Why Howard Smith Wharves is the hottest place to be in Brisbane right now
Summer has arrived in Brisbane but it’s not just the weather heating things up. A once-derelict piece of prime land just 10 minutes’ walk from the CBD has been transformed into the city’s hottest new dining and lifestyle precinct. Say hello to the Howard Smith Wharves.
The wharves were built in the 1930s to provide residents with work during the depression. Largely abandoned since the 1960s, that all changed in 2017 when work began to transform the heritage-listed sheds into a world-class destination for locals and visitors.
The Howard Smith Wharves are nestled between Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge and the New Farm cliffs, with a 180-degree vista of the city skyline and river. AKA if you’re looking for Insta-worthy views, this is the place.
But it’s not just the outlook bringing the crowds.
A steady stream of restaurants, bars and event spaces have opened over the past month in the lead-up to Christmas, making it one of the hottest places to be this summer.
Several more eateries and Art Series Hotels’ flagship 164-room, five-star hotel – dedicated to four-time Archibald People’s Choice Award winner, Vincent Fantauzzo – will follow suit in the first quarter of 2019.
Arguably the jewel in the crown of the $200 million redevelopment is Mr Percival’s, an octagonal overwater bar perched directly under the Story Bridge.
Remember the pelican from childhood Aussie film Storm Boy? Well, it’s named after him. Since its opening two weeks ago, Mr Percival’s has become Brisbane’s new go-to place to see and be seen.
We’re not in Kansas any more people, Brisbane is all grown up and it’s just as sparkly as the Emerald City.
The structure and its interior were created by design guru and local Anna Spiro (she of Halcyon House fame). And just like the Howard Smith Wharves, Mr Percival’s is a destination. It’s a get-dressed-up-for-a-night-out kind of place.
The DJs stand on top, that’s right, of the stacked, octagonal mirrored bar and it’s not uncommon for them to be joined by saxophonists and bongo players. When the sun goes down and the city lights turn on, the party really gets going. But it’s not all party, party, party.
The expansive deck overlooking the river means there’s plenty of room for a leisurely lunch or dinner.
The menu is based around seafood, we are in Queensland after all, and is headed by acclaimed chef Damien Styles. Treat your taste buds to three different types of caviar (eaten off the back of your hand, no less) or dive into some lobster rolls as well as freshly grilled scallops, octopus and Mooloolaba king prawns.
Trust us when we say they go perfectly with champagne and cocktails at sunset.
But if the Euro-summer vibe doesn’t take your fancy, there’s plenty of other options at Howard Smith Wharves, like these guys:
Felons Brewing Co
Felons was the first kid off the block when it opened in a mammoth shed in the heart of the precinct in November.
It may be a big space, but it’s a chilled one. With its on-site brewery (producing four beers and one cider) and seating overlooking the water, it’s the perfect place to spend a summer’s day.
There’s also no chance you’ll go hungry at this modern gastro-pub. Aside from classics like burgers, fish and barbecue chicken, there’s also a 1kg rib eye steak ideal for sharing and an extensive menu of woodfired pizzas with dough made using its Australian Pale Ale.
Felons also run tours and have plans to become a national beer brand. XXXX, once the staple in town has been seriously challenged by a slew of breweries in and around Brisbane.
The man behind Sydney’s famed restaurant The Apollo has finally ventured north of the border to give Brisbane his own take on the food of the gods.
Jonathan Barthelmess’ contemporary Greek taverna, which opened on December 8, is hidden amongst the olive trees inside one of the renovated buildings.
If you can’t decide between classic favourites like dolmades, spanakopita and lamb shoulder, then why not go full Greek, quite literally, and have it all?
Do as the Europeans do and share the Full Greek set menu with your family and friends. Or if that isn’t enough to satisfy your festive hunger, there’s also the Almighty Aphrodite and The Apollo Feast.
Don’t forget to be a sticky beak and check out the private dining area upstairs, nestled high above the beams in the roof.
ARC Dining and Wine Bar
Star Sydney chef Alanna Sapwell was just announced as the head chef of this new offering, which, alongside Felons, Mr Percival’s and the event spaces, has been created by the people behind the Howard Smith Wharves redevelopment.
Sapwell is leaving hatted fish restaurant Saint Peter to take up the helm and we couldn’t be happier.
Located at the New Farm end, the bar is set to start welcoming the masses this Thursday, with the restaurant slated to open early next year.
The migration north of Sydney Harbour continues in 2019 as popular eatery Toko is welcomed to the Howard Smith Wharves fold.
Matt Yazbek will bring his casual Japanese dining concept to the Brisbane riverfront, following openings in Melbourne and Dubai.
The only other restaurant to be announced so far is Stanley, a Cantonese-Chinese restaurant located next to Toko.
It’s owned by Brisbane husband and wife duo Andrew and Jaimee Baturo, of Libertine fame.
The kitchen will be run by local chef Kym Machin, who’s known for his popular southside eatery Bare Bones Society. It’s also set to open in the first quarter of 2019.
Thinking outside the box
The group behind the Howard Smith Wharves unashamedly want the area to be Brisbane’s hottest food and beverage precinct.
But with more than 80 per cent of the area allocated to public space, they also want to reacquaint people with the river.
Chief executive officer Luke Fraser says they want people to walk, ride and scoot through the grounds, while also taking time to sit and enjoy the surrounds.
From 2019, the open spaces will be used as a playground for outdoor festivals, markets and pop-up marquees.
Coincidentally, the 2.7 hectares of natural parkland means there is also plenty of greenery to lie down on after you’ve sampled all of the culinary options on offer.
The boardwalk along the river’s edge and the footpath behind the wharves connect with the New Farm River Walk and another that leads into the city.
Two lifts have also been installed to help people get from the top of the cliffs to the precinct below, while a new City Cat stop is expected to open in 2020.
The Howard Smith Wharves are located under the Story Bridge, at 5 Boundary St, Brisbane City.