Despite being born in Brisbane, it’s a city I haven’t spent a lot of time in. There has been the occasional jaunt for an event, a hotel stay here and a dinner there, but no trip that allowed me to sink my teeth into the city. Last month I got invited to experience the city with Hilton Brisbane, and now can safely say I’ve got a handful of recommendations worth booking a weekend away.
A cab into the city started our 48-hour adventure, arriving at Hilton Brisbane, located on the Elizabeth St, right in the middle of the action. Designed by the late Harry Seidler, the impressive structure curves over a vast central lobby washed in natural light. Following a refurbishment of the lobby bar and restaurant in 2011 and 2012, it’s hard to believe the building is 30 years old. Our Executive Level rooms also scored a refit in 2012 and the resulting product is both handsome and comfortable – I even scored a beautiful view out over the city.
After a rinse in the room, the eating and drinking began immediately. We tipped a couple of Negronis in at the vibrant Vintaged Bar before relocating to the Vintaged Bar and Grill for dinner. A quick flick through the menu and wine list told me we were in for a treat – I wasn’t disappointed. We began with a slice of incredible grilled bread (honestly I’d go back for the bread) and butter, followed by Champagne and oysters and a selection of delicate starters, before devouring the 2kg Tomahawk steak with every condiment imaginable. The steak was cooked to perfection, without a doubt, the best piece of meat I’ve eaten all year. I wasn’t surprised to find out later that the restaurant had earned itself a Chef’s hat.
A plentiful buffet breakfast was on offer to quell the lingering hangover the following morning. We loaded up before some down time and then set off for lunch at Gauge. Located in Brisbane’s arts precinct, Gauge couldn’t be more on trend if it tried – in design and cuisine. Wood, brass and trimmings of black steel (including the epic coffee machine) compliment pastel ceramics and understated paper menus. What’s there not to love? The dishes that come out of the kitchen showcase passion, innovation and technique, without the bullshit. Paired with a stunning natural Rose from Patrick Sullivan, my experience at Guage was one to remember, and recommend.
We spent the afternoon traipsing around GOMA, previewing works for Sugar Spin, a contemporary exhibition of 250 works to celebrate the 10th birthday of the museum. I also spent some time admiring Moving Pictures, a collection of works by iconic Australian artists including Jeffrey Smart, R Godfrey Rivers and Russell Drysdale.
No trip to Brisbane should be without a visit to The Cloakroom, which was conveniently located across the road from the Hilton. Andrew and Louis have recently moved their operation to Japan and are creating some of the finest made-to-measure garments in the country. With made-to-order offerings from Cifonelli and Stefano Bemer and a barber and whisky bar in the works, it’s an exciting time to get acquainted with the brand.
We began our final evening with a Negroni and a whisky at the Vintaged Bar, where I met Aidan and Vinny from Sartorial Journal for an animated discussion about menswear. Our trip concluded with a splendid dinner at the recently opened OTTO Brisbane. Chef Will Cowper brings OTTO’s classic Italian menu to a stunning location overlooking the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. We kicked off with an Aperol Spritz and a selection of Mortadella, San Daniele Prosciutto and Wagyu bresaola to share. I followed with the Spaghettini with vongole, nduja and then the Spatchcock which impeccable. Will ventured out to say hello and convinced us to sample some of his signature desserts to finish. The goat’s curd sorbet may have been better than the spatchcock. Just sayin’.
When I hopped on the plane early, the following morning I had some time to reflect on a short but enjoyable break with Hilton Brisbane. Just like Adelaide did last year, Brisbane’s food and cultural offering thoroughly impressed me, as did the city’s energy. As Sydney’s nightlife (and reputation) continue to slip away, international and domestic travelers, as well as first home buyers, will inevitably find alternatives. I’m pleased but slightly concerned to admit, that Brisbane is moving in the direction of being one of those alternatives.
For more info about Vintaged Bar and Grill and Hilton Brisbane, head to their website.