The round-up: Brisbane’s biggest food openings of the year (so far)

And just like that, we’re in the second half of 2024. Yep, the first six months of the year were a blur, but that was to be expected with the cracking pace of new openings we were covering every week. Before we commence our sprint onwards, we’d like to catch our breath and reflect on the good things the first half of 2024 has brought us, including striking French-inspired wine bar and bistro hybrids, cosy cafes serving Korean-style eats, cornetto-slinging Italian bakeries, fetching fire-powered restaurants and Instagram-conquering cafes. Here’s what we loved, in alphabetical order.
Jun 28, 2024, updated Jun 28, 2024

Ach Wine Bar, Hamilton: Okay, technically Ach Wine Bar opened in 2023. But, if we’re being fair, it was right before Christmas and many locals were too caught up in the end-of-year frenzy to make time to visit until January. But when they did visit, word quickly spread, making Ach an early smash hit of 2024. At the chic Hamilton-based restaurant, co-owners and chefs Marty Coard and Noam Lissner are backing themselves, putting their culinary skills on display with a deep dive into the region-spanning traditions of Middle Eastern cuisine. Nimbly traversing between snacks and shares, Ach’s menu includes numerous winners, from the breads (like the challah with spiced bone marrow) to flame-licked morsels from the custom-built woodfire hearth like chicken shashlik with zaalouk and guindilla, Margra lamb ribs with harira, kibbeh and chermoula, and 2GR wagyu rump cap with za’atar butter, zhoug and grape mustard. Throw in a wine list that splits near evenly between Australian wines and vino sourced from Turkey, Israel and Lebanon, and you’ll see why Ach continues to turn heads.

Bar Hugo, West End: As Brisbane’s bar scene deepens, there’s now more room for specialists. Bar Hugo in West End, the brainchild of hospo pros Nick Sebar and Shaun Kelly, is a joint that’s flying the flag for vermouth and low-ABV drinks. This timber-clad haunt is homey and familiar, with a deck and garden space at the rear adding to Bar Hugo’s approachability. At the bar, vermouth is king, with a broad selection of drops sourced from all over the globe encompassing sweet, almost dessert-style vermouths, all the way to the super-bitter aperitifs. On the wine front, Shaun has assembled a tidy list that ticks most boxes, with around 19 options available by the glass backed by a full list tallying more than 40. Food is a snack-heavy affair, with easy-to-prep snacks giving diners the option to snack or feast, depending on their hunger levels. If you’re a West End local or a discerning drinker looking for something outside the norm, Bar Hugo might be your new favourite watering hole.Bar Rocco, CoorparooRamona Trattoria scored a sibling in the early weeks of 2024. Owner Ashley-Maree Kent took over the neighbouring space to open osteria-style offshoot Bar Rocco, which quickly became a popular spot for Coorparoo locals to saunter in for a light bite on a whim, grab a wine before their booking at Ramona or enjoy a digestivo afterwards. The fun and quirky space is geared more towards impromptu and casual dining, as such, the menu is a free-flowing affair. Spuntini-style snacks like baccala mantecato (crispy polenta topped with whipped cod, lemon oil and chive), fiori di zucca fritti (fried zucchini flowers filled with lemon and herb buffalo ricotta) and crocchette di patate (potato croquettes with parmigiano, scarmorza and pepper) lead into a four-strong selection of pizzetta, and two subtantial plates. It’s the ideal next step for Ashley and the Ramona team, cementing its slice of the suburbs before taking a bigger leap later in the year with Sbagliata at Portside Wharf – an opening that will, if pedigree is anything to go by, no doubt feature in our end-of-year lists.

Cerin Pasticceria, Woolloongabba: For the most part, Brisbane’s bakery scene takes a lot of inspiration from French patisseries. But what about Italy, a country with its own rich culture of desserts, breads and pastries? Cerin Pasticceria is the brainchild of Matteo Cerin and Giuseppe Caputo, two Italian expats looking to showcase the bakery culture of their homeland. It hasn’t taken long for carb cravers to catch on – Cerin has sold out of its range, which includes small treats, cream-filled bombolone, flaky cornetti and slices of crispy focaccia, nearly every day since opening. We suggest getting in early to fill up a box or two with bite-sized sweets like pasticcini, rhum baba, bignes and crostatina. Oh, and be sure to add a maritozzo – a brioche bun filled to bursting point with whipped cream – in for good measure.

