The likeable hipster bar

Kerbside – Constance St


[You’ll notice that the images in this review are waaaay above my usual standard. This is because I’m not the one shooting: instead, we had  Tracy from Itty Bitty Bites join us and apply her prodigious photographic talents to the task.]

Brisbane’s swift transition from cultural dungeon to Fairly Cool Place has lead to a great flourishing of hipsters. Beyond the city limits the ‘short-shorts-n-mullet’ look remains a steady favourite, but the legions of Instagram fill our inner suburbs – especially the craft beer places. I contend that The End may be the hipster mothership, given that it’s the only place I’ve seen a dude wear a cape without any sense of irony.

Kerbside comes a close second in the Brisbane hipster stakes. On Friday nights, it’s like cape guy laid eggs and started a new hive. Even Brew isn’t this hip, or crowded. The entire warehouse that is Kerbside swarms with vintage-clothed dudes with pioneer beards sitting on scavenged garden furniture, ironically enjoying gangsta rap. The bar is made of doors, and the bathrooms are full of cutesy street art.

“Man, that synth hook is so danceable”

You’d think that the picture I’m painting is of an Indisputably Bad Place, but this isn’t a negative review. I stay the hell away from Kerbside on the busiest nights, but anyone who is prepared to use their elbows and ignore the occasional smug glance will get by just fine. Behind the bar are the two reasons that I highly recommend you brave the locals and visit Kerbside: the beer selection, and the bar staff.

Kerbside’s owner really understands beer, and so do his staff. The selection is excellent, and makes quite an eyeful in the tall cabinet fridges. It’s fun to pick beer visually. If your tastes are more mainstream, they also do commercial lagers which get cheaper during the generous weekend happy hour. Finally, if you’re into tap beers, you can choose from three local ales from our local craft beer superhero, Bacchus Breweries. The brewer, Ross, is beer’s own version of Batman, sans hoarse voice and butler. Do bring a fat wallet to this place if you’re visiting outside happy hour and like craft beer – stubbies seem to all sit in the region of $10-$14. That said, many of these rather expensive beers are over 7% alcohol, so you don’t need to drink many before you utterly lose your dignity and make some bad internet purchases.

Case in point. (via latfh)

The second big drawcard is the people behind the bar. No, not like that – just, they’re really good at what they do. Kerbside’s big on cocktails, but it doesn’t have a cocktail list. You just kinda tell them what you like, and they make it. You can be as specific (‘vodka martini with two strawberries’) or vague (‘uh, clear spirit, fruity’) as you like, and they generally come out really well. The Mistress is a devourer of cocktails and reckons they got five in a row right one time (although a marmalade-flavoured thing eventually broke the streak). Here are some of Tracy’s shots of the cocktails in construction…

Don’t go for the food. It’s pub grub, and pretty expensive and bland even by pub standards. I never imagined I could be disappointed by deep-fried camembert, but even while hungry and drunk the dish let me down by being a bit flavourless. I’d suggest grabbing a meal at Guzman y Gomez or Mecca Bah before checking out Kerbside if you’re hungry.

Wednesday was the right time for us to come through, as we got plenty of tasty beer and cocktails without the queues or social annoyances.   Kerbside is a great place for a delicious midweek drink, particularly because it’s set apart from most of the filth and horror of Fortitude Valley. Arrive cashed up and full-bellied. Once the weekend arrives, arrive early and be prepared for drunkenness, crowds and DJs – but if that’s your thing, this is exactly where you want to be.



Kerbside on Urbanspoon

“It only looks like drugs mate”

Does ‘purple drank’ or ‘sizzurp’ mean anything to you? It means something to this guy.

Mixing cough syrup with mountain dew results in a purple fluid, and a very weird way of gettin’ high. Apparently it’s big if you’re into hip hop, live near Texas and like drooling on yourself as you slip into a waking coma. If you’re not keen on any of those things, don’t fret: we have our own version of purple drank now. Behold, Mother: Frosty Berry flavour.

The resemblance of the logo to some kind of Crusty Demons poster is significant. Unlike purple drank Texan-style, this purple shit has enough caffeine in it to make you want to get naked and chew on somebody’s face, while doing burnouts and fishtails. In a space shuttle.

If that sounds like fun, you must be wondering: does it actually taste good? I think so, but what would a true beer (or wine) snob say?

