If you don’t know Brisbane well, the bar scene can be tricky to navigate. Many have fallen prey to the city’s more obvious watering holes – there’s no shortage of Irish pubs, re-mixed RnB or podiums to dance on. And sometimes that’s what you want.
But if you’re after craft beers, good wine, great music and cocktails made by some of the country’s best bartenders, you’ll need to wind your way through the sleepy laneways and to the water’s edge. With this in mind, we’ve created an itinerary for the perfect night of bar hopping in Brisbane’s CBD and Fortitude Valley.
On a sunny Friday afternoon, there’s nothing better than a jug of Pimms at Riverbar & Kitchen. The venue is one of MorSul’s latest pursuits, from co-owners Matt Moran and Pete Sullivan. Its festive, casual fit-out, great drinks list, relaxed crowd and waterfront position make it a local favourite, and the perfect place to start the night. If you’re not into Pimms, try the Banana Rum-Fashioned, something from the extensive wine list, or one of the beers on tap.
For your next drink, make your way to Malt Dining on Market Street. Although the bar has three levels, it’s an intimate spot that you could easily miss if it weren’t for the crowd of smartly dressed workers gathering outside. On the first level you’ll find The Cellar, with a distinctive dining table suspended from exposed timber beams. Up one level, in the Malt Bar, is a beautiful ten-metre Tasmanian oak beam, and the top floor uses a grand piano to divide the Attic Bar from the Dining Room.
As the Malt crowds get rowdier, cross Margaret Street and find Spencer Lane, which you’d be forgiven for mistaking as a grungy car park or dumpster area. There, you’ll find the stairs to Laneway Bar, which is perched above Urbane and The Euro of the award-winning Urbane Group. You’ll feel as if you’ve found a secret spot in the heart of the corporate district, as you sip on boutique wines, beers and moody cocktails. It also shares a kitchen with the restaurants below, and serves gourmet bar snacks such as bungalow pork burgers with chipotle slaw, and jamon croquettes.
As the sun sets, the best place to take in Brisbane’s pink, blue and orange skies is from the balcony of the prohibition themed Blackbird Bar and Grill. Do this while sipping on a cocktail from a hip flask, milk bottle or medicinal tincture bottle.
By now, it’s probably time for a pre-dinner snack. Grab a cab to Gerard’s Bar, which is situated in a car park at the back of James Street in Fortitude Valley. It has the most delicious cured delicacies, as well as pâté and cheeses – which are served on a board with fresh baguette. There’ll be plenty of James Street locals here, washing down their food with French wines and cocktail jugs laced with seasonal fruits and edible flowers.
Next, wander down Anne Street and put your name down for dinner at Longtime. Expect at least a half-hour wait – plenty of time to set up camp in the neighbouring alleyway and make your way through the drinks list. Round out the modern Thai cuisine with one of the fresh cocktails, such as When Deals You Lemongrass – sipped through a tube of lemongrass, or the Siam So Toasty – a mix of Martell VSOP, toasted coconut, palm sugar reduction, Xocolatle Mole chocolate bitters and anise smoke.
After dinner, make your way to Laruche, a bar known for its buzzing crowds, ornate interior and creative cocktails. Order a beer, or better yet, the Yacht Club Spritzer – a combination of Aperol, chamomile and lavender Lillet Blanc, mint, peach bitters, orange, lemon and Mumm Champagne. Have a breather in the courtyard, or mingle among the bar’s extravagant chandeliers and velvet armchairs. It’s worth sticking around until the early hours of the morning, when the night owls drop by and the dance floor comes alive.