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DAP & Co. reveals first details on Naldham House – The City’s new multi-story dining hub

Next month, one of Brisbane’s leading hospitality groups will lift the lid on what might be one of the year’s most anticipated openings. Naldham House is a multifaceted dining and drinking hub housed inside a three-level heritage-listed jewel on Mary Street. Boasting a European-inspired brasserie, a sun-dappled terrace bar and a late-night cocktail lounge (plus one more still-to-be-announced venue), Naldham House is set to shake up downtown’s dining landscape. Here’s what we know …
Jun 21, 2024, updated Jun 21, 2024

Opportunities to not only occupy one of the city’s most prominent character buildings, but transform it into a world-classing dining destination, are few and far between. Ask Andrew Baturo of DAP & Co. about the circumstances that led to his hospitality group being awarded the chance to revitalise Naldham House on Mary Street, and he’ll tell you that it was mostly a matter of stars aligning.

“It’s just almost like this weird fate that we’re here,” says the seasoned restaurateur who, alongside Paul Piticco and Denis Sheahan, operates inner-city institutions Walter’s Steakhouse and The Gresham, as well as South Bank’s Popolo.

Andrew is showing us around the inside of Naldham House, giving us a sneak peek at the works that have been going on inside the 140-year-old heritage-listed landmark since 2021. The three-level building and its hospitality concepts form the first stage of Dexus’s Waterfront Brisbane project, an ambitious $2.5-billion development that is currently transforming a chunk of Eagle Street’s riverside stretch into a world-class business and tourist hub. Purchased by Dexus in 2016, the stately late-19th-century maritime building is a one-of-a-kind venue – the kind of spot any hospitality group would kill to take on. When DAP & Co. was approached by Dexus in 2020 to discuss the prospect of inhabiting Naldham House, a confluence of factors gave the crew the inside lane on its big-name interstate competitors.

“When we were offered this, it was during COVID – so operators from Sydney in Melbourne couldn’t come up and have a look at it,” Andrew reveals. “It showed a real commitment by Dexus – and I have to applaud them for this – to pick a Brisbane-based operator, because it is a Brisbane venue. It’s an iconic Brisbane building. We wanted to make sure that this building and the concepts that we provide actually celebrate Brisbane’s history, because that’s what this building does.”

Hearing Andrew talk about the building and its significance in the broader scheme of things, it’s clear that he knows the stakes that come with such an opportunity. That’s why the group has been incredibly tight-lipped about what’s going on inside the classical rendered-brick structure and the venues that will open in mid-July – there’s an unspoken pressure to get it right. Now, a month out from the grand unveiling, Andrew and the DAP team are quelling the rumour mill and filling us in on two of the three exciting concepts set to call Naldham House home later this year.

Occupying the ground floor of the building will be Naldham House Brasserie and Terrace, a European-inspired restaurant and drinks destination. The crew has recruited acclaimed interior designer Anna Spiro to craft an aesthetic that fuses the glamour of the grand hotel lobbies of yesteryear with a maximal, kaleidoscopic colour scheme –  bringing together a myriad of hues, patterns and textiles that contrast sharply with the building’s classical architecture.

“We actually called it ‘Raffles Without the Rooms’ – that was our little nickname for it,” says Andrew with a laugh. “We thought [Naldham’s ground level] felt like a lobby for a hotel, so we wanted to keep it that way while embellishing it with colour. We wanted a juxtaposition of the white external facade with an explosion of colour, character, texture and charisma.”

Even in an incomplete state, Naldham House Brasserie looks unlike anything else currently operating in Brisbane. A marble-topped bar is an eye-catching anchor point at one end of the room, boasting custom green-painted fridges and an arched back bar illuminated by LEDs. The dining floor will feature a mix of curved booths and eclectic table and chair combinations, while a cluster of couches will face the original marble fireplace – itself ensconced by a library-inspired feature wall boasting artwork by Clare Dubina. At the back, a set of tasselled curtains – green and orange in colour – will shield a private dining space furnished with three long eight-seater tables.

When complimented on the bold use of colour, Andrew beams. “We want to surprise people,” he says of the interior design. “I think with what we’ve done in the past – with Walter’s and with The Gresham–  you’d be forgiven for thinking, ‘Oh, they’ll do another heritage-style bar again’. But we want to continually challenge ourselves.”

