Posts Tagged ‘brisbane’

Brisbane Nightlife: Fortitude Valley

Having spent the better part of my drinking life living in Brisbane I’m acutely aware of the phenomenon that is the Fortitude Valley. One of Australia’s largest party and nightclub districts, the valley has around 60,000 people there every Friday and Saturday night. This makes the place a pretty impressive experience, there are people from all walks of life, pubs and clubs catering to every different subculture and musical interest, a shitload of police and a huge amount of street food-vendors, but it isn’t perfect, in fact far from it.

The problem is the experience so often isn’t good. There aren’t enough bars, pubs and clubs (or maybe there are too many people), there are huge line-ups for venues, most places are already over-crowded and there are a huge number of people on the street supposedly walking between venues. Add to this a lot of alcohol, a 3am curfew, a limited number of taxis and a mesh of cultures and the product is the violence and unrest that the Brisbane City Council and Queensland Police are acutely aware of.

I’m certain that all levels of government and police are trying to solve these problems in their own way, more police on the streets, tighter licensing monitoring, modifying terms of licenses, more licenses, less licenses, more cabs, more cab ranks etcetera, etcetera. Yet as the bandaids pile up, the solution becomes more and more clear to me and while attempting to model the nightlife on another city seems like a fools errand, I think that is the solution, but not quite the same as you are expecting.

Reducing the average size of the licenses and increasing the number of licenses makes sense and seems to work to some extent in Melbourne, yet in the densely populated areas such as King St and Prahran, violence and chaos still abound. However, the areas where there is one or 2 small bars per block are quiet and civil. The sheer size of the Melbourne CBD creates vast number of nooks and crannies for these to thrive.

Reducing the crowd density per venue is obvious, but I believe the real solution is reducing the overall density of punters. Pushing the geographical boundaries of the valley out would increase the square metres of street the police would need to patrol and almost certainly incense the residents of the surrounding suburbs, but at what price do we put on the violence and unrest. There are a number of areas that this shift could move towards.

  1. Remove the separation of “city” and “valley”, encouraging bars to reside at the southern end of Wickham St.
  2. Encourage bars to open along the waterfront between the Valley and the Eagle St pier
  3. Allowing bars to operate until 3 am along James St
  4. Managing the red light district stigma associated with the northern end of Brunswick St thus encouraging a higher quality of venue to open in that area

Sassafras Cafe, Paddington

Nestled in the leafy suburb of Paddington, at the start of Brisbane’s number one opshopping and vintage clothes street Sassafras has taken this unique Brisbane feel and run with it. A tiered outdoor eating area has the tables set amongst umbrellas, hedges and trees, inside the pastel painted cupboards and not quite antique tables and chairs make you feel right at home. Probably because your mum had the same kitchen table. Topping it all off is a random selection of strange paraphenalia hanging from the walls and ontop of the cupboards. Bookmaker bags, interesting photos and random teapots are a quirky addition that fit right in with the homely vibe.

The homeliness doesn’t stop there, a huge glass cabinet filled with seemingly home made salads, pies, cakes and tarts takes the place of a service counter, behind it a large hand written blackboard is the menu. The same staff that have been there for years cap it all off with their friendly demeanour and fast service.

Sassafras Service Area The menu is broken into 2 parts, breakfast (until 2pm) and lunch (until 3pm). Breakfast is all the favourites, eggs, big breakfast, meusli and toast with a few interesting additions, three cheeses grilled on sourdough, buckwheat pancakes, chilli corn cakes and savoury mince on toast. The portions are generous and while the price isn’t cheap, it is reasonable.

Lunch has a distinctly mediterreanean feel, sandwiches filled with feta, peri peri chicken, grilled zuchini, eggplant, capers and olives all on sourdough or toasted panini are accompanied by an open steak sandwich, or a variety of pies or salads from the cabinet. With these slightly unorthodox flavours is where Sassafras really shines each dish is flavoursome and balanced again with good portions. The highlight is the peri-peri chicken BLT, an old favourite with a great, spicey touch.

For drinks, the milkshakes are amazing, taking this easily forgotten beverage and taking it to the next level. The coffee is neither here nor there, nothing to complain about but hardly standout, easily overshadowed by the quality of the food. If herbal tea is your thing, there is a large selection of T2 teas by the pot, or to take home.

