The lastminute lovelies in Brisbane

Poor Brisbane. Its reputation precedes it – sleepy, small, dare we say… dull? But having just spent a weekend there, the lastminute Lovelies have discovered that Brisbane is actually a bloody great city, and the perfect place for an awesome short break.If you haven’t been in a while, or maybe have never been at all, now’s the time to discover that Brisbane’s had a facelift, and she is looking goooood!

Arriving in Brisbane after a leisurely 1.5 hour flight from Sydney, we dump our bags, ditch our coats and head over to one of Brisbane’s most chic restaurants, The Euro.

Opening in early 2010, The Euro is little sister to the much lauded Urbane. While Urbane is ideal for those seeking serious fine dining, Euro is all about great food sans attitude – friendly staff, a relaxed atmosphere and a killer menu.

Espresso martinis is hand, we sit down in the narrow dining room and prepare to feast. First – a bowl of warm organic olives, grown locally. Next – a sumptuous quail pie with carrot, gingerbread, quince and almond crunch, plus a plate of crisp calamari fritti with lemon and chilli salt. Then – two tender fillet steaks, grass fed, dry aged 27 days, and served with mounds of creamy cauliflower gratin and Kipfler potatoes decadently roasted in wagyu fat, garlic and rosemary.

Everything is absolutely delicious, but we leave with one regret – no room for dessert…

Totally satisfied and ready to surrender to our food comas, we make our way back to our rooms at the gorgeous Sofitel hotel. What immediately strikes us is the décor – understated, tasteful, neutral, it’s incredibly classy and very soothing. Paired with fluffy white towels, pristine white bed spreads and crisp white sheets, you’d be hard pressed to have anything but an incredible sleep – particularly on Sofitel’s famous MyBeds. Heavenly.

lastminute lovely Courtney enjoying brekkie at Pearl Café

Brekkie at Pearl Café

Refreshed, relaxed and ready to eat (again!), next morning we wake up and head over to Wooloongabba for breakfast at Pearl Café. A hidden gem – boom tish – Pearl is nestled amongst the antique stores on Logan Road, right next to the freeway and down the road from the iconic Gabba stadium. Hidden, yes, but secret no – a smattering of people wait outside for a table, while inside is buzzing.

I’m putting it out there – this is the best breakfast I’ve ever had.

Housed in a terrace dating back to the 1860s, Pearl is all exposed brick and bentwood chairs. The room is cool, the staff are cool and the menu is, you guessed it, cool, with re-imagined classics that add interest and appeal to standard café breakfast fare.

Everything we order is absolutely superb, from the coffee and chocolate ganache (!!!) milkshake to the trout and potato cakes. Perched on a bed of creamed leek and accompanied by soft boiled eggs and trout pearls, it’s truly sensational, and we immediately make plans to return the following morning to sample some other delights. Unfortunately Pearl isn’t open on Sundays, but no worries – it’s just another excuse to come back! Next time we might make a day of it and stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner… The fish finger sandwich is supposed to be to die for! For now, however, we ignore the incredible cakes lining the bar and say a sad goodbye to Pearl.

lastminute lovely Courtney models her latest creation at Queensland Art Gallery

lastminute lovely Courtney models her latest creation

With some time up our sleeves, we check out the antiques, vintage furniture and home wares nearby, and fall head over heels for Miss Mouse, a boutique with the most well edited collection of clothes, jewellery and underwear that we’ve seen in ages. The labels are a little left of centre – just how we like them – and we have to pry ourselves away, but not before picking up a few treasured souvenirs…

Next stop – Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones at Southbank’s Queensland Art Gallery. Brisbane was lucky enough to nab this exhibition exclusively for Australia, and anybody who attended will tell you that it was well worth the trip. An incredible exhibition exploring the art of millinery, Hats: is a collaboration between London’s famous Victoria and Albert Museum and Stephen Jones, one of the world’s premier milliners. With more than 250 hats and headpieces on display, the exhibition was absolutely fascinating, and the lastminute Lovelies spent hours wandering, awestruck. On our way out, we made our own fabulous hats out of cardboard and crepe paper – well, why should the kids have all the fun?

The Hats: exhibition has ended now, but next up at the Queensland Art Gallery is the Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future. A major exhibition developed by the renowned institution, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris, it will feature garments worn by stars such as Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and more. Can’t wait!

High Tea at Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art

High Tea at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art

Ready for a rest after all that gawking, we head to nearby GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) for high tea. With sparking wine, cucumber sandwiches, cakes, pastries and chocolate, it’s a gorgeous end to a gorgeous afternoon.

After a few hour’s relaxation back at the Sofitel, we head off for yet another great Brisbane dining experience – Matt Moran’s ARIA. Located in the Eagle Street Pier precinct, with spectacular views over the Brisbane River and Story Bridge, this second ARIA outpost picks up where Sydney lets off – relaxed yet elegant, and with service that’s matched only by the food. From the twice cooked pork belly to the winter baby vegetable salad with goat curd, everything is delicious, but this time we make sure to leave room for dessert. And thank goodness that we do, because the banoffee is a revelation. Banana brulee with caramel, almond praline and toasted almond milk ice cream leaves us gasping and wishing we hadn’t shared… Calories schmalories!

We waddle back to the nearby Sofitel, and settle in for another glorious night’s sleep thanks to the MyBed. Lucky – we’ve got a big day tomorrow… We’re going kayaking on the Brisbane River!

The lastminute lovelies get ready to explore Brisbane River by kayak!

The lastminute lovelies get ready to explore Brisbane River by kayak!

Heading down to the River at 10:30am, we’re greeted by our kayaking guide, Stuart, and a big plate of yummy brunch – eggs, tomato, chipolatas, hash browns and toast, all washed down with a big cup of steaming coffee. Just the cure for last night’s wine soaked dinner! Then it’s off with our shoes, on with the life vest, and into our kayaks, ready to explore the beautiful Brisbane River. It’s a great way to see the city, and having expected to pretty much hate this, I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that not only is kayaking good exercise, it’s fun too. Teamed with the wonderful Brisbane weather, we have a blast, and feel a little less guilty about that banoffee at the same time…

It’s been a great weekend, and the lastminute Lovelies are sad to be leaving Brisbane. From now on, when we’re planning a short break we’ll add Brisbane to the usual short list – and not just so that we can try that fish finger sanga at Pearl!

The lastminute lovelies xox

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