as curated by Straits Clan's Benjamin Hampe
Brisbane has long been overshadowed by her two more prominent sisters further south, Sydney and Melbourne, but the revival of its fine arts scene and the emphasis put on her future urban planning blueprint are surely helping Brisbane emerge from those said shadows. The "River City" has a diversity of arts events and a whole barrage of new restaurants and shops that promises to make Brisbane a destination in her own right. As such, Bespokcracy thought it is only apt that we invited a Brisbanian visual arts expert, Benjamin Hampe, to curate a list of of the must-go's in town. Ben was one of the founders and directors of the prominent Singapore gallery, formerly known as Chan Hampe Galleries, primarily dealing with Singapore and South East Asian contemporary art for more than 7 years. He now runs the foremost performing arts venue in Jakarta, Ciputra Artpreneur. With such credentials, you wouldn't want to quarrel with the following recommendations of his hometown.
The best that Brisbane has to offer is as good as its Sydney sister outlet. Mr. Moran brings mod oz cuisine to dizzying heights by coupling it with Queensland's famously fresh produce and its enviable position by Brisbane River with views of the romantically-lit Story Bridge in the evenings make for a quixotic experience one won't forget in awhile.
1 Eagle St | (0)7 3233 2555 | website
Often the contender for "Best Restaurant in Brisbane" is Ryan Squire's mod-oz restaurant, also featuring commanding views of the Brisbane River. The degustation only menu means that you have to trust Squires on the food, and experience shows that you should- entirely.
145 Eagle St | (0)7 3220 2123 | website
New Farm Deli
When the smell of fresh produce and honest cooking wafts up your nose and the deli-like presentation delights your visual senses, you know this is one place to stay for a long brunch (over a special blend of Vittoria no less). The menu is innovative to boot, and we are partial towards the breakfast Contadino.
900 Brunswick St | (0)7 3358 2634 | website
This modern European charmer by the Gabba receives cheers that drowns out the yabber of the sports crowd from the Gabba (sorry). We particularly love the easy sophistication of Servery upstairs too.
28 Logan Rd | (0)7 3392 3300
It doesn't take itself too seriously, its wide array of gyozas though not superb but hearty enough and it has a good list of artisanal beers. We call that a good TGIF evening, Brisbane-style.
394 Brunswick St | (0)7 3852 4624 | website
Queensland Cultural Centre, South Bank Precinct
According to Hampe, no trip to Brisbane is complete without a visit to the cultural precinct, just across the river from the Eagle Street Pier if you happen to have had lunch at one of the top restaurants (Esquire or Aria) there.
The precinct is the legacy of Robin Gibson's vision, Brisbane's giant of an architect and you can still be awashed with his consistent, refined international-modernist aesthetics of Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. This rejuvenation project injected life back into this riverfront prime estate and put Brisbane on the world arts map in various disciplines.
QAG houses Australian art dating from the 1840s to the 1970s, and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the poster-child of the contemporary side of the precinct, picks up where QAG leaves off, exhibiting Australian and Pan-Asian art from the 1970s to today. We are particularly taken by the latter. GOMA is housed in an ultra-modern building of glass, steel and concrete designed by Sydney-based company Architectus, and often showcases prominent artists around the world like Cao Guo-Qiang in his stupendous show "Falling Back To Earth". GOMA celebrates its 10th year anniversary this year and you would do very well indeed to take in the special exhibitions going on now.
Lastly, the Cultural Centre also features the updated Queensland State Library, the 2007 RAIA Sir Zelman Cowen award winner for Public Architecture, designed by homegrown firm Donovan Hill.
Stanley Place | website
Institute of Modern Art (IMA)
If an illustrative metaphor is needed, then IMA is like the subversive sibling of GOMA. It is a non-collecting contemporary arts institution and thus focuses on programming, discourse and circulation of contemporary art. It has been instrumental in pushing the contemporary arts envelope for more than 40 years and continues to do so with its rigourous programmes of education and research.
Ground Floor, Judith Wright Centre, 420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley | 7-3252-5750 | website | closed on Mondays
Brisbane also boasts some world-class galleries, many of which are in Fortitude Valley, just a short hoof away from IMA. The 2 below are particularly famous:
Philip Bacon: for Australian modern art
2 Arthur Street, Fortitude Valley | (0)7 3358 3555 | website
Milani Gallery: for Australian and regional contemporary art
54 Logan Road, Woolloongabba | (0)7 3391 0455 | website
Once selected for Conde Nast Traveller’s Hot List as one of the world’s best new hotels (in 2008), this perfect marriage of opulence of the yesteryears with cutting edge contemporary design is often referred to as the crown of the local boutique hotel scene. The gorgeous grand onyx bar is bound to make an impression, as with the 100-year-old stained glass hailing all the way from Buenos Aires.
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley | (0)7 3253 6999 | website | fr A$290 for a King Suite
Spicers on Balfour
To say this hotel is a charmer is a serious understatement. Set in a traditional 1800s Queenslander, it retains its quaint character and fits comfortably in its New Farm neighbourhood. Its 9 suites are furnished individually and is an eclectic mélange of vintage and designer décor. Simply put, it's like going to your granny's tucked-away property but gone posh (plus views of Story Bridge and a comprehensive library, just in case your granny isn't quite the avid reader).
37 Balfour St, New Farm | (0)1300 597 540 | website | fr A$280 for an Executive Queen room
If the face painted on the façade of its 5-storey building doesn't catch your attention nor makes you want to stay here, then perhaps Brisbane's first and only street art hotel ain't your thing. A closer inspection, though, may lure you in with each of the four levels of accommodation devoted to the artworks of a renowned street artist from Fintan Magee to Beastman. Plus the dangerous side of its history proves alluring- it was once the clubhouse of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, an international secret society.
14-20 Constance St, Fortitude Valley | (0)7 3319 7888 | website | fr A$200 for a Queen room
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