Back in the 90s, Fortitude Valley was an alternative epicentre known for seedy underground bars and clubs where you could catch the latest touring rock band – dreadlocks flying, dirty Converse dancing. It was all very grungy, dark and edgy… and much of it still is. It’s been the perfect breeding ground for a new wave of design savvy movers and shakers to change the face of one of Brisbane’s favourite rebels.
Just as those ‘Valley Rats’ from the clubs have grown up and matured, so has their old stomping ground. A huge growth and renewal has taken place in the back streets of Fortitude Valley, and it all began on Alfred and Constance Streets.
For the most part, it’s been brought to us by Damian Griffiths (the man behind one of Brisbane’s first designer boutique hotels, Limes Hotel) and his go-to designer, Alexander Lotersztain from Derlot. The duo started at Limes, with its much-loved, funky rooftop bar and outdoor movies, before branching out into the restaurant and bar scene with the refurbishment of two historic Queenslander cottages down on the street corners it’s named after.
Alfred & Constance was an instant hit. Home to four separate dining and drinking areas – the vintage-themed The Vanguard Beer Garden, the dark and moody Black Room, the parlour-inspired Hemingway Room and that kitschy fave, Tiki Bar – it’s all been decked out in that signature Lotersztain style of quirky and cool.
Take a few extra steps and you’ll be delivered to, quite possibly, your new favourite pizzeria. Alfredo’s is a local hotspot where you can feast on wood-fired pizzas, pasta and Italian comfort food, served up at old school red and white checkered tables under the glow of their now iconic retro neon yellow sign. And yep, you guessed it, Alexander Lotersztain is behind the design here too, so the whole vibe feels as good as the food tastes.
The latest ‘IT’ place to hit the corner is set (literally!) into a hole in the wall right beside Alfredo’s Pizzeria. It’s all about one thing and one thing only: doughnuts. Crazy delicious doughnuts. Doughnut Time will seriously tempt you into a massive sugary blowout, with the round delights baked fresh daily over at Chester Street Bakery where they fearlessly mix up ingredients and give each creation a name like The Russell Crowe (topped with salted popcorn), the Oreoadorned First You Twist It and the bacon-themed Ya Bacon Me Crazy. Bacon on a doughnut. Enough said. Doughnut Time is the new crowning glory in the Griffith Group five, the fifth being Kwan Brothers next door. Lotersztain’s midas touch extends to the design here too (the man can do no wrong!) and it’s one of the coolest venues for small-plate Asian delights we’ve come across in town, serving up dishes inspired by the hawkers markets of Singapore and the Izakayas of Tokyo.
But if it’s gin that takes your craving, you’ll do well with a night out at Dutch Courage Officers’ Mess – they serve up more than 80 different types of the clear nectar, with an ambience that’s inspired by the British colonial outposts of the late 19th century. It’s all very sophisticated, chic and oh-so-swoony. You can cover an incredible array of experiences just sticking around this one crossroad, but venture a little further down Constance Street and you’ll find two more gems that should not be missed. Craft beer lovers tend to head to The Mill, occupying the lower level of an historic brick building that was once a flour mill (hence the name) and a World War II base for US soldiers. That all only adds to the curious allure of this place – it’s the kind of space where you’ll come to curl up on a chesterfield lounge and commune over a few cold ones. The beer menu is extensive, with a rotating assortment of craft beers on tap.
Inspired by that urban culture the Valley is known for, TRYP Hotel has moved in to the lower end of Constance Street and brought with it all manner of contemporary street art from some of Australia’s finest street artists, including the likes of the brilliant Beastman. As the first art hotel in Brisbane, it’s got it all going on – from the beer and impressive burgers being served up in Chur on the ground level with its own graffiti covered beer garden, to the suave finishes of the hotel rooms and the swanky rooftop bar. It’s a perfect example of how Fortitude Valley has evolved – a nostalgic contrast between sleek sophistication and edgy audaciousness. A rebel with a cause.
Photography by Marina Ridgway