A local’s guide to Brisbane’s best laneways
Hey Melbourne, you’ve got competition.
Brisbane’s got a laneway scene and it’s spreading with the same intensity as wildfire through Westeros.
Over the past decade, the River City’s network of laneways have transformed from the pits of industrial hell to mini high streets, like the Eliza Doolittle’s of modern architecture.
To discover what’s happening on the roads less travelled, pack your appetite and your walking shoes to discover our favourite Brisbane laneways.
1. Burnett Lane
Brissie’s oldest and most well-known laneway, Burnett Lane, has you covered from your first espresso of the day to your last espresso martini.
In fact, once you’re in Burnett Lane there’s really no need to leave when you’ve got Felix cooking up breakfast, Brew taking care of lunch and Survey Co. doing the rest.
Of course, it’s more than just Brissie’s best bites that make Burnett Lane significant – the lane was a main player in Brisbane’s early history. Not only is the lane named after our first colonial surveyor, but Burnett Lane started life as a prison yard, back when Brisbane was a penal colony.
It was this history alongside its superb location that supported Brisbane City Council’s decision to give Burnett Lane a spit and polish in 2010 as part of their Vibrant Laneways Project.
This $2.5m makeover breathed new life (and street art) into the forgotten real-estate between George and Albert Streets – and Burnett Lane was reborn again.
2. Gresham Lane
Blink and you could miss Gresham Lane, which connects Queen and Adelaide Streets in the CBD.
You’ve got to hand it to Gresham Lane – its day-into-night game is strong for a laneway that’s smack bang in the corporate end of town – not quite the Mall and not quite Eagle Street.
By day, Gresham Lane is packed with suits attracted by the lunchtime draw cards of the Brooklyn-inspired Red Hook, Sparrow & Finch and Melt Brothers Grilled Cheese.
By night, it’s all about Brisbane bar, The Gresham whose dark interior lures a more casual crowd with its chesterfields and whisky collection worthy of a place on this wrap up of places to visit in the city.
3. Albert Lane
You know laneways are bang on trend when property developers fall over themselves to squeeze a laneway into big development projects.
That’s exactly how Albert Lane (the pathway which connects Queen and Albert Streets) came to fruition.
What Albert Lane lacks in grunge appeal, it makes up for in polished design and selection of dining options.
Pack your appetite for this laneway-cum-food court and tour your taste buds between Little Singapore, Vapiano, Comuna Cantina and Harajuku Gyoza – all within steps of each other.
4. Eagle Lane
Eagle Lane and Eagle Street Pier might be the yin and yang of the dining world, but together they balance dining-perfection.
Skip the Pier’s river views and fine dining, and slip behind the buildings on Queen St in favour of Eagle Lane.
This lane is home to bars and restaurants like Chingón and Brooklyn Standard, with a dining culture so comfortable you’re likely to stay longer than just a few drinks.
The laneway ramps up its cool factor with regular pop-up gigs and art exhibitions, making it the place to be come sundown on Friday.
5. Spencer Lane
Spencer Lane off Margaret Street brings a touch of New York City to Brisbane’s CBD. Think exposed brick, external fire escapes and the kind of mood lighting that makes everyone look good.
This is laneway has been architecturally pieced together, joining venues Urbane, The Euro and Laneway Bar into one seamless space.
Spencer Lane is proof that good things come in small packages – packing these three culinary heavyweights into a tiny space (read more here).
In fact, Urbane has won more awards than Meryl Streep, including three Good Food Guide (2017) chef hats and most recently, Gourmet Traveller’s (2017) choice as number one restaurant in Queensland.
Also worth a mention …
So as not to leave a laneway unturned, we have two special mentions that don’t technically have a laneway postal address, but nonetheless, take up real-estate in a forgotten corner of the CBD.
John Mills Himself – You’ve got to love a place that looks after your caffeine hit and gin-fix all under one roof. Café by day, bar by afternoon … it doesn’t matter what time you visit because John Mills Himself mixes all the bevvies like a #boss.
Strauss – If you like success stories, then you’ll like Strauss. It’s the vision of three friends who serve up simple, fuss-free brekkie and lunch in an alley in Elizabeth Street.
South Brisbane/West End
6. Fish Lane
Anything the north side can do, the south side can do better (spoken like a true south-sider) and Fish Lane, which runs parallel to Melbourne St in South Brisbane is no exception.
It’s home to some of Brisbane’s best bites and all within stumbling distance of QPAC, making it the laneway of choice for pre-show antics.
As far as a transformations go, Fish Lane is still a work in progress, but the cranes towering over West End are a good sign that more headlining restaurants and retail spaces will follow.
For now, you’ll find favourites like Julius Pizzeria, Fish Lane Bistro, and Hello Please in the Fish Lane precinct.
Discerning drinkers should make tracks to the watering-hole-in-the-wall, Maker. This cocktail bar knows its stuff. They are so good at their craft that they make ordering a classic margarita seem like a drink for the uninitiated. Seriously, ask them for a cocktail that’s lit on fire!
7. West Village
If ever there was a laneway network to watch, it’s West Village – coming soon to Boundary Street, West End.
Aside from the 1350 apartments going up around the old Peters’ Ice Cream Factory, six laneways will connect them, creating 500 square metres of community facilities amongst the site’s epic footprint.
As if the sheer size of this development didn’t have our attention already, the laneway design is said to be reminiscent of New York’s West Village, Barcelona and Copenhagen.
Until the full project reaches completion, you can get a taste of what’s to come in Factory Lane the first of the six lanes, which is already serving drinks and snacks from its shady locale.
8. Winn Lane
There’s definitely a correlation between time spent in Winn Lane and improvements to your street credibility.
We think its cool factor has got to do with the fact Winn Lane is a laneway off a laneway, which almost intensifies its appeal in the same way a double shot of coffee does to your morning heart-starter.
Don’t expect to find mainstream stores here, it’s all about boutiques like Sunday Social and food dished up by Ben’s Burgers.
These pocket-sized stores are often on rotation as savvy store owners host pop-ups in the laneway rather than take on a full lease. The best way to stay tuned with what’s on in the lane is via their Facebook.
9. Bakery Lane
Take a turn off Ann St and you’ll find this rabbit’s warren of temptation.
We say temptation because it’s the spiritual home of Brisbane’s best brownies and cocktail bars – and all within a city block.
By day, Lost Boys and Nom Nom Korean have your meals under control and by night, The APO, Laruche and The Bowery bar know how to guarantee a good time.
This modern development has all the hallmarks of a great laneway – exposed brickwork, alfresco dining and boutique shops that stock products you won’t find anywhere else in Brisbane.
10. Eden Lane
Connecting Gibbon and Hubert Streets in the ‘Gabba‘ is Eden Lane – one of Brissie’s emerging laneways.
It’s due to for ‘official’ completion in May 2017 – but the boarding is down and tenants are in and serving up a taste Eden Lane’s forbidden fruit.
Start your day on the right note with breakfast at Day Made, pick up sweet treats at 31 Degrees Custom Chocolates and get a closer shave with Jimmy Rods Shave Saloon.
Rumour has it a bar, Japanese restaurant and another café will be joining them in this promised land, which is walking distance from The Gabba.