Dominated by the serpentine curves of the river, Brisbane is home to a stunning range of riverside dining spots. Meanwhile, the humid leafy suburbs teem with cafés and restaurants offering footpath dining and beautiful, cooling courtyards. Love dining alfresco? Brisbane (and a little further afield) has you covered, with shady sails, sprawling trees and cloudless blue skies at some of our favourite outdoor dining spots. Then, when it comes to getting the cheque, you can pay in confidence knowing these venues welcome American Express.
Escape the formalities of dining inside Brisbane's heritage-listed Port Office building and linger over your charcoal grilled, grain-fed hunk of Kobe Wagyu while dining alfresco on a Moo Moo veranda. One of them, furnished with high backed leather chairs and tables napped in white, overlooks the city streets shaded by jacaranda trees, while the other, complete with cushion-comfy rattan, overlooks the tops of palm trees sprouting from the courtyard of the neighbouring Stamford Hotel.
Sit under the stars on the shimmering pool deck at Rydges Southbank. Under an inky night sky, city skyscrapers peek above surrounding buildings, the pool sparkles and the ceiling of the bar has a big-screen underwater shark show projected onto it – making one thankful for dry land and cocktails. Snack from the pool bar menu or order ahead and go a little bit fancy with one of six Garden Tea packages taking high tea to another dimension.
Medley, at Kangaroo Point, takes dining alfresco to a whole new level, ranking as one of the most lovely riverside cafés in Brisvegas. The outside dining area of tiered, wooden verandas is edged with pretty flower boxes overlooking the Brisbane River and New Farm beyond. The tranquil vista of water dotted with bobbing boats, green hedges, hanging baskets and sunshine makes Medley a sublime place to pause and take in a slice of the good life.
A longstanding jewel of West End, the Gunshop does alfresco with all the bells and whistles in the courtyard out back. Enormous timber paddles from the central ceiling fan churn the air around diners settled in on bentwood chairs around wooden tables. Wood piles are the fuel for a pair of ovens, with blackboard specials written in chalk above. A creative breakfast menu features the likes of green eggs and ham (with pesto scrambled eggs), Catalunya chips and eggs and Dutch gingerbread pancakes.
Lorenzo Nobilio’s neighbourhood Osteria has two alfresco dining areas. Out front, perch on a bright red stool at the timber bar, built by Nobilio himself, overlooking the jacaranda and bohemia trees in the adjacent park; or pop out back and slide onto a timber banquette scattered with botanical-print cushions in the courtyard, where wall-mounted fans whirr and fountains trickle amongst the greenery, making the Epoca courtyard a pretty cool place to eat and imbibe.
At Il Centro, deep in Eagle Street Pier's restaurant precinct, contemporary Italian cuisine is the order of the day. The front portico, furnished with crisp, white-clothed tables and chairs upholstered with chocolate-toned weave, catches the breeze as it arrives in cooling licks from the river out front, right where the Kookaburra Queen paddle wheelers majestically dock and launch day and night. Adjacent, Mr & Mrs G's bar comes alive as the sun sets, ramping the excitement up a notch.
There's no better place to sip in the sunshine than at the Aperol Spritz pop-up bar which springs to life every Thursday to Sunday out the front of Brisbane's grand, copper-domed Customs House. Splashed with blindingly bright orange umbrellas and cushions to match with an added stripe of white, the space pops with colour, ideal for long afternoons of fun in the sun. The restaurant's shaded terrace bestows breathtaking Story Bridge and river views, making Customs House one of Brisbane's premier outdoor dining locations.
The front courtyard at Moda is the closest you'll get to Spain in Brisbane, thanks to chef Javier Codina's Spanish heritage and knowledge and passion for Iberian cuisine. Opposite the historic Port Office building, the courtyard is bound with wrought iron and hedges, secluding it from the city streets. The central chandelier twinkles soft light upon chocolate banquettes and planters filled with greenery. Moda's courtyard is the place to be for alfresco chorizo, paella and crema Catalana.
Take a drive out of town to Homage at Spicers Hidden Vale, where alfresco dining is pure joy. Dine on the verandah of the old homestead, with bush and mountain views, and delight in Ash Martin's menu, jam-packed with local and homegrown produce. Our favourite place to eat is under the sprawling fig tree near Martin's market garden. Wander the surrounds where you'll find beehives, a smokehouse, preserving room, coal pit and rotisserie.
By day, it's a tranquil place to sit by the water to take in picture-perfect Story Bridge views under the shade of Riverbar's trademark yellow and white striped umbrellas. By night, the joint transforms to party central with revellers spilling out onto the riverside walkway. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and drinks keep doors open and umbrellas up from early morn to late into the night, when the the bridge lights up and the river sparkles with the city's reflected light.