When it comes to entertainment and hospitality, Brisbane has some of Australia’s best offerings. With stunning hotels, fun bars, distilleries where you can make your own gin, and restaurants galore, here’s where to eat, drink and sleep in Queensland’s capital.
When I first visited Brisbane almost 25 years ago, the nightlife here was just okay. A few pubs and clubs, the restaurant scene wasn’t great and the South Bank hadn’t really taken off properly.
These days though, Brisbane’s nightlife, dining and entertainment scenes are probably the best in the country.
From exquisite fine-dining to mountainous street burgers, from classic pubs to slick bars, breweries and distilleries, Brisbane has so much to offer. Riverside, inner-city or nestled in the hills of nearby suburbs, there are venues literally everywhere in this fun town.
Here are some of our favourites.
Brisbane’s breweries (and a distillery)
Right on the water’s edge under the Story Bridge, Felons is part of the incredible Howard Smith Wharves development that has a few other great places to eat and drink.
This big spacious brewery, and its beer hall and riverside seating serves up an excellent selection of beers. Food here, like the pizzas coming out of the wood-fired oven, steaks from charcoal grill and indulgent burgers, is all perfect soak for a skinful.
Starting life in Burleigh Heads, Black Hops’ East Brisbane taproom opened in late 2020. It’s a cool watering hole with polished concrete floors and benches up against the fermenters.
It’s the perfect spot to grab a tasting paddle (make sure you try the Super Hornet double IPA) and watch the world go by. It’s also super dog-friendly, so be prepared to have a big dopamine zap while you’re there!
Right in the middle of Brissie in Newstead, Range Brewery makes an amazing set of beers you can try right where they make it. They also have lots of other guest ales on tap if you want to spread yourself out.
It’s a big airy bar here with lots of booths and tables, and the food is all as delicious as the beer!
A worthy import from Scotland, Brewdog does some excellent ales. Their first Aussie taproom, on the edge of the Brisbane River and east of the city, is in Murarrie, but there are so many more venues on the cards.
From the incredible bar inside Pentridge Prison to a three-storey bar in Fortitude Valley, Brewdog is set to take. And I’m all right about that.
Tucked away on a street corner of the West End, Brisbane Distillery and its wonderfully moody bar crafts some excellent gins. It also makes some unaged rums that need a bit of work to be honest, but they’re worth trying all the same.
But best of all, at the end of the bar, which is dark and cosy, is the gin school where you learn how to make your own gin! It’s so much fun and so interesting. Highly recommended.
Brisbane’s pubs and bars
Ironically bright and breezy considering its name, Noir has more of a cafe vibe than the somewhat overdone speakeasy trend many bars are following.
Cocktails and aperitivi come out equally well put together with a level of friendliness all too often missed on other big cities these days. Well worth a trip to Paddington for.
Right at the cutting edge of cool, Death and Taxes is so much fun. It’s also got an amazing selection of Australian craft spirits that its bar staff turn into perfectly balanced cocktails for you.
Not only is the roaring ‘20s vibe inside so well created, but going to and from this bar is just as fun. Located in the oldest alleyway in the city, Death and Taxes is right in the heart of Brisbane, virtually backing onto Queen Street Mall. Make sure you check out the street art and murals in the alley.
The ultimate craft beer bar, Tippler’s Tap has some amazing brews from Australia and around the world. They’ve always got something interesting on the tap menu, which changes all the time. And in the fridge is a wild selection of tins and bottles.
When we were there recently, they had only dark beers on tap, some with hilariously high ABV. Glad I wasn’t driving that day! The food here is also amazing—best reuben sandwich you’ll find.
From the outside, this looks like the kind of bog standard big rangy Aussie pub you’d find in most cities. But as you enter, you realise the Osbourne is anything but standard. Flooded with greenery, lofty ceilings and timber finishings, this lively youthful pub in the Valley is a cracker.
Bar Brutus in Fish Lane
In the midst of Fish Lane, an exciting outdoor mall of bars, restaurants and cafes, Bar Brutus is the kind of cosy, intimate venue you only want to share with your closest friends lest the secret gets out.
With a focus on Italian drinks and little plates of digestivi, Brutus is the perfect pre- and post-dinner spot for refreshments!
Where to eat in Brisbane
From its discreet entrance on Robertson Street in the Valley to its dark, nurturing interior and open kitchen, Essa is more than a restaurant, it’s a dining experience. Truly incredible food and wine, superior service and a impressive attention to detail in the decor.
Pro tip: the best seats in the house are up at the counter facing the various prep and cooking stations of the kitchen. This is our favourite restaurant in Brisbane… so far!
Hello Please in Fish Lane
A fun contemporary Southeast Asian fusion restaurant, Hello Please in the exciting Fish Lane foodie precinct in south Brisbane offers all the best dishes from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea and China with a modern twist.
Think eggplant katsu bao, pork belly satay skewers with peanut hoi sin or prawn toast with yuzu kewpie… but then twists like chicken liver parfait, carpaccio and cacio e pepe but with udon noodles. Fun!
Ben’s Burgers in Winn Lane
Tucked down an alley in Fortitude Valley, Ben’s Burgers is a hole-in-the-wall burger joint that turns out probably the best burgers in the city.
March up to the counter, order your burger (always go an extra patty and candied bacon), fries (it’s also a good idea to go chilli) and grab a beer, and plant yourself in one of the plastic chairs in the alley. They also offer really good veggie burger alternatives here too.
Unbelievably slick, Honto—Japanese for ‘Really’—is even more superlative than its name suggests. The restaurant’s menu reads like a wish list for everything you miss eating when you’re not in Japan.
It’s quite hard to get a table at this restaurant though, in spite of how big it is. We—a group of six—could only get in for a 5.30 sitting and even then we had to be out before 7.00. But it’s entirely worth it.
Bright and breezy, this cafe in New Farm just a block or two from the banks of the Brisbane River turns out some of the best coffee in the city and really top notch food too.
This is the breakfast gnocchi–soft tender gnocchi and crispy bacon with mixed mushrooms and a beautifully poached egg.
At time of publishing, Miss Jones was temporarily closed, but with the hope of reopening soon.
Brissie hotels to check out
Somewhere between slick Miami and retro-gilded Palm Springs vibes, the Calile is the ultimate hotel in Brisbane. Stunning details and their signature archways are at every point, the rooms are beautifully designed and the pool bar with the scalloped balconies surrounding it are just stunning.
Right at the heart of the swanky side of Fortitude Valley, the Calile is the centre pin to many of the boutiques, bars and restaurants around James Street. As such, the hotel’s loyalty programme offers lots of benefits in the area.
Part of the InterContinental group, Hotel X is a fascinating blend of luxury and creative individuality. Rooms have cool artwork in them and the lighting feature, which cuts through the ceiling and down the wall, is incredible.
Location-wise, Hotel X has the best of both worlds being on the edge of the shadier side of Fortitude Valley while still remaining within the well-to-do limits a good block back from all the craziness.
The hotel’s beautiful rooftop bar has views down over the city with the Story Bridge front and centre.
Iconic and classical, the Brisbane Sofitel Central has all the markings of a world-class hotel. Comfort and luxury combine for the perfect stay in the River City. And located right next to Central Station in the middle of town.