“It pours lurid purple with a lilac, frothy head that fades quickly. The nose presents strong, flat notes of warm grape jelly. On the palate the mouthfeel is surprisingly soft and buttery, but resolves quickly to fresh factory fruits and food acid. The finish is dry, with a full and lingering jelly aroma and hints of aluminium, typical of this varietal’s North Parramatta terroir”

Essentially, this is the Fanta Grape of the energy drink market. Sweeter than normal Mother, Red Bull or V, but with a weird fruitiness that reminds me of the cheapest lollies at the school tuckshop. I really appreciate the lower acidity of this drink, and if the local kwik-e-mart is out of Rock Star and Boca Lupo, this is a safe plan C for you energy junkies out there.

No comment on whether it’s good with cough syrup…

Café Auchenflower

97 Haig rd

Walking down a leafy street to get a breakfast made by people that love their work is infinitely preferable to driving in traffic to Westfield to eat some hideous slurry from a culinary graveyard like Shingle Inn or Coffee Club.

This is why  I love the way that hip little breakfast spots are cropping up in the ‘burbs – they may all be kinda playing from the same songbook of ‘cute and wholesome and vintagey’ but they do it pretty well, and it’s a much-needed change. Today I checked out the shiny-new Café Auchenflower, and concluded that every few blocks in suburbia needs a place like this.

After a long hard look at the rather sparse menu, I went out on a limb and risked my first ‘bolognaise on toast’ lunch item for brekkie. I’ve seen a few menus offer this and always thought it a bit daggy. Mince on toast from yesterday’s spag bol is classic bachelor chow in my books. Maybe it was the tag of ‘gran’s secret recipe’ helped me shed my prejudices, and I’m glad I did. The addition of a basil leaf and quality sourdough helped decouple this dish from my memories of single living, instead reminding me of how comforting this dish can be. Although filling and tasty, I found nana’s recipe a bit on the sweet side and lacking in onion, but I recognise that tastes can really differ on bolognaise recipes.

The mistress opted for something a bit more erudite: prosciutto, basil and fontina cheese with fig, in a toasted sandwich. It tasted awesome – the flavours were wildly complimentary, and the textures worked together too. The Auchenflower certainly knows how to toast stuff to perfection. The mistress found that a bit of tomato or greenery might’ve helped balance the saltiness of the dish, though I thought the fig did a lot of that. A bit of rocket or even a touch more basil would’ve taken this one from ‘good’ to ‘exceptional’ for me.

I dig this place, and it’s not even for the food. They impressed me, but I wasn’t blown away; the ingredients were good quality and well-composed, but lacked the ‘wow factor’ that Brisbane’s best can offer. The coffee (supplied by West End roasters, BlackStar) was satisfying, but not memorable. In spite of this, I left smiling, and realised that decent food and coffee are not the only drawcard here. As Dennis Denuto said, ‘it’s the vibe of the thing’. Pleasant décor, happy owner-managers and the novel experience of finding something to do in backstreet suburbia make this an ideal spot for catching up with mates on the west side, or a lazy late breakfast on hungover weekends.

cafe Auchenflower on Urbanspoon

Guest review: cocktails at Alfred and Constance

[Last weekend, an upcoming bar/restaurant place called Alfred and Constance fed my awesome friend Nhi a whole lot of delicious cocktails and she wrote a fantastic review for us. I loved it, hope you do too. Enjoy!]

‘Tiki Bar’ – the very words don’t conjure good thoughts. Not once have I woken up and thought, “Today’s the day I’m going to sit under a cheap straw hut and drink cocktails with tiny umbrellas that are more wasteful than decorative, surrounded by fake wood mask carvings and furniture from Bali at Home.”

Putting aside the fact that there are probably few people who do have these thoughts, it was with these not very positive impressions that I headed to a preview cocktail tasting for Alfred and Constance, a new bar from the team behind Limes set to open in August. Currently under construction next to Limes (aptly on the corner of Alfred and Constance streets), the bar promises to be a one-stop-shop for food and drink. There’ll be a gastro bar with a wood fired oven (to roast whole animals, no less), milk bar, beer garden with more than 30 beers on tap, dessert café, underground wine cellar and yes, a tiki bar. The tiki bar is where the fun, dancing and grass-skirt shaking will happen.

Disclaimer: I have never actually been to a tiki bar – but for good (maybe ill-informed) reason. I know they’re inspired by Polynesian culture and the more kitsch and fun, the better. I’m a big fan of kitsch. But to me, like tribal tattoos on a white guy, they offend rather than romanticise Polynesian culture. At the preview (held at Limes) we were offered to taste six cocktails set to be on the tiki bar menu – I wondered if a tipple would help change my mind.

