Brisbane is this really tight, convenient food city. If I have friends visiting from Sydney or Los Angeles, I just ask, “What do you want? Because it’s all here.”
There’s really great Korean along Elizabeth Street in the CBD; Taiwanese and Chinese down in Sunnybank; Vietnamese in Inala, 30 minutes out of the city; and there are world-class restaurants along James Street.
A favourite is La Lupa, this Italian restaurant that flies under the radar slightly in West End. The owners Valentina Vigni and Andrea Contin are Italian, the food is Italian, and Andrea has a wine-import business, so you get some brilliant bottles there.
Otto down on the river is a great spot also, with a menu that leans into local seafood. Sitting there, grazing on champagne lobster spaghettini and beef carpaccio is a quintessentially Brisbane experience.
For breakfast, I love sending people to Florence in Camp Hill. It’s this renovated old corner store in a really leafy suburb, where it’s just street after street of beautiful Queenslander houses. It’s a real local’s spot.
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Further out, besides being a hub for mainland Chinese cuisine, Sunnybank is home to the largest Taiwanese ex-pat community in Australia and has a bunch of great Taiwanese-style restaurants. My favourite is Glamorous Wok – it has super fresh flavours; I order the cold crystal chicken salad and hot and spicy pig’s ear.
Visitors maybe know Goma for its blockbuster shows but it’s worth visiting any time of the year – its collection of art from Asia and the Pacific is one of the best in the world, and there’s usually a tightly curated exhibition in one of the smaller galleries.
Brisbane Powerhouse down on the river in New Farm is also really great, either for smaller exhibitions, or for stand-up comedy and live music.
I love those nitty-gritty spots of Inala, Sunnybank and West End, but if I’m just out with my daughters, I’ll take them down to James Street. There’s nothing else like it – this leafy precinct full of great architecture, boutiques and some of the best restaurants in town. But like all of Brisbane, it’s super approachable. We’ll grab a coffee or Lebanese breakfast from The Green, gelato from Messina, or go to Bianca to sit out front, eat pasta and watch the world go by.
Brisbane is made for the outdoors, but hands-down my favourite spot is the City Botanic Gardens. It’s so well connected with bike paths and a bridge over the river to South Bank. I take the girls and they’re just amazed by these enormous palms or the figs, or the rainforest and ferns.
They’ve recently built a basketball court at Gardens Point there, just on the edge of the Queensland University of Technology, so we’ll head there and shoot some hoops and maybe get a baby chino from the The Gardens Club cafe.
Newstead is a great place to kick off a night because you can choose to stay in the bars around there, or walk to Fortitude Valley to really kick on. Niky is a really good recent addition to the wine bar scene here. It’s a great spot to start with a few bottles and some snacks.
The Valley is to Brisbane what Kings Cross used to be to Sydney – and then some. It’s busy, it’s grungy but it’s also very democratic and a melting pot for all these different scenes. The Press Club is always fun for late night drinks and dancing. My favourite thing to do, though, is hit up the salsa night at Cloudland on Thursday nights. Brisbane has this enormous community of South Americans who work in our restaurants and other service industries, and this is a great spot to mix with them – it reminds me of LA. It’s such a nice vibe.
Crystalbrook Vincent (from $305 p/n) is a favourite – it’s right behind my restaurant, Stanley, inside the Howard Smith Wharves precinct. The rooms are big with great decor and views of the river, and there’s stacks of art by Melbourne portrait artist Vincent Fantauzzo. It’s close to everything you need.
Across the river in Kangaroo Point, The Point (from $137 p/n) has great views, an awesome location and is just a short walk from the Story Bridge, cycle paths to South Bank and a ferry to the CBD. It has city and water views for half the price of some of the fancier places in town.