Add this all together and what you end up with is one of Brisbane’s best cafes. Doing away with any of the yuppy pretentiousness that the inner suburbs of Brisbane often permeate and instead providing a familiar Brisbane cafe experience. Good food, good service, friendly faces and comfortable surrounds are easy to love, surely why this little cottage is packed all weekend, every weekend.

The only mistake this lovable cafe makes is not serving beer.

[flickr album=72157619956371049 num=10 size=Small]

Spoon Cafe, Paddington, Brisbane

To call our dining experience at Spoon disappointing wouldn’t do it justice, it was much worse than that. Located in the trendy Brisbane Suburb of Paddington, Spoon is nestled amongst some of Brisbane’s best cafes. At first look, it appears to be a classy place, taking a clean conservative approach which contrasts its trendy, chic neighbours. It is a massive cafe with a large covered outdoor eating area with big tables, an open kitchen and a pretty standard menu. It is positioned perfectly on Latrobe Terrace and unlike most cafes in the area has access to parking and is close to other shops and restaurants. Yet its complete lack of acceptable service puts it in the “never again” basket.

Things didn’t start well with one of our lunch companions mentioning that there was no chance he would have booked a lunch party for 12 at the cafe, offering a few alternatives. At this stage, the damage was done.

On arrival it appeared that the booking had been completely disregarded. Speaking to the wait-staff they indicated that the table I was standing near would do and walked off.  This was a table of 8, not the booked 10. After a bit of rearranging of tables, and chairs we had a table with 1 menu.

Spoon has made the interesting decision not to provide table service instead only taking orders at the counter. Perhaps this works with a streamlined front counter where it takes very little effort to go and order a drink, but the single front counter attendant is preparing cakes and pies while taking orders. The line was regularly 5 and 6 deep, ordering a beer or coffee was a 10 minute mission. 10 minutes we could have spent drinking, and probably ordering more beers.

The meal service was similarly appalling. 45 minutes from the first order of a chicken burger and a lamb burger was delivered, 30 for a rice pudding and beers were anywhere from a 5-15 minute wait. All of this served up with a healthy dose of attitude from the staff scorning our very presence. Clearing plates was a nonstarter, with not a single glass or plate making it to the dishwasher, not to mention crockery on nearly every other table in the restaurant.

The food itself, was mediocre at best, a steak sandwich was half filled, poached eggs with runny whites, overcooked chicken burgers and cold chips as sides. Even the beer was a failure as they ran out of Pure Blonde, perhaps the only thing that wasn’t a complete disappointment was the coffee. It was neither good or bad, at this point it was a relief.

Thankfully the beer was cold and the company was good.

The Royal Exchange, Toowong

In every town, there are drinking icons, places that everyone knows about, everyone has had their fair share of schooners at, and everyone will have great memories of in 35 years when they can’t drink anymore cause their kidneys give them grief. Of all the pubs in and around Brisbane the RE in Toowong may not be the swankiest, the coolest, or even the friendliest but it’s probably the best local. It’s one of those places that you could walk into blind folded and just the smell of it draws a picture. It just so happens in this case it’s the smell of spew, nonetheless it makes you feel like home, or you are at your local.

Let’s be fair about it, there is nothing that jumps out and takes you about this pub, the beer garden is big, complete with the requisite covers band 4 nights of the week playing more than it’s share of Jimmy Barnes, Powderfinger and Hunters & Collectors. The band has to stop playing at about 11 every night, cause the people that live nearby started complaining about the noise, even though there has been a band playing there since before they were born. Though, it’s not the band that the punters come to see, in fact they aren’t coming to see anything in particular except the beer. That’s the thing about uni students, all they need is a a few tables, a shitty band and cheap cold beer and they’ll sit and talk shit anywhere.

The public bar has about 42 flat screens within 4 metres of each other not to mention a couple of old blokes betting on the dogs that look like they’ve been there since it opened (1876), the dogs haven’t been there since then, the blokes have. The upstairs has a couple of pool tables and a bar, the bar is only open when they’ve got some reason which isn’t really that often. That being said, the upstairs has a nice little deck overlooking the stage.

As I’ve mentioned it’s not the coolest place, but it does have a webcam, so head on over to the website and check it out for yourself.