First up was the classic (trite?) pina colada. Served in a half-pineapple, it was quite frothy and not as sweet and ‘coconut-y’ as pina coladas I’ve tried before. My Plus One agreed and we were both disappointed when our second pina colada came out much the same, in addition to being unpleasantly lukewarm. The head bartender used fresh pineapple juice rather than (usually very sweet) bottled juice – always a plus in my books, but perhaps this crop wasn’t as sweet as it should have been.

My Plus One told me that a popular tiki bar in London called Mahiki serves their pina coladas in whole pineapples. Alfred and Constance need to lift their kitsch-game if they want to play with the best! And it may be this monstrosity that’ll get them there:

Behold the kava bowl cocktail, a drink to be shared between four or five people. I say monstrosity in a good way – who doesn’t love absurdly over-sized things? Served in a ‘volcano bowl’, the cocktail includes rum, house made almond syrup, grenadine and citrus juices (the absence of actual kava didn’t go unnoticed). An extra shot of rum in a half-lime balanced on the volcano bowl’s crater and, when set alight and sprinkled with fresh cinnamon, delightfully replicated a lava explosion. [Ed- be glad it doesn’t have kava in it. Kava tastes like detergent mixed through ditch-water].

The cocktail itself was refreshing, cordial-like and scarily easy to drink thanks to the sweetness from the grenadine and juices. I was starting to understand why those Full Moon Party buckets in Thailand are so popular – drinking from communal bowls is fun.

Heck, even the whole concept of tiki bars was beginning to grow on me. The bartenders and staff at Alfred and Constance showed a genuine passion for all things tiki and cocktails, and this definitely rubbed off – the remaining cocktails we tasted were excellent. They had done their research, seeking out tiki bars around the world, and demonstrated a thorough knowledge of its history. Sure, a white guy invented them and they’re super tacky – but maybe tiki bars are not meant to offend, but rather pay homage, to the culture of our Polynesian neighbours.

Alex Lotersztain, Queensland’s current darling of the design industry, will be doing the interiors of Alfred and Constance. Given that he designed Limes Hotel and a bunch of cool things around Brisbane you never knew you knew, I’m certain he’ll bring a level of taste and maybe even elegance to Brisbane’s first tiki bar.

Alfred and Constance is sure to get everyone excited about at least one of their diverse offerings. With such an eclectic mix, they do run the risk of being a confused jumble of everything, rather than targeting a niche group of patrons. But I’m not too worried – Alfred and Constance’s great reputation precedes them and with a bunch of big restaurant heavyweights behind them (including E’cco Bistro’s chef and Jocelyn Hancock of Jocelyn’s Provisions) they’re sure to add an interesting dimension to Brisbane’s bar and restaurant scene.

Alfred and Constance opens mid-July.

The Chelsea: Brisbane’s best brekkie?

The Chelsea (at the Barracks, Roma st)


Muesli, I love you but you’re fired. Cold weather demands hot, calorific goodness, especially at breakfast. Relatedly, Sunday was fucking cold.

The result:

Roasted tomato, basil, feta, haloumi

Coriander scrambled eggs, cornbread, chorizo, cumin sauce

This was even more awesome than it looks. In fact, it was borderline erotic. The addition of a side of haloumi to the most perfectly herbed roast tomatoes was a masterstroke that you should totally emulate. It had that charcoal-grilled taste, very rare but amazingly well-done (pun not intended). The feta also now haunts my dreams with its soft creaminess. The coriander scrambled eggs with chorizo were a bit more psychedelic, but in a good way – the mix of cumin, coriander and chorizo had me tasting the rainbow and smelling the universe. Although, maybe part of the wonder of the experience was, well, relief…

The slight downside of our visit was how that adjectival cold weather really nailed us. The Barracks is a bit of a wind tunnel and while dining on the street is usually good times, it’s just hit that point where waiting an hour for breakfast is painful unless you’ve brought a good jacket. The wind is strong enough that it made the  heaters useless. I think they were short-staffed too, so things took quite a while to come out. In between my epic breakfast chats and shivering, I failed to notice this:

Yep, a pile of fuzzy warm blankets for diners to use.  Keep an eye out for these.

My recommendation is simple: DO go to this place and receive your sensual breakfast reward, but remember to grab a jacket, and your most interesting friend(s). The wait pays off bigtime; this is quite possibly Brisbane’s best breakfast this side of a Smokey Breakfast Lager.

