Whiskey (and whisky) nerds take your marks. Tonight the doors open on the city's first ever dedicated whiskey bar. As well as its own trio of well-regarded whiskies, made in Tasmania and matured in American oak, French oak and port barrels, The Nant Whisky Bar in The Emporium will have about 150 single malt whiskies on pour from countries as diverse as India, Japan, Wales, Ireland and of course Scotland.
Director and founder is Queenslander Keith Batt, who spends around 10 days a month at the distillery on the 300 acre property in Bothwell, Tasmania. Settled in 1821, the on-site mill used to process the barley is the only working watermill left in the country. The premise of the bar, Batt says, is to bring a bit of Tassie to Brisbane. Seating just 48, there's a whiskey-matched menu with the spotlight on Tassie produce, include Nant's own lamb.
"We'll be serving Cape Grim beef and game pies, salmon of course, and some mini flaming haggis," Batt says. "Nant is next door to Thorpe farmhouse cheesemakers, so we have some of their fantastic goat's and sheep's cheeses as well."
There's a certain Tassie ambience in the bar too, with a timber bar made from Tasmanian oak, a red 'convict brick' wall and antique furniture. Tastings of Nant whisky are free, with flights available for purchase. Batt says he wants to open guests' eyes to "true Tasmanian hospitality". With no thumping music or frou frou cocktails, I reckon this is definitely one for the grown-up's bucket list.
Nant Whisky Bar 10, Emporium Precinct 1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
ANN GYOZA BAR
Staying in The Emporium, I admit to getting a little misty eyed when the iconic bookshop Coldrakes closed its doors but I've cheered up considerably on witnessing its new incarnation as a dumpling joint. Rather than the Chinese style being dished up all over town, Ann Gyoza Bar, as it's name suggests, serves the crisp-bottomed, pan-fried variety from Japan. "It's very typical in Japan to eat gyoza with a beer," says owner Jin Kojima, who hails from Tokyo and also owns Mappen Japanese in Sunnybank. As well as the gyoza, which come in pork, chicken, vegetarian and (slightly bizarrely) cheese, Ann offers "tower boxes" at lunchtime with stacks containing rice, a main and a salad. Kojima says once the liquor license has been sorted, patrons will be able to take advantage of Ann's sake bar, with 10-20 different types on offer.
Ann Gyoza Bar, Shop 26 Emporium 1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
Will it or won't it open today? With a few unspecified things to sign off on, the opening of Bacchus restaurant/bar/pool at Rydges Southbank is in the lap of the wine gods. One of the city's most anticipated openings, the venue draws on influences from New York and California, with "extravagance" being the brief. It certainly looks pretty schmick. Chef Dominic Rose has created a bar and poolside menu of lighter eats such as brandade croquette with witlof, gorgonzola and hazelnut dressing, and some rather fancy sounding empanadas with tomato, basil and "bocconcini espuma". The restaurant menu, meanwhile, is modern and reasonably well priced with dishes such as roasted duck breast with beets, shallots, sour cherries and heirloom carrots and a grill section with premium beef (both grass and grain fed). There's a focus on the use of virgin olive oils, with the different varietals used in dishes noted beneath the menu description.
But what's getting my heart beating that little bit faster is the imaginative drinks list, put together by head sommelier, Andrew Giblin. (And with a name like Bacchus, the bar is already raised high). There are loads of usually under-represented varietals, including a generous number by the glass and a Robert Parker 100 pointers list for those who have a bit of cash to throw around.
Bacchus, Rydges Southbank, Grey Street, South Brisbane
NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOURS
December is the expected opening month for new venture across the road by owners of the perennially popular Ahmets. I'm told that Next Door Kitchen and Bar (which is indeed next door to the Turkish restaurant at Southbank) is designed to be a neighbourhood bar with a strong food component. Chef is Dean Brewer, who has spent the last six months travelling the world cooking on a yacht, and will no doubt be bringing with him lots of fresh ideas for the modern, share plate menu. The Arkhefield-designed bar will have a touch of 1920s glamour with a mirrored wall, amber lighting and moody colour scheme as well as a list of classic old-school cocktails.
Football games just got a lot more interesting as the team from James St cooking school opened an eatery, called Elimy at Suncorp Stadium last week. Casual rules, but expect to get a feed like zhoug marinated Tasmanian lamb rump with lime couscous, pistachio, baby spinach, Persian feta and extra virgin olive oil or sous vide crispy skin pork belly with cardamom and clove sweet potato puree. A license is on the way with a simple but appropriate wine list to be on offer, owner John Meredith says. There'll also be "home cooked" pre-packaged meals like a range of Thai curries, comfort food standards and desserts such as freshly made mousse for the gym junkies who frequent the stadium's PCYC. Game days will see simple fare like good quality sausages and steak sandwiches being served outside to match goers. It certainly beats the tawdry and overpriced fare inside, hands down.
Cafe Elimy, ground floor, Suncorp Stadium, 40 Castlemaine Street, Milton.