30/11/2004 - 21:00

Warming up for hijinks in Highgate

30/11/2004 - 21:00

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NEW FACE: Geoff Hayward's The Brisbane will open this week, providing one more reason to enjoy summer in Highgate.

Warming up for hijinks in Highgate

THE Brisbane Hotel officially opened its doors this week and, aside from a great looking pub serving up good food and good tunes, the venue provides even more reason to make Highgate the place to be this summer.

All along Beaufort Street, from The Brisbane to The Queens, there’s an eclectic mix of venues to suit most palates, Siena’s and Jackson’s Restaurant among them.

Those after a chic vibe can head for a cocktail at Luxe, a vino at Must Winebar or a coffee at Soto.

And while Jackson’s Restaurant might not seem like a good synergy with The Brisbane, Jackson’s Restaurant proprietor Neal Jackson believes the newest addition to the Highgate hospitality scene is good for his business.

“It makes Highgate more of a destination place and people might walk past my restaurant and see that we are here, and so that has to be good,” Mr Jackson says.

“The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy and there has definitely been an increase in the amount of people coming in; but they are also spending more, the average spend is up.”

Business is also brisk for Must Winebar operator Russell Blaikie, who believes The Brisbane is a welcome addition.

“I’d say first of all that Highgate is a place where you can go out without having to decide where you are going to finish up, that’s the momentum we have here. If you want Italian you can go to Siena’s, there’s a few Indian places and if you want the pub thing you’ve got The Queens and The Brisbane,” Mr Blaikie says.

“And if you want a great glass of wine from a great list you can come to Must.”

Consultant manager to The Queens, Brian Hopley, admits the Highgate stalwart might lose a few numbers to the new pub down the road, but says The Queens has been very busy and expects enough people will come to Highgate this summer to provide both venues with plenty of trade.

But, not wanting to be outdone by the newcomer of course, The Queens is winning favour with Friday night sundowner enthusiasts by offering massages. Yes, you read correctly, massages.

“It’s every Friday from 5pm to 7pm and basically it involves massage therapists that walk around the bar and the outdoor areas and invite guests to have a shoulder and back massage,” Mr Hopley says.

“The reaction from people is quite funny because at first they are embarrassed and then they see someone else get one and then they’re wanting one straight away.

“For us it’s a bit of a good PR exercise because we also get feedback from the people getting massages about what they like and don’t like about The Queens.”

It seems the massage offering is another of The Queens’ clever marketing initiatives to lure customers away from the newcomer.

“You could argue it is because The Brisbane is opening but we’re doing things like painting walls and impro-ving the place all the time,” Mr Hopley says. “We had the mist [water vapour spray for the outdoor area] last year and we’re doing it again now because our customers really enjoy it. It does make the outdoor area cooler.”

There are no massages in The Brisbane’s beer garden but what the venue lacks in gimmicks it certainly makes up for in style.

It’s a gorgeous resort-style outdoor area, complete with a long, skinny water pond with delicate water irises – certainly a great place to knock back a cold one this summer. Inside there’s the long bar, dining areas, pool tables, and a DJ booth.

But let’s not forget the food.

The Brisbane is offering great pub grub but in a very up-to-date fashion.

There’s Roman-styled pizzas prepared to order, clubs and burgers, pastas, and a grill to whet any appetite serving grain-fed scotch fillet, aged eye fillet, yearling veal t-bone, and char-grilled baby chicken, all of which are served with chips or creamy mash.

The man in charge of the kitchen is former Altos and Bar One head chef Anthony Schell, who was lured back by The Brisbane’s owner, Geoff Hayward, while working as the head chef for Sydney’s acclaimed Bathers Pavilion in Bondi.

The pub’s general manager, Marcus McQueen, knows the Highgate scene well.

His CV includes a stint managing The Queens but more recently he managed Melbourne’s famous Young and Jackson pub.

According to Mr Hayward, spending the better part of 2004 renovating the 106-year old pub has resulted in a venue that’s perfect for just about anyone.

“The pub caters to such a wide audience,” he says. “The Brisbane is your local corner pub with an urban twist.”

The Brisbane is now open from 11am until late, Monday to Sunday.

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