I have been dining out in the 4101 since circa 1990. Even back then, it was blessed with some of the best places to eat in town. Twenty plus years on, and its reputation for being Brisbane’s restaurant hub shows no signs of waning.
As you would expect from a district that sits shoulder to shoulder with the CBD, the 4101 is laden with a diversity of eateries. A position so close to the city also ensures a quality of offerings, and its heritage as a multicultural area is evident in the range of cuisines, the emphasis being on Vietnamese and Mediterranean, especially Greek.
The Brisbane City Council’s urban renewal strategy has actively encouraged small operators to pepper the area with tiny cafes, fuelling the locals with some of the best coffee in the city. Down every lane and around every corner there is yet another little café, serendipitously positioned to satisfy the next caffeine craving. They will also undoubtedly serve a spot-on breakfast or light but satisfying lunch.
Veneziano, Five Sisters Cafe, The Roastery Cafe, Cup, Tribune, Glow Espresso, The Loading Dock, The Cheeky Bean and The Mango Tree are all perfect meeting points with their own individual interpretation of the 4101 style.
West End, South Bank and South Brisbane’s cosy, convenient and often quirky cafes are wonderful places to meet, eat and people watch.
One of the cosiest places to bunker down this Winter is The Burrow on Mollison Street. The menu has more than a few surprises, and there’s a long list of ales, ciders and stouts to work through.
Boundary Street is the hotspot for food lovers. Spaghetti House has, count them, more than 25 different types of pasta served homestyle to share in a relaxed, family friendly setting. Loft West End, also in Boundary Street, is new on the scene, but already has a strong following thanks to its killer combination of cocktails, tapas and tunes. Other notable bars include jam jar and Archive.
Tukka Restaurant, again on Boundary, ingeniously combines the native flavours of Australia with stunning results. It is an obvious choice to take overseas visitors, and introduce yourself to flavours you probably have not tried yet either. For touch of France head to C’est Bon on Stanley Street.
Things are done a little differently in the 4101 and that philosophy extends even to fish and chips. Swampdog, on Vulture Street, wants to change the way we eat seafood. While the emphasis is on sustainable fisheries, they also happen to make the best fish and chips you will ever have.
There is no better remedy for a big night out than a medicinal Vietnamese lunch the next day, fragrant with fresh mint and coriander. West End has a long connection with the Vietnamese community, so as you would expect, the area has some of the best Vietnamese food in Brisbane.
For other Asian food, Joyful Chinese Restaurant on Brereton Street serves a great Peking Duck, and Dodomi Korean Restaurant, Melbourne Street, is tasty and very accommodating of children; something that’s always good to know.
Thanks to strong ties with the Greek Community, the 4101 has several great Greek restaurants. A Mediterranean influence is a common thread on many restaurant menus in the area. The Greek Club serves fantastic, authentic Greek food on its terrace area overlooking Musgrave Park, with views to the city. Char Char Yiros specialises in a traditional Greek method of slow cooking over mallee-root charcoal. It’s a wonderful place to sample Greek wines with friends and pick over a Char Char platter.
The 4101 folk definitely have an appreciation of natural, wholesome food, despite living in a built up, inner city locale. A number of cafes and restaurants serve vegan, vegetarian, organic, even raw food. Mondo Organics, a local institution in Hardgrave Road since 2000, has a cooking school and catering service, and has taken natural eating to a higher level, with elegant and sophisticated dishes. Sol Breads, The Banana Lounge and the Hare Krishna-run Govinda’s also dish up cleansing vegetarian food.
A couple of very diverse eateries that come to mind are Caravanserai Turkish Restaurant and The Three Monkeys. Swiss Gourmet Deli, centrally located in the middle of Boundary Street, opened in 1980, and has perfected the art of sandwich making. The legendary Gunshop also has cemented itself as one of the best known restaurants in the 4101.
Melbourne Street, leading directly over the bridge into the city, is dotted with beautiful eateries along its boulevard. Era is a classic bistro with a menu to match. The elegant lunch and dinner menus are designed to impress and satisfy. Further down Melbourne Street, the reliable Suburban Café opens at 6am for breakfast, and stays open until midnight every day, to satisfy diners at any hour.
If you want a luxe setting with stunning food to match, head down to Grey Street and the adjacent South Bank Parklands. Glamorous restaurants and bistros sparkle side by side every evening, dazzling and delighting diners on this tree-lined strip. These atmospheric restaurants are handy to QPAC and perfect for a pre or post show dinner or drink. Whatever your mood dictates, you will find something to suit; the Mediterranean inspired Olio, Ahmet’s Turkish Restaurant, complete with belly dancers, the Chinese Bamboo Basket or outstanding Italian at Dell’Ugo.
When the iconic Melbourne-based restaurant Stokehouse expanded into Queensland they chose South Bank’s River Quay. The Stokehouse has stunning city and river views, indoor and outdoor eating areas and both a restaurant and bar menu. Bacchus in Rydges Hotel South Bank, as the name suggests, is a riot of indulgence. Park yourself poolside and soak up everything on offer – the view, the food, the wine and the vibe. Bacchus also serves high tea and a degustation menu.
It’s obvious what draws locals and visitors to the 4101 dining experience. Where else is there such a concentration of great restaurants and cafes? Where else is there such a bustle of activity and a buzz in the air? I, for one, am looking forward with gusto to spending another 20 years of eating my way around the 4101.
Words by Julie McConnell | Images by Gillian van Niekerk, Darlia Argyris and Fletcher Photography