week sees locals heading outside to dine.
Although Riverbar serves up three meals a day, it is a particularly good spot to enjoy a waterside breakfast, before or after a leisurely stroll around this scenic central location alongside the city’s Riverside ferry terminal. Be healthy with a paleo-friendly breakfast bowl of haloumi, avocado, kale and seeds, or indulge in a fry-up of bacon, eggs, mushroom, sausage and sourdough. The coffee comes from Sydney’s Single Origin Roasters but the brunch cocktail jugs (available from 10am) are pure Brisbane.
The beer garden, which brings the pub vibe into the sunshine, is an essential part of Australian gastronomic life and this upscale take on it counts as the city’s only beachside beer garden. The location not only overlooks South Bank’s man-made Streets Beach, but provides 180-degree views of the river and the city from the venue’s decks. Beer and steak is the order of the day, but beer can translate to local craft beers, and steak ranges from local cuts to 9+ Japanese Wagyu beef. Most meats are cooked over the beer garden’s bespoke char-grill while house-smoked meats are another specialty. Try an Australian favourite, apple and pear crumble, for dessert.
At the point where the city’s famous artery of Queen Street meets the even more famous river, you’ll find the elegant scrolled columns and copper dome of Customs House. Dating back to 1889, the heritage-listed interiors are nothing short of beautiful, but the place to be and dine is on the glamorous River Terrace. This is one of the most awarded restaurants in the city, serving modern Australian dishes with an emphasis on local, fresh seafood, while the genteel high tea is an elegant way to mark an occasion, or to make an occasion out of any day.
Resting on the waterfront of Brisbane's suburb of New Farm, Mary Mae's likes to do things a little differently. The atmosphere evokes the soulful vibe of New Orleans' French Quarter, and the menu follows suit. Keep it classic with buttermilk fried chicken and beef brisket, or taste the fusion of an oyster po'boy or a spiced chickpea burger. Kick on into the evening with Mary Mae's cocktail menu, or simply watch the sunset with a cold beer in hand.
It’s hard to tell where the indoors end and the outdoors begin in this breezy waterside eatery, but there’s no mistaking Jellyfish's absolute dedication to fish. Between eight and 14 different species of fish are always on the menu, with a host of cooking options from saffron batter to Szechuan pepper crumo. All this, in a premium riverside location opposite the Story Bridge, seated in navy-and-white striped chairs, and you have the perfect recipe for a long lunch, Brisbane-style. Look out for some small winery drops on the menu in the expanded bar.
One of the newest faces in hip Fish Lane, near South Bank, is Hello Please, which is housed in a converted shipping container. Hello Please has occupied the small space, opposite similarly popular eatery Julius Pizzeria, with outdoor picnic-style seating, street art, and strings of lights festooning the alleyway. The locals rave about the crispy pork-belly bao (soft handmade buns) and do-it-yourself pork pancakes. Cocktails with an Asian-flavoured accent accompany these bites beautifully. For lunch, a crispy banh mi (pork roll with salad and pâté) is a classic choice.