That’s not to say the venue doesn’t have its share of old-world charm. A grand piano sits in the corner of the space – a feature piece that meshes well with the building’s painstakingly preserved heritage elements. The team has been conscientious about protecting and incorporating the existing colonnade supports, timber joists, ceiling roses, VJ panels and Green Man motifs carved into the staircase balustrade, all of which add a sense of character to the brasserie’s Euro-inspired inflections.

Helming the Naldham House kitchen is executive chef Douglas Keyte (previously executive chef of hatted Melbourne restaurant Grill Americano), who will oversee a food offering that Andrew says will appeal to a broad demographic.

“The menu will have a European influence,” Andrew reveals. “We’re looking at the best European brasseries out of London, France and even Australia, but we want to give it a very Brisbane twist. We just want to make sure that the produce that we use is really, really good.”

Regulars to The Gresham will be pleased to hear that the DAP & Co. team will be drawing on its deep pool of expertise to craft a considered beverage menu for the brasserie and terrace.

“Given our pedigree with The Gresham, we’re really going to lean into some beautiful cocktails but it’s going to be very much aligned with the offering,” says Andrew. “We might have lawn drinks – things that are just fresh, floral and colourful – but then you will have the classics, like great old fashioneds, great negronis and great martinis.”

Outside, the team has constructed a 120-pax alfresco space that wraps around the side of the building facing Waterfront Place, equipped with its own green-tile-clad bar that will dispense drinks and its own menu of snacks. Expected to boast a view of the Story Bridge, the terrace will no doubt evolve into a popular destination as the weather warms.

“This is an area where people come after work or at lunchtime just have a drink – a beer or a garden cocktail,” says Andrew. “We really do see a desire for people to just get out of the office and have a few drinks with their colleagues after work.”

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Rounding out Naldham House’s executive team is general manager Christian Green (previously of Botanical HotelChin Chin and Longrain) and restaurant manager Steven Ham (whose resume includes 20 years working in London, with a stint with Soho House Group) – seasoned industry vets entrusted with Naldham House’s day-to-day operations.

Upstairs, on Naldham House’s second level, will sit Club Felix – a luxurious late-night haunt that Andrew describes as a “working cocktail lounge with French influences and late-night snacks.” Operating until 2:00 am later in the week, Club Felix will boast a sense of chic sophistication and informal approachability. A blue-centric colour scheme will be applied to the space, which will boast an old-school timber bar, armchair sofas and banquettes, and mood lighting. While expected to be open to the public most nights, Club Felix will be equipped to host a range of private functions and premium events including weddings, product launches and special occasions.

“We want to be a place that actually feels like it has its own character and personality, not a function space that feels like a function space,” says Andrew. “When it’s not being used, guests can have a late-night snack until 2:00 am. You’ll also be able to get a selection of classic cocktails, like Americanos, negronis, Palomas and martinis. Champagne is going to be a big feature up here as well.

“The idea is that you can come here and have cocktail, a beautiful wine by the glass and beer in a pewter mug,” Andrew adds. “Like the Singapore Sling, we want to have our version of a Naldham signature cocktail – this is where you’ll be able to get that.”

When not catering to an event, Club Felix’s kitchen will assist with prep for the brasserie, and also turn out Club Felix’s bar-snack menu, which will feature small plates and charcuterie.

Both Naldham House Brasserie and Terrace and Club Felix will open in mid-July. On Naldham House’s third floor will sit a secret, soon-to-be announced venue, which is expected to open in time for spring.

As the inner city enjoys a renaissance and Brisbane steps further into the international spotlight, the Naldham House project is poised to be an attention-grabbing fixture capable of luring in locals and visitors. Based on this brief peek inside, Naldham House looks like a level up – not just for DAP & Co., but for Brisbane City’s dining scene as a whole.

“Eyes are on Brisbane,” says Andrew. “[The city] is on the precipice of – if it’s not already – reaching the same dizzying heights of hospitality as Sydney and Melbourne.”

We’ll share more on Naldham House next month – keep your eyes peeled!

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