A view from the city: Brisbane

Hamish Smith speaks to Ryan Lane, General Manager of The Gresham

Where does Brisbane figure in terms of the Australian bar scene?

When one thinks Australian hospitality, almost immediately thoughts head to places such as Sydney and Melbourne, the economical and cultural hubs of this fine country. Home to such bars as Black Pearl, The Baxter Inn, Eau De Vie Melbourne and Bulletin Place. All bars that have not only dominated

the Australian Hospitality Awards scene over the years, but also picked up international recognition for their efforts.

As an Australian hospitality veteran, this makes me very proud. But a mere hour plane ride north of Sydney lies Australia’s third largest city, and home to one of the most exploding hospitality scenes. – Brisbane. What some would call “a big country/backwater town” is blossoming into possibly the greatest nightlife in Australia.

How developed is the cocktail bar scene?

To say that only now is Brisbane’s scene coming-of-age would not be true. We have had a fantastic bar scene here for many years, and for many of those years, some of the most consistently successful bartenders in the country.

The real turning point for Brisbane would have been the opening of The Bowery, way back in 2003. For the first time Brisbane would experience expertly crafted classic cocktails from two amazingly talented, world-travelled bartenders in the form of Antony Friel (now Ruby Copenhagen) and Perry Scott (fresh from the Match group in London).

I would go as far to say they’re the godfathers of the Brisbane cocktail scene… and they’ll hate me for that. This Brisbane institution would go on to win a slew of awards. The Bowery would also be the breeding ground for some of Australia’s most respected and influential hospitality professionals.

Fast forward nearly 15 years and Brisbane is home to some of the greatest bars and bartenders in the country.

What bars are pushing the scene forward now?

Brisbane is currently home to several award-winning bars, for example Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall – 2014 Australian New Bar of the Year, 2015 Gourmet Traveller magazine’s Australian Bar of the Year, 2016 Australian Live Music Venue of the Year.

Sister venue to World’s 50 Bar’s representative The Baxter Inn, Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall is a lavish honky-tonk saloon meets bordello – conveniently beamed up from the deep south of 19th-century America to Caxton St. Set in the majestic old Baroona Labour Hall, it has become a Brisbane institution in just three years. Keep an eye out for its new small bar offering, Seymour’s Cocktails & Oysters.

Boasting nearly 450 whiskies, Cobbler was Brisbane’s first true focused offering. The team live and breathe all things whisk(e)y,

but also offer amazing cocktails and a fine wine selection. All served up from some incredible award-winning bartenders.

The Gresham, nestled into an 1885-built heritage sandstone bank building has been the forerunner in the Australian hospitality scene since we cracked our large cedar doors in 2013. Current reigning Australian Bar of the Year, The Gresham decided to take the mentality of being an “every person’s bar”. Our focus on service is what sets The Gresham apart.

Add to that a beautiful heritage room, sporting 32ft-high ceilings, a passion to support not only local distilleries, but also small/craft breweries emerging from the booming craft beer industry here, a carefully selected, very large selection of whiskies from around the world, fine wines and our own coffee roaster (we are open 20 hours a day, café during the day from 7am, bar at night through to 3am).

People like to say that we’re an amazing bar, I like to say we’re a kickass pub!

What’s does the future hold for the Brisbane bar community?

I am passionate about the local industry that I have been a part of for nearly 15 years, and believe Brisbane will soon be known to all on the world’s stage. Why not come check Brisbane out for yourself? And with 261 days of sunshine a year, why wouldn’t you?