I HAVE a natural bias towards Brisbane. It was the first major city I ever lived in and it holds a unique spot my heart.
The appeal of the Queensland capital, for me, is the fact it feels constantly in flux.
You visit one weekend and crane your neck around as you drive past sprawling construction sites. Then six months later, you return and the things from your last visit have been dwarfed by new projects scraping the skyline.
Brisbane has found itself, like Sydney, in a resurgence of small boutique bars.
They seem to pop up, then disappear, then a new one takes its place. The trend has spread from Fortitude Valley, now blooming in Brisbane City, West End and Woolloongabba.
The Villager on George St is one such heady flower. Describing itself as a "gastrobar and supper club", it treads confidently where so many other venues topple.
It acts as an after-work drinking destination, elegantly understated dining spot and probably a perfect place to start a night of adventures. They whip up fare for breakfast and lunch, but it was our dinner reservation where they showed off their flair.
The opening act was confit belly pork and salt and pepper calamari with lime aioli. Both performed beautifully alongside our brightly-coloured cocktails.
We courageously dived head-first into the mains as recommended by the owner who had stopped by for a chat.
Grilled swordfish with beetroot puree and olive tapenade for one, pork cutlets with caramelised apple, onions and sauteed kipfler potatoes for the other.
The meals were beautifully done, the helpful and flamboyant sommelier was adamant about what to drink with what and his suggestions hit each bullseye.
We skipped the tempting dessert menu to refocus our priorities - on the cocktails.
If ever you wanted to put a swift and painless end to your sobriety, the Villager Zombie is brutally efficient. Ask to have it served in the tiki and it becomes even more foreboding. Mine was a black and furious-faced statue mug, its head opening with hunks of fruit and mint. Into its abdomen were two types of Jamaican rum, three juices, sugar syrup and passionfruit.
By the time we abandoned our table to head up to its supper-club, the staircase and I were locked in battle.
From there it was Cosmopolitians for the ladies, everything else for the gents, attentive bar staff and great surrounds.
The life of the diner and the drinker is made easier as Brisbane's growing bar scene is backed by more central accommodation aimed at those in town for business.
We had only a short meander back to our room at Oaks on Felix, overlooking Eagle St Pier and the Brisbane River.
The 4.5 star hotel is walking distance from everything, whether you want to dine at Matt Moran's ARIA on the pier, or jump on a CityCat to South Bank.
OAKS ON FELIX
- Self-contained 1 to 2- bedroom in Brisbane City
- Easy walking distance to city centre plus transport.
- Views overlooking Eagle St Pier
- Pool, gym, spa, sauna, barbecue facilities, free parking
- Prices start at $184 overnight in a one-bedroom.
- Phone (07) 3023 6777 for more information.
- George St location, opposite Treasury Casino
- Describes itself as "traditional comfort food tarted up to give it an edge"
- Mains from $22-32
- Extensive wine list with knowledgeable staff.
- 18 specialty cocktails but capable of much more. Villager Zombie recommended.
- If ever you wanted to put a swift end to your sobriety, the Villager Zombie is brutally efficient
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