The Chelsea Bistro on Urbanspoon

Cocktail showdown: Laneway vs Super Whatnot

I keep a list at the back of my mind of things that I won’t even TRY cooking at home.  ‘Sashimi (fugu)’ tops the list, followed by ‘sashimi (normal)’ and ‘croissants’. I recently added ‘cocktails’ to the list, after an enraging series of failures to get even a basic mojito right – much to the detriment of my duty-free stash of oversized bottles of spirits. I don’t try making cocktails because they’re very hard to do well. Thing is, I can’t make ’em, but nor can half the supposed cocktail barmen I’ve ordered from here in Brisvegas. Getting a cocktail just right requires a lot of skill in balancing complementary flavours, and I only know a couple of places in town (like Bowery) that you can reliably get a good cocktail irrespective of what and when you order.

Thus, I was interested – and a bit apprehensive – when I heard that both Super Whatnot and Laneway had released new winter cocktail menus recently. I love good bars like a one-eyed cat loves its kittens, and I so wanted these two to get it right. Winter’s a great reason to come up with new ways to get drunk, and I’ve already seen mixed results in the beer scene, with Stone and Wood pushing their very hyped, very average ‘Jasper Ale’, and Two Birds releasing a vastly superior ‘Sunset Ale’ just in time for the chilly weather. Those two releases had a clear winner, but I wondered: which of the new menus would be better in the cocktail scene?

In these situations, the only sensible thing to do is put as much of each menu in your belly as you can handle, and let them fight it out. So I did.

I started with Super Whatnot, ordering what looked to be their most interesting menu item – the ‘Cobianchi Treacle’. $20 gets you a mix of rum and two kinds of bitters, mixed through a spiced pineapple reduction. I really should’ve taken a hint from the name…

Cobianchi treacle is served in a glass like the kind that your parents got as a wedding present, which is still around thirty years later both because of its sheer battleship-like construction and your mum’s propensity to actively hide it when guests come around. This also describes the vibe of the cocktail – formidable and about three generations back in flavour. It’s a dad-tastic mix that leads with rich, treacly sugariness but offers no acidity or lightness to ease things up a bit. Instead it continues into a mix of spice and marmalade, and finishes thus, leaving the drinker feeling like they have had had, in our dear departed Kevin07’s words, a fair suck of the syrup bottle. Or something.

I finished the drink slowly, feeling like SW had brought a rusty shiv to a culinary shotgun fight. This saddened me: not only is this an awesome bar, their bathrooms are, like, the best thing in at least Queensland. LOOK AT THIS CRAZY SINK.

I left, wallet hurting, vowing to return and cough up for the next best thing on the list.

I scurried onward to Laneway (linked to culinary heavyweights Urbane and the pleasant Euro bar), which was kind enough to treat me to a sampling of their new menu. Mysteriously, they decided to theme their range around train stations in Brisbane. I’m baffled. Trains are awesome, and they let me get around and drink far more delicious things every night than cars ever did, but they are the LEAST SEXY THING. Here is an actual train station; note the quality art and sensual signage.

Fortuately they do make rail travel feel cooler than it actually is in their smartly-designed menu. The cocktails are quite memorable, albeit definitely not designed to please the daquiri crowd. I sampled three and was happy with two, and respectfully fearful of the other, mainly because of its maritime sparseness and potent abundance of Plymouth Gin. The ‘Eagle Junction’ is a Gimlet-style cocktail, which means it’s essentially a mix of gin and cordial. I’m told this relatively old style of cocktail was traditionally taken by naval officers to ward off scurvy. The use of in-house pineapple and sage cordial certainly makes things interesting, but with the only other ingredient being (abundant) gin, this drop is a rough lover that will kiss you with walrus-like captain’s bristles before handing you the edible flower that nestles at the bottom of each glass. Not quite my thing, but its companions ‘Windsor’ and ‘Ferny Grove’ had far more depth and subtlety.

‘Windsor’ sparkles like sherbet on the lips before blossoming into elderflower on the palate, and finishes like a good home-made lemonade. Complex stuff, and very drinkable. I don’t recall similar experiences at Windsor station though. Ferny Grove was perhaps the most interesting – a ‘Terra Rossa’ cocktail that is apparently bottled. It smells like peaches but is only very subtly fruity and sparkling; the finish is extremely dry and earthy, almost like the smell of raw cinnamon. Must be the Quandong liquer.

