For locals looking for this restaurant, “following the rainbow” is not about tracking down a pot of gold: it is about finding an icon. Opened on Queen Street Mall 37 years ago, Jo-Jo’s
and its rainbow sign became a Brisbane institution; the restaurant where people celebrated everything from birthdays to business lunches to weddings. Now the eatery, owned by hairdressing magnate Stefan Ackerie, has shut its CBD doors to reopen near West End’s Sky Needle
alongside Stefan’s head office and new shopping destination, The Bach Living
“Moving Jo-Jo’s to West End in July this year was the right time. Melbourne Street is just a continuation of Queen Street now,” said Stefan. “It’s a beautiful, historical part of Brisbane. I have personally been in West End for over 40 years.” It is difficult to think of a better home for the new Jo-Jo’s than West End as the restaurant feels like what might lurk at the end of the rainbow.
The 1950s era warehouse has been rebirthed with Stefan’s trademark marble look plus Mediterranean arches, elegant black and white touches, and an interior garden glistening with fairy lights that make you truly believe, for a moment, that you are under some surreal, enchanting sky. “We wanted the new Jo-Jo’s to be a place where you can enjoy scrumptious, affordable food and fine wines, all in a relaxed surrounding where you feel like you could be on vacation in an exotic destination anywhere in the world,” said Stefan.
More important than the atmosphere? Making sure the menu maintained stalwart favourites and reflected what customers wanted. Eager to try it out, we began our visit to Jo-Jo’s with lamb kebabs, succulent and juicy and paired with mint yogurt and roasted cauliflower salad. This is cauliflower you could swear fealty to: tender and rich, it practically melted in your mouth, and was complemented by quinoa, pumpkin seeds, hummus and yoghurt dressing. Rendered aromatic by spices, it could convert anyone into a vegetable fan.
Next up was the fish of the day for me — a hearty portion of barramundi, delicate, subtle and allowed to speak for itself — a testament to head chef Jayden Hogg’s confidence and expertise. Perched on potatoes, artichokes, capsicum and olives, the feel was decidedly Mediterranean, whereas my partner indulged in comfort food in the form of creamy salmon fettuccini. We concluded with blueberry cheesecake on the very wallet-friendly dessert menu; served in a glass, it never verged on being too sweet and gave a refreshing due diligence to the fruit.
But do not just trust my recommendations. The menu is vast and Stefan proves that he does not do anything half heartedly, whether that is the ambience or the wealth of choices on the menu. He has a vision and will settle for nothing less: Jo-Jo’s has been, and remains, an escape for the senses, a place to celebrate, be comforted, and return to. “I am very proud that for 37 years, Jo-Jo’s became an iconic restaurant for Brisbane. It became their restaurant, and the new Jo-Jo’s is now their new home,” said Stefan.