Chalong, Chapel Hill: Chapel Hill locals had a lot to celebrate when Chalong opened at the Metro West shops on Moggill Road in February. Thai expats Nail Saengin and Garfield Pachnoi’s restaurant has a sense of fun baked into it, with Chalong’s take on authentic Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine packed with loads of conviviality. The striking beach-inspired 45-seat restaurant – an eye-pleasing mix of neutral tones, blonde timber and cream leather – is serving dishes that you won’t commonly find in Brisbane. In the kitchen, Garfield (who has worked in kitchens at venues like Ping Pong and Short Grain) is crafting almost everything in house, turning out the likes of fried turmeric cuttlefish, gai gor lae (grilled marinated chicken skewers), moo hon (Phuket-style soy-braised pork belly), lemongrass and tamarind beef rib (slow cooked for nine hours) and fried whole market fish with sweet fish sauce and salad. Meanwhile, Nail has overseen Chalong’s beverage program, which is anchored by an eight-strong cocktail list that puts a Thai spin on a number of classic concoctions.

ēmmē, Fortitude Valley: It’s always a treat when a restaurant strikes a balance between aesthetics and substance. ēmmē, James Street’s fetching fire-powered all-day eatery, is not only nice to look at – with its polished marble counter tops, rough stone feature wall, geometric acoustic panelling and the sheer, yellow-hued curtains – but its dishing out some of the best fare on the strip. Head chef Thomas Lian Tze (previously of Greca) and sous chef Finn Burgess (formerly of ESSA) are turning out a menu that masterfully mixes Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. Breakfast dishes like French toast with date caramel, whipped yoghurt and seasonal fruit, and stand-out options from the lunch and dinner menu like the native dukkah-dusted barbecue broccoli with labneh, and barbecue chicken with grilled shishito peppers are served in an unpretentious manner. At ēmmē, imperfection is championed, flavour is celebrated and impromptu visits are encouraged.

Gum Bistro, West End: Phil Poussart and Lachlan Matheson are experienced enough in hospitality to know what works on a plate and in a glass. More importantly, though, they know it takes a lot more than that to create a return-worthy restaurant. With their West End eatery Gum Bistro, the somm-chef tandem has struck a fine balance between all of the essential details. Taking over the charming character-filled site previously home to Pasta Club in West End, the duo is focusing on big flavours, small details, pitch-perfect needle drops and disarmingly chummy service. This has, as you could have guessed, been well received by locals. Gum’s warm interior is frequently abuzz with guests divvying up the likes of duck-liver parfait with native tamarind jelly, sweetcorn agnolotti with crema di parmigiana, cabbage-wrapped cobia with zucchini and creme fraiche, and Margra lamb rump with sweetbread, beans and radicchio. The menu is constructed with produce from some of Queensland’s best suppliers, including Suncoast FreshThe Falls FarmUrban Valley MushroomsMarrow Meats and Rocky Point Aquaculture. Meanwhile, Phil has seized the opportunity to fashion a beverage list boasting a sense of diversity – mixing regionality and price point to impressive results.

Kevin, New Farm: Housed inside a lovingly restored character-filled workers cottage on Brunswick Street, Kevin blends old-school Queenslander charm with a contemporary approach to coffee and brunch. The brainchild of Sam Holman (of Dibs Coffee) and Yolanda van Houtte (owner of Drip in Newstead), Kevin weaves a produce-driven culinary ethos, fine-dining-level technicality and closed-loop conscientiousness into its menu, with signatures like ‘nduja scramble with soft herbs, smoked yoghurt and biang biang sauce, and avocado toast elevated with zucchini, yuzu, goats cheese and seven-spice pepitas just a couple of examples of the cafe’s tasty tweaks. Lines are common at Kevin on the weekend, but the wait it worth it.

Longwang, Brisbane City: The year is shaping up to be a big one for The Tassis, which might finish 2024 with a tally of four new openings. There’s a chance they could all be on our end-of-year list, but right now we think Longwang sticks out. The venue has been custom built in what was previously a fire escape – a passageway measuring 3.5-m wide and 25-m deep. In this slender space the team, alongside Clui Design, has fashioned an ingeniously designed split-level venue that draws inspiration from Hong Kong’s hawker-style markers. The second reason for Longwang’s selection here is, of course, the food. With Jason Margaritis (previously of sAme sAme and Donna Chang) at the helm, Longwang is turning out a menu that is broadly pan-Asian in scope, with perhaps a slight lean towards Cantonese and East Asian cuisines. Snacks like seared scallops with strange flavour sauce and macadamia, and prawn-and-chive pancakes with XO are available alongside shareable mains like Skull Island prawns with salted duck-egg butter, tea-smoked and fried half duck, and stir-fried bug-tail meat ‘kung pao’ with cashews and facing-heaven chillies.

