Emporium Hotel, Southbank, Brisbane.
Emporium Hotel, Southbank, Brisbane.

Brisbane is our next 'world city'

The ongoing narrative of Brisbane's emergence to one day perhaps outshine its southern counterparts continues to please Queenslanders.

Everyone loves a story of optimism, of a city on the move, cranes on the horizon, efficient new infrastructure on the planning board, five-star hotels popping up along with boutique and art hotels, shopping malls revamped into almost futuristic wonderlands.

There's plenty of talk of Brisbane stepping on to the international stage as Australia's next 'world city'.

We were aware of all this, but on our visit a couple of weeks ago, Brisbane was all about the jacarandas. The city becomes a giant, soft, mauve artwork in October/November as it gently bursts into an ocean of purple, reducing even the most unromantic into a dreamy-eyed lover.

No matter where you wander this time of year, from the City Botanic Gardens to New Farm to Kangaroo Point, there is that soft purple rain falling on you, settling on roads, parks, footpaths, gardens, making a velvety carpet you hate to spoil but love to tread on.

It's a spring gift to everyone - and no visitor can resist.

After an overdose of mauve spring blossoms comes our next favourite thing to do in Brisbane. Check out the new eateries, bars and hotels.


Donna Chang, George St, Brisbane.
Donna Chang, George St, Brisbane. Mark Cranitch

The newly opened Donna Chang restaurant in George St is the city's latest buzz. With good reason. Fine Chinese cuisine in a heritage building (the old Queensland Government Savings Bank) means it doesn't get much better. Try to guess the amount of money that has been poured into restoring the beautiful old building and the restaurant fit-out, not to mention the obvious passion to make this a stand-out restaurant, and you hear yourself saying 'world-class'.

Not far away in the ever-buzzing James St with its stylish shops and air of good fortune, the newly opened boutique Calile Hotel called us in.

So new, it has not yet stamped its footprint, but it screams out money well invested.

A wander into the light-filled Lobby Bar with its acres of pink marble, long wrap-around bar and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking James St speaks of another element of a city taking itself seriously.

Even though it was just 11am we had to pull up a bar stool, order a gin and tonic, resist the bar menu and then have a wander up to Calile's level one, the pool deck where Hellenika restaurant sits imposingly overlooking the pool.


Hellenika in Brisbane.
Hellenika in Brisbane.

The new sister venue to the Gold Coast restaurant of that name was already alive at midday with guests sharing plates of mezedes over plenty of lively bonhomie - maybe contemplating coming back to dinner in one of the cabanas around the pool.

Later that night it was over to South Bank to experience Brisbane's new rooftop bar. Raves of this one had reached our ears from almost every local we knew, very proud of the new Emporium Hotel South Bank.

There is a lot of love here - the dazzling red decor of the foyer and inside the lift as it whisks you up to the 21st floor to The Terrace rooftop bar with its white back-lit onyx floor and 13m back-lit bar.

Order an uber-trendy cocktail and wander outside where panoramic Brisbane at night twinkles all its charms and you appreciate why the locals are so proud.

We managed to fit in just a teeny taste of Brisbane's new excitements. There is so much more, some to open soon, the Howard Smith Wharves development with its green spaces, boutique hotel, overwater bar and riverside restaurants is going to be a showstopper.

From our first Brisbane visit in 1988 for Expo, we fell in love with the city. Maybe it was the use of the river we made, taking the ferry to get to and from Expo, maybe it was the sharp light of Brisbane after the dull grey of Melbourne. We had a 'feeling in our waters' as Kath would say that this was a city with a thrilling future once those southern folks discovered its sub-tropical climate and all the good stuff that goes with it.