The last half of 2018 was a boon for Brisbane, with a spate of high-profile restaurant openings (and re-openings) keeping diners sated.
The pace isn't slackening anytime soon. In the first quarter of 2019, there's a fresh batch of venues worth scoping out, from a pocket-sized fine diner in Fortitude Valley, to a handsome riverside destination that boasts some of the city's best water views. Get ready to play a calendar Tetris and secure a seat at these latest Brisbane restaurants.
ARC Dining and Wine Bar
Upon arriving at Arc, you're faced with one dilemma. Do you curve right towards the boardwalk wine bar with its potted olive trees and river breeze? Or hit the restaurant, a glamorous sun-lit conservatory-style room with eclectic Anna Spiro interiors and widescreen water views? The correct response is, of course, come twice and visit both.
Because fresh oysters, a bowl of salt-and-vinegar pig's ears and a glass of something chilled will put you in the mood for more of Alanna Sapwell's (former head chef at Sydney's Saint Peter) light, high-precision dishes. An entrée of smoky barbecued squid, brightened with preserved lemon and book-ended by pools of squid ink and briny saltbush, perhaps; or a terrine of pork hock and pig's head, with shaved heart as a garnish.
Drinks are marshalled by the affable Ian Trinkle (ex-Aria Brisbane), with an impressive range of by-the-glass pours including a blush-coloured pét-nat from Lark Hill, Spanish Rioja and a fiano from Campania. Don't leave without snagging a slice of Melba cake with its peach icing, pale sponge, raspberry jelly filling and finger lime sprinkles. 5 Boundary St, Howard Smith Wharves, Brisbane, (07) 3505 3980, arcdining.com.au
With space for just 10 diners along a single bar counter, Joy is tiny, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Chef-owners and partners Tim and Sarah Scott run the show from beginning to end: they designed and built most of the interiors, pour drinks for guests, and rustle up the complex fare on their Japanese-Nordic tasting menu.
Dishes are carefully layered – red emperor or blue-eye trevalla might arrive in a broth of its roasted bones with wakame and mustard leaves, and dessert could be a riff on the classic Mont Blanc with puréed chestnut swapped out for vermicelli-like swirls of buttery roasted artichoke or parsnip.
The clipped drinks list, too, is pure fun, compiled by Russ Berry (former sommelier at Harvest Newrybar). You'll find brown rice sake from Kameman Shuzo, Spanish brut nature cava and Grüner Veltliner from the Adelaide Hills. Shop 7/690 Ann St, Bakery Ln, Fortitude Valley, 0412 425 626, facebook.com/joyrestaurantfortitudevalley
The moniker of this neighbourhood wine-bar references Tuscany's full-blooded Barolo wines – and the 50-seater certainly reflects the boldness and elegant structure of the Italian red. You'll find it tucked off upmarket James Street in an idiosyncratic World War II-styled Nissen hut. At street level there's a timber-clad bar, a smattering of small tables and patterned tiles underfoot, while a mezzanine offers a more classic mod-bistro setting with a tan banquette and bentwood chairs.
There's comfort and good times in the big-flavoured dishes that chef Catherine Anders and team push out from a tiny kitchen – impossibly light goat curd gnocchi in brodo, say, with broad beans, peas and asparagus; or house-made pipe rigate bathed in a duck ragù, with the flavours dialled up with guanciale. The wine list by sommelier Emer Landgraf includes a couple of Barolo by the bottle at the upper-end of the price spectrum, but there's still plenty more affordable drops from Italy, France and Australia. 164b Arthur St, Fortitude Valley, (07) 3151 1898, mosconi.com.au
There are many reasons to climb the red stairs leading to Maeve's upper-floor location. For one, there's those springy sourdough crumpets slathered with hazelnut butter and piled with slivers of duck ham. Or those crisp house potato chips, perfect for dipping into creamy taramasalata; or black-garlic waffles stacked with whipped Cashel Blue cheese and red-wine jelly.
The wine list by Eleanor Cappa (ex-MoVida) is a nifty border-crossing collection that rewards adventurous drinkers, with distinctive or unusual whites from Italy earmarked for your consideration.
As for the wine bar's name, it means "she who intoxicates" in Gaelic, meaning that you're best advised to cling to that handrail as you navigate down the stairs to your exit. 39 Melbourne St, South Brisbane, maeve.wine
It's a cinch to spot Corella's crossovers with its cave à manger sibling, La Lune Wine Co. The latest venture from owners Paul McGivern and Bailee Dewes occupies a street-level space of a Woolloongabba apartment block and shares the same polished aesthetic and smarts drinks list as La Lune. So too, is the same, effortless way that native Australian ingredients meld into the Euro-focused menu – warrigal greens add edge to a risotto enriched with stracciatella and olive crumb, while fudgy kangaroo tartare pairs easily with a briny oyster emulsion and rye crackers. There's wide range of wines by the glass, too: expect: Spanish tempranillo blanco, Koerner's Clare Valley vermentino, or a Burgundian Pierrick Laroche Petit Chablis. The Drapery, Shop 2/62 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, (07) 3189 4406, facebook.com/corella.restaurant