Monal Dining, Newstead: When 2024 is all said and done, one of the year’s biggest trends will be the amount of talented young chefs breaking out on their own. Yogesh Budathoki (a former sous chef at Hôntô) is one of those young guns who, along with his cousin Roman Bhandari, is carving out a piece of Newstead’s red-hot dining scene with Monal Dining. The 55-seater isn’t a bar and not quite a restaurant – it’s a nifty midpoint between the two, able to accommodate a myriad of diners. Alongside fellow gun cuisiner Jake Smith, Yogesh is turning out an offering encompassing snacky serves of wagyu intercostal skewers with smoked labneh and Mooloolaba king prawns doused in XO Butter, plus larger plates of lemon-molasses-glazed Elgin Valley chicken with curry sauce and braised lamb shoulder with tomato and fermented-bean sauce. In a year where flexible dining is at the top of the priority list for many punters, Monal Dining delivers on cost-effective versatility.

Mr Duncans and Buttery Boy, Fortitude Valley: This is a cheeky two-in-one inclusion, but it’s hard to separate Mr Duncans and its uber-popular cafe sidekick Buttery Boy. Vince Mōefa’auo’s innovative Fortitude Valley hub boasts several concepts in one, with syrup-topped butterycakes and Instagram-worthy hot chocolates from Buttery Boy drawing in foodies in droves, while Mr Duncans’ multi-kitchen offering lures them back in for round two later in the day. Variety is naturally a huge selling point of Mr Duncans, which serves everything from wok-tossed Singapore chilli crab and market-fresh sashimi to potato pizzas with miso brown butter, cheeseburger gyozas and fire-licked steaks. With Mr Duncans now serving brunch and Buttery Boy open later for vino and dessert, Duncan Street is becoming a buzzing nexus of activity.

Petite, Fortitude Valley: Cameron and Jordan Votan’s striking new addition to their East Street dining empire, isn’t a wine bar or a bistro. One could call it a hybrid, but it’s also something distinct and singular. Like the Votan’s other venues Happy Boy and Snack Man, Petite defies easy categorisation – the only definitive characteristic is that it is French-inspired. Here, head chef Aubrey Courtel oversees a free-wheeling menu of 20 dishes designed to be ordered in waves, with the likes of steak tartare with gherkins, confit yolk and pomme gaufrette, and potato pave enjoyed alongside pan-fried gnocchi with comte cream, confit duck with potato mash, and grilled wagyu bavette with cafe de Paris butter. As one would expect from a venue that purposefully blurs the line between bistro and wine bar, vino earns top billing alongside Petite’s fare. An entire half of the one-page menu is dedicated to a list of 20 wines available by the glass – each drop selected as the ideal pairing for the dish it sits directly opposite, but the options immediately above and below are also favourable matches.

Snug, Coorparoo: Leaham Claydon and Jianne Jeoung’s cosy Coorparoo coffee and brunch spot might go down as one of the year’s buzziest (and busiest) openings. Even months after opening, it takes a bit of good luck getting a seat at Snug during peak hours. But if you manage to snag a stool then you’re in for a real good time. The two hot-shot chefs have applied their considerable skills to a tight menu of Korean-inspired eats – we’re talking scrambled egg drop sandwiches on toasted milk bread, glossy omurice topped with prawns and lemon tsuyu, and soft pretzels (rolled and baked daily). The coffee, which comes from ST ALi, is sublime, as are the hojicha lattes – a trending beverage that Snug is absolutely nailing. Yes, Snug might be constantly busy (and will likely be so for a while, especially when the team opens the joint as a wine bar), but this is one spot absolutely worth waiting around a little bit to enjoy.

Honourable mentionsPiccolo by Him in Fortitude Valley, DUCKFAT in Newstead, Toby’s Estate in Newstead, Mexicali in Bulimba, Dilly Dally in Toowong, ChauChow by Zyon in Fortitude Valley, Dapl in The City, Supernumerary in Salisbury, Rose & Crown in South Brisbane and Fatcow on James St in Fortitude Valley.

To brush up on the bars, cafes and restaurants we’re excited to see open in the second half of 2024, be sure to peep our round-up of most anticipated openings.

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