The art of food: Brisbane's best eats

Brisbane is using Foodie-fuelled street art and craftsmanship to bite back at the big culinary capitals

Traditional Australian moreton bay bug meal
  • Tatyana Leonov
  • May 2018

Gone are the days of the two-horse race. Tastiest food? Buzziest atmosphere? Best bar scene? The answer was almost always Sydney or Melbourne. Things began to change when Lonely Planet named Brisbane as Australia’s hippest city in 2014.

In the time since, Brisbane has experienced a plethora of new hotel, restaurant and bar openings and become home to a thriving arts and culture scene. Food and art are coming together as visionary creatives wow visitors with the unexpected.

Art on a plate

Dining out in Brisbane has become an all-encompassing affair, where taste, form, texture and aroma are interwoven into something spectacular. Enter Asana by Pete Evans, the onsite restaurant at Brisbane’s stylish Capri by Fraser Brisbane. The cuisine at Asana is described as paleo-inspired – meaning that many of the menu items are crafted using only ingredients that our ancestors could have foraged before agricultural times – such as quality meats and seafood, fruits and vegetables, eggs, seeds and nuts. That said, for those who can’t forego breads, grains and the like, there are a few choices that span beyond the hunter-gatherer theme, particularly during the breakfast service.

The menu is a collaborative effort between the paleo ambassador and celebrity chef (who doesn’t work in the kitchen, but plays a key role in concept development) and head chef Josh Harris (who leads the kitchen team day-to-day).

Josh is a charismatic fellow, who – if you succeed in stealing him away from the kitchen – loves to chat about food, art and everything in between. Josh, who began practising street art in his early teenage years and won his first commission at 18, is encouraged to apply his diverse talents at Asana. A huge artwork by Josh spells out the word Capri in bright purple in the staff room and the hotel has plans to feature his graffiti work in its public spaces too. Josh’s artistic originality shines at Asana, where all the dishes come out looking like art. There’s roasted barramundi served alongside sweet potato puree and Asian greens – a kaleidoscope of intensely bright colours; a popular almond and herb-crumbed chicken schnitzel served with colourful slaw and horseradish mayo – this paleo version of a crowd favourite is a flavoursome and photogenic affair; and the desserts include everything from chocolate bark to chia panna cotta and a paleo version of a Golden Gaytime.

Street cred

In Brisbane, street art is no longer something only associated with rebellious youths tagging train carriages after dark. Instead, it’s a medium that artists are encouraged to explore – in daylight.

Jugglers Art Space supports this modern art form, encouraging emerging artists to share their work with the wider community. The enterprise, founded in 2002, spans a range of facilities including an outdoor gallery where budding artists can hone their street-art skills. Other businesses are getting involved in the street-art movement, offering their own wall spaces as canvases for public displays. QRoasters in the northern suburb of Stafford is one such example. Enter the café from the main entry and you might miss it. However, enter from the side by the banks of Kedron Brook and you’ll see a huge artwork on the exterior wall, recently completed by Capri’s Josh Harris. “I’d been eyeing this wall off for a while, but the previous owners didn’t want me touching it. When the premises changed hands the new owner, Lachie, was happy to let me do it,” Josh says. His massive green mural endorses grass-fed and organic produce. Lachie, aka Lachlan Hosking, says: “There’s a cycle path round that way and the artwork looks spectacular as you ride in. Plus, it’s nice to have a point of difference.” His main point of difference is his coffee. “We only have fairtrade coffee here,” Lachie says. “Everything we roast and serve – whether from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or Ethiopia – has been certified to the fairtrade standard.” Most mornings the café is chockers with people enjoying their coffee alongside a slab of locally made cake.

View of a bridge and the city of Brisbane at night form the creek street
Brisbane city at night

Bar flies

This passion for quality produce can be seen all over Brisbane. For quality craft beer, head to Newstead Brewing Co. Now a two-location beer enterprise (the original Newstead venue in a former steel warehouse opened in 2013 and a second location opened in Milton last year), it’s a popular choice for beer aficionados. Co-owner Michael Conrad is an advocate of all things quality beer and enjoys a bit of humour thrown in. Consequently, the beers have quirky names, often cleverly linked to Brisbane’s history. The pub-fare style food is tops too, with many dishes designed to complement the beer-drinking experience.

Another place for great beer, Brooklyn Standard in Eagle Lane attracts a diverse crowd keen to kick on into the wee hours of the morning. Beers from the US star and the cocktails, wines and spirits cover off everything else. The venue is considered to be one of Brisbane’s most dedicated live music scenes and, on any given night, punters could find themselves grooving to funk, rock, blues or hip hop.

For those who prefer more intimate evening escapades, Maker in trendy Fish Lane oozes small-bar cool. The drinks are beautifully executed, with Australian spirits, wine and beer starring on the short-but-enticing cocktail menu. Fish Lane trails six blocks in South Brisbane and standout venues include La Lune Wine Co, another small bar, where wine connoisseurs have access to more than 120 wines from across Europe, Australia and New Zealand, served in a French-inspired setting. For pizza that tastes as if it has been flown in straight from Naples, Julius Pizzeria can’t be missed. And dining at Gauge on adjoining Grey Street is all about modern, inventive – and often unexpected fare, artistically presented, of course.

There are plenty of other bars, restaurants and cafés that stand out for something beyond the norm. But then, that’s the norm for the Brisbane of today.

Young and the restless

So how does one spread the message of good nutrition? For Josh (above) it’s all about teaching kids how to cook using quality produce. “I want to instil my love for food in the younger generation,” he says. “If parents don’t have time to cook, then they probably don’t have time to teach children how to cook.”

Recognising that kids need to learn in a way that interests them, Josh developed the Food for Thought program – currently being trialled in schools – in which he talks about being a teenager and his street art, linking this with his passion for cooking. Even in his spare time, Josh blends the worlds of art and food. “I’ve started working on canvases using fruit and vegetables ... when I chuck beetroot into a juicer I get three different shades of red,” he says. Josh has plans to show a series of six such works when done.

Tatyana Leonov was a guest of Capri by Fraser and Brisbane Marketing.