Words by Dorian Mode. Photography Lydia Thorpe
Rain? I saw less rain when I lived in London. So it’s time for some sunshine. Now, where do over 55’s find sunshine? Qweeeensland. But rather than the Gold Coast, why not Brisbane? What we discovered about Brisbane’s Southbank, for seniors, is the best of Brizzie’s cultural and dining scene is located in the one riparian precinct.
For this sunny sojourn, we stay at Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane. Opened in 1922 as the Queensland Government Savings Bank, the lavish columns, ornate ceilings and marble finishes imbues your stay with a feeling of opulence. After dropping the bags in our sunlit apartment, we open our balcony to absorb the Brisbane River views and onto to glorious Southbank. The apartments all come with Simba pillows – surely made with the eyelashes of angels – and are spacious and contemporary. They also come equipped with in–room laundry and kitchenette. This means you can cook in your room one night to save some coin (a reoccurring motif in this column). And all this within a lazy stroll across the bridge to Southbank.
Post unpacking, we walk over the bridge. Southbank not only is a hip dining precinct but cradles Brisbane’s impressive museums and galleries; all within spitting distance from each other. At GOMA (Gallery Of Modern Art), we see The Soul Trembles, showcasing twenty–five years of Chiharu Shiota’s arts practice. We move swiftly past photos of the artist naked and rolling around in the mud in an attempt to “connect with Mother Earth”. (Want Mother Earth? Come to my house and do some weeding.) Then follow the rabbit warren of her Biennale–style installations. Chiharu Shiota’s artworks are impressive in their imagination and, moreover, their extraordinary execution. We note suspended suitcases from the ceiling: the artist’s homage to The Ruby and Majestic Princess (okay, I might have made that up). As a writer I was particularly moved by the writing desk, with its explosion of paper flowering above it: the writer’s imagination made manifest. We then emerge in a womb of floor–to–ceiling strands of red wool. My wife nudges me and says, “gee, I could knit a thousand cardis with all this wool.”
We then stroll over to the impressive Queensland Museum to uncover the magic behind 100 years of Walt Disney in Disney: The Magic of Animation. You underestimate the impact that our cryogenically chilled chum, Walt Disney, had on generations of youngsters. Whether it’s Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast or Frozen (apt in Walt’s case) it’s a part of everybody’s childhood from 7 to 70. Moreover, unpacking the processes of animation pre–computers is also fascinating.
However, we are feckless out–of–towners. So one of the best ways to know Southbank is through the eyes of a local yokel. That arvo we meet Sue from Brisbane Greeters. This is a clever and free service run by cheery senior volunteers. These kindly folk will chaperone you around Brizzie and chat about their very pretty city of which they are so proud. Indeed, Brisbane Greeters have shared their passion with over 80,000 tourists since the first tours in 2012. As Sue guides us around Southbank, she unpacks points of interest that would otherwise have escaped us. This free service is highly recommended.
Sue talks a lot about the impact of Expo88. Interestingly, it was the chrysalis for Southbank’s reimagining. And Southbank’s Nepalese Pagoda is a fave with locals. This three–story high Pagoda took more than 160 Nepalese families to construct. Shrouded in tall bamboo, it was originally schlepped to Brizzie as the Kingdom of Nepal’s contribution to the Expo.
Now Brisbane is hot. So why not visit Streets Beach? This is a unique bespoke sparkling blue lagoon surrounded by white, sandy beaches and sub–tropical plants, all set within Southbank. So you can frolic on Australia’s only inner–city beach on a warm Brizzie day.
That evening we trace the path along the Brown Snake (as locals call the Brisbane River) to arrive at the culinary palindrome that is Otto. This restaurant has the wow factor, with egg table lights and swirling, hula–skirt chandeliers. Its romantic setting defies superlatives as lights from the Brisbane CBD shimmy on the skin of the mud–scented river. But it ain’t cheap. $55 for five pasta pockets. Consider wearing a pocket hanky.
The following day we enjoy the ferry. The City Hopper is a free (yes, f–f–free!) ferry service that chugs along this very pretty river, stopping at picturesque jetties at Southbank. There are seven stops between North Quay and New Farm and the service runs every 30 minutes between 5.30 am and midnight.
Later that evening we find groovy Fish Lane’s Southside. Set in a Jurassic arboretum of giant tree ferns, here you’ll enjoy chic Asian–infused cuisine, all presented in steaming bamboo pots. A funky jungle soundtrack drowns out the squealing brakes of trains overhead, but this adds to its edgy inner–city hipness. We feel a groovy 20 again. But when we stand at meal’s end our bones tell us otherwise. The best value is the set menu $79 + $35 for the matching wine package.
The following morning, we had breakfast at a cafe called BillyKart. Remember Billy Carts? Whenever you’d see an old pram on a clean–up you’d whip the axles and wheels off to make one. Now people throw perfectly good bikes on the street. Kills me. But don’t get me started! Anyhoo, enclosed in a palisade of lofty tiger grass, we enjoy their Turkish Eggs with braised kale, yoghurt and lemon ($24) all served with toe–curling coffee.
Later we find the Epicurious Garden. ‘Epicurean’ means someone who enjoys food and drink. You and I call em “foodies”. At Epicurious Garden, visitors learn to cook with home–grown produce such as kale, fennel and turmeric, as well as a variety of fruits, herbs and edible flowers. A favourite with seniors, the garden is maintained by a team of dedicated staff, and it’s a fascinating afternoon for anyone who enjoys cooking.
Our final dining experience is the best. Here we follow Southbank’s grand arbour – a tunnel of curling Bougainvillea – and follow the aroma of deliciousness to Popolo. Perhaps the Goldilocks of Southbank nosh–spots, Popolo’s generous servings and stunning quayside setting is without pretension. Try their degustation package with matching wines. Indeed, Hemingway once wrote, ‘nothing tastes of the sea like an oyster’. But Ernie never tasted Popolo’s Seafood Linguine. Popolo’s wines are perfectly matched with your dishes, and Gawd, you’ll struggle to finish the courses and delicious glasses. As you contemplate a prawn the size of an old–school telephone receiver, you’ll watch the City Hopper ferries glide past and smile serenely. Banquet $110pp. Wine match $55pp
As we sit in Brisbane airport, with our travellers’ tans, waiting for our flight home I check the weather app.
FACT BOX #1
Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane is a beautiful hotel in a heritage–listed building at 171 George Street, close to Queen Street Mall and a 15–minute walk from bustling South Bank with its cool bars, restaurants and parklands. Adina is a 20–minute drive from Brisbane Airport. Princess Alexandra Hospital is only a 10–minute drive away.
This CBD hotel features contemporary studios and apartments comprising one, two or three bedrooms, as well as a gym and a pool, and a beautiful restaurant and bar in the ground floor lobby space, which celebrates the building’s Art Deco origins.
The average room rate is $350–ish per night.
FACT BOX #2
Brisbane Greeters is a member of the International Greeter Association (IGA). All greeters around the world share the same core values. For more information visit the International Greeter Association (IGA) website.
Continue to check the Brisbane Greeters website as more greet locations are added throughout the year.
For more information, or if you require assistance to make a booking, email the Brisbane Greeters team or phone Council on 07 3403 8888.