BrisVegas: an insiders’ guide

Let Andrew show you around the QLD capital, his tips are pure travel gold.

Brizzie, BrisVegas, Brisneyland – no matter what urban slang captures your attention, the fact remains that unless you’ve spent a full weekend in Brisbane at its understated norm, you cannot be a worthy judge of its good points and bad.

And just like any Aussie capital, there’s no way to better understand the inner workings of what’s cool and what’s cringe-worthy than to mix it with the locals and seek out the wildly popular fare. Here’s just a taste of what I’ve rediscovered about some of my hometown’s even-tempered and chilled city fringe hubs.

The Diamant Hotel, Spring Hill

Our bedroom for the weekend

The Diamant Boutique Hotel, Spring Hill

I stayed at the Diamant Hotel over two nights for my Brisbane sojourn and found it to be more than adequate for a weekend of being out and about.

My room was on the cosy side with the necessary basics at your fingertips. The interior design of the hotel is modern and striking – gothic chic artwork hangs on the black and silver painted walls in the foyer and corridors.

Located on Astor Terrace, it provides a nice alternative to staying right in the heart of the CBD and to experience a new vibe in boutique accommodation, away from the sameness of the major hotel chains.

The Chelsea Bistro, Petrie Terrace

Not known for its top shelf dining options, I was surprised to see a number of tasteful, trendy and more importantly, busy, restaurants that have opened up in Brisbane since my last proper visit: the newly created Barracks precinct at the top of Caxton Street is the perfect example.

The Chelsea

The Chelsea

Greeted with a glass of Riotor ‘Cotes du Provence’ Rose – a French apertif, we relaxed under the giant Moreton Bay fig and sipped to the ambience of the illuminated spring night. The interior of The Chelsea is something I’d expect to see on Smith Street in Collingwood. Sleek, simple and cosy, the three-sided mirrored walls make the dining area feel larger and space is optimised with the wrap around olive-green cushioned bench, think of the large back seat of an old European car – a really nice touch.

And the food I couldn’t fault. For entrée I had the prawn, octopus and chorizo skewers served with a gazpacho and bright summery avocado and tomato salad. My main of snapper in a gribiche sauce was equally delicious, served with peas and kipfler potatoes. Then just when I couldn’t eat another thing, out came dessert, the true winner of the evening, baked white chocolate and pistachio cigars with cardamon syrup and vanilla yoghurt ice cream.

Enjoying dinner at The Chelsea

Enjoying dinner at The Chelsea

After all that food I was still able to trudge a few doors down for a nightcap at Cabiria – a bustling wine bars pumping out cool tunes and pouring fine wines and liqueurs.

Vue Cafe, New Farm

For breakfast, the options around Brisbane’s city fringe are endless. On this occasion I decided to try out Vue Café on Merthyr Road, mainly because I’d had great coffee from there previously and wanted to see how their eggs measured up.

Many might mistake this place for being a little arrogant and perhaps too cool, but the proof is in the portion size and price when it comes to breakfast, and whilst Vue isn’t an ‘out of the way, hidden gem’ I think my poached eggs on sourdough with beetroot relish, avocado and haloumi was an absolute winner. And did I mention they do great coffee?

Cloudland, Fortitude Valley

Basically, if you’ve never been – GO! Cloudland has so many hats and each time I go back I’m trying on a new one. I spent Sunday afternoon with a selection of delicious tapas and a glass of French champagne (that’s right, a happy hour special at only $7 per glass of the good stuff) with a group of friends, listening to the cool urban beats of the DJ mix in the warm Queensland sun.

One of the cool things about this place is its ability to transition between night and day and still give off that certain spark that modern-era club hoppers expect with art, design, architecture. Cloudland’s detail in furnishing, beer selection and food is remarkable: the best way to finish off a weekend in BrisVegas.

One thing I will say about Brisbane though is that weekends in the CBD can appear to be a bit of a ghost town (literally – as my visit coincided with ‘Dress like a Zombie Day’) and unless you’re prepared to wander around for a bit to find a good café or lunch spot, best to ask a local or better still ask around your mates before you travel – ‘cos chances are one of them is from Brisbane.

We tend to migrate everywhere and we’re not short of an opinion up here in Queensland, but my tips are to hang around West End, Paddington or New Farm as your trendy shopping, drinking and breakfasting staples and then, once you fall in love with the laid back locals and warm weather, come back and try somewhere new like the bars in Teneriffe, emerging café culture in Bulimba or the soon-to-be happening restaurants in Woolloongabba’s Stanley St precinct with Enoteca and The Crosstown just two of the popular haunts.

Look out Melbourne – we’re coming after you! In a slow, Queensland kind of way!

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