I left Laneway feeling happy that most punters would find something on the list to enjoy, at least after a couple of hits and misses. It was time to hit up Super Whatnot again, and hope that round two would be a bit less of a grandpa experience. The ‘Smokin’ Paloma’ jumped out at me, promising a very creative twist on the traditional paloma – they use smoked salt, as well as orange liquer and grapefruit juice in addition to the usual lime and tequila.

This was just the ending to my night that I needed – it had bite, the salt worked well and the addition of complex citrus didn’t disappoint. It’s quite likely that this will beat any margarita you’ve ever sampled, but not because it’s flashy – the salt’s smokiness is very subtle and while the citrus goes down a treat, it doesn’t blow you away with novelty. Instead it’s just a solid, well-balanced cocktail that you won’t regret purchasing.

If you like new and clever things, go for Laneway’s menu – you might struggle through some of the drinks, but you won’t be bored. For me, they were the night’s winner, and definitely worth the trek down Mary street.

With that said, if you like safe and delicious things, go for Super Whatnot, but give serious thought to the (awesome) beer taps unless you’re a hardcore cocktail fundi, and remember: if a drink says ‘treacle’, know that they mean it.

Charity can be delicious

Did you see this?

The Kony 2012 campaign got me thinking about the small and sometimes ridiculous things we do in order to try and solve rather earnest global problems. Generally, eating delicious meals as an attempt at saving the world is about as effective as retweeting Stephen Fry when he heckles a homophobe, or petitioning Gina Rinehart to stop messing with our media.

Fortunately, I found an exception: eating delicious food when raising money for a charity. Eight of Brissie’s best chefs are giving up their time on June 16 to put on a 4-course dinner  where the profits go to Variety, a charity that helps families take care of desparately sick kids with unusual maladies. When I say top chefs, I do mean it too – a number of these guys won awards in the recent Good Food Guide Awards. As a bonus, Peter Marchant will be selecting wines and generally truffling around in his charismatic way.

I got a chance to preview this dinner today; whether you’re feeling like eating charitably with all eight of these gurus or just checking out individual chefs down the track, this article will help give a sense of what you can expect from each of these elites.


Hajime Horiguchi – Wasabi Noosa – Sugi smoked ocean trout, micro herbs, umeboshi dressing and Tasmanian Wasabi

Jeremy Clark – Hilton Brisbane – Sous vide spanner crab, fennel and citrus salad

Surprisingly the generous array of entrees were a bit more Delta Goodrem than Jimi Hendrix – not the standard you’d expect from the rockstar lineup. Admittedly, they were pretty hungover and cooking for a pack of media hacks for free, so I’m prepared to give the benefit of the doubt on these dishes. I do things badly while hungover all the time, and these dishes weren’t even bad, just a few steps short of elite.

Paul McGivern – The Jetty South Bank – Ballotine of Rannoch farm quail, poached grapes, parsnip puree

Kym Machin – Spring – Chawanmushi (Noosa spanner crab, kingfish, flying fish roe and quinoa)


The mains stepped up the game nicely. Tony Kelly provided a memorable take on roast pork – that there is a crispy pig’s tail.

Tony Kelly – Stokehouse Brisbane – Twice cooked pork, crispy pig’s tail, smoked potato puree, apple jam, sauce charcuterie

The beef main was a beautiful cut and perfectly tender; you can see why Adrian is an advocate of sustainable beef from healthy, happy cattle. My philistine palate didn’t need the salsa but it did give a bit of texture and depth to the dish.

Adrian Richardson – La Luna Bistro, Melbourne – Grassfeed rib of beef, braised, corn, avocado, tomato salsa


These dishes were as delectable as they look. This was a highlight, although that might reflect the timing of the tasting (roughly noon, and on scant breakfast for me). In addition to tasting good, the chef himself (Alistair Mcleod) is quite a character, injecting all kinds of loudness and mirth to the experience. It excites me to think that the kitchen will have microphones in it… if there’s going to be fireworks in the kitchen, it’ll be this guy that delivers.

Alastair McLeod – Tank Restaurant and Brett’s Wharf – Bundaberg strawberry Cranachan, yoghurt Chantilly, bushmills

The brownie was a nice finisher; David Pugh is as earnest about chocolate as he is about charity. The use of citrus to balance the rich brownies was superb.

David Pugh – Restaurant Two – Chocolate and beetroot brownie, pear sorbet, licorice cocoa crumb, ganache

Having sampled the range and felt the ‘vibe’ of the chefs and their meals, I get the feeling this would be a very enjoyable night out, and a fun way of giving to the needy.  Of course, if you can’t stump up the $225 by June 16th, you could always, well, ‘like’ this blog instead.