Best new restaurant ... Gerard's Bistro. Photo: Sean Condon
Brisbane food lovers would have found their visit-lists (and budgets) spiralling out of control in 2012. Just about every week it seemed that there was a new restaurant, cafe or bar to check out.
The much-anticipated Alfred & Constance finally opened, welcoming impatient hordes to its twin-cottage maze where the Jolly Roger flutters on the roof and drinks in the Tiki bar come with pineapple chunks and regulation swizzle sticks. Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan celebrated their second Brisbane venture, the breezy Riverbar, and the coffee revolution showed no sign of slowing down either. The bad news for food lovers (for waistlines as well as budgets) is that with changes and restaurant openings still afoot, it doesn't look like there'll be much respite in 2013.
But let's not dwell on what's to come, but rather look back over the year and what has been and who we reckon are the new "bests" at what they do?
Best new restaurant
Winner: Gerard's Bistro
Gerard's Lane, 14/15 James St, Fortitude Valley 3852 3822
A deep understanding of flavour is evident on this eclectic, please-everyone menu that cherry-picks its influences from around the world and seamlessly fuses them to create something that always surprises. And it's well-matched by a stylish, globally-inspired fit-out.
Runner-up: Bistro One Eleven
111 Eagle Street, Brisbane 3220 2557
See and be seen. From the street no less, as soaring glass panels allow passers-by a window to the world of the Philip Johnson-owned bistro. A pared-back menu of reinvented comfort-food standards complements the architect's vision.
Best new on-trend
Winner: Alfred & Constance
Corner Alfred & Constance Streets, Fortitude Valley, 3251 6500
A mash-up of styles and eras, yet A&C feels both very Queensland and so right now.
Whole wood-roasted beasts to share, crazy cocktails, sun-drenched decks and dancing in the living room hold appeal for a cross-section of generations.
Runner-up: The Bun Mobile
Harold and Christine Fleming's mobile van traverses the city, with fans notified by Facebook or Twitter as to that day's location and menu. Soft steamed buns with fillings like slow-cooked wagyu with butter lettuce, soy-pickled shitake mushrooms and red dragon sauce are what we come for.
Best cheap eat
Winner: Mrs Luu's Vietnamese Canteen
25 Railway Terrace, Milton, 3369 5760
You don't have to go to Inala for good Vietnamese; this casual city-fringe joint serves up a modern take on the standards. Try triple-pork banh mi ("three little piggies"), bun salads, pork and green apple rice paper rolls or a meat, rice, veggie combo without breaking the budget.
Runner-up: La Pachanga
12/123 Orange Grove Rd, Cooper's Plains, 3272 7274
No pretenders here. No pretensions either. This is the real deal; casual, no frills but with plenty of lively, tasty, regional dishes you won't see in your standard taco/nachos chain. You'll leave neither hungry nor broke and with a new appreciation for this much-maligned cuisine.
Best new gourmet cafe
Winner: Kettle & Tin
215 Given Terrace, Paddington, 3369 3778
Housed in a converted work cottage, this indefatigable work dog serves up white chocolate and rhubarb crepes for breakfast, bi bim bap burgers for lunch and Parmesan crusted lamb for dinner along with great cocktails, beer and wine, seven days a week. And the coffee's always spot-on.
Runner-up: Whistle Stop Cafe
10 Lambert Street, Indooroopilly, 3162 8896
The owners of this chilled-out cafe in a pretty cottage attempt to source everything from within a 150-kilometre radius. Their herbs and some of the veggies come from much closer – the cafe's back yard. With almost everything made in-house, including fresh lemonade, what's not to love?
Best new coffee/roaster
Winner: Ltd. Espresso & Brew Bar
362 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley
A familiar name in the competitive world of coffee, Luke Shilling is no Johnny-come-lately. A dozen years of experience means he knows his beans. Two grinders operate simultaneously; one roast for milk coffee, one for black coffee. Local roasters Cleanskin provide the blend, which changes every couple of days.
Runner-up: Reverend's Fine Coffee
372 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley
Is there anything better than good coffee? How about an ex-pastor turned bean worshipper who inspires the people of Brisbane to aim high with their search for well-made coffee? Look no further, you've found it here with the house blend courtesy of local roaster, Wolff.
Best new pub
Winner: Stumps Hotel
215 Brisbane Street Ipswich, 3202 1271
Head west and you'll find gold just outside our city limits in this historic hotel. Renowned chef Russell Armstrong has been consulting and now ex-Crosstown chef Jamie Pearce (who has also done time at Sydney's Quay) is pumping out top-rate pub fare. Oh and there's beer too. Craft beer no less.
Runner-up: The Alliance Hotel
320 Boundary Street Spring Hill, 3839 0169
The memory of its racy reputation has been erased with a lick of paint and a tidy-up, while a solid pub-grub menu of steak, seafood and meaty mains has introduced Brisvegans to the idea of a pub being for more than just drinking.
Best new bottle shop
196 Musgrave Road, Red Hill, 3367 1383
Wine writer Tony Harper has put his renowned palate and extensive knowledge to work to collect a fine range of artisan wine, craft beer and premium spirits. Currently he's indulging his interest in natural wine, but you'll find everything from cheap and cheerful to wallet-busters from around the globe.
Runner-up: InCider Trading
153 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, 0421 851 329
This boutique bottle-shop-cum-bar seeks out the different, whether it's an unusual cider or a limited-release wine. Patrons can taste a flight, buy a take-home or grab a bottle or two to share in the barrel-lined courtyard. Long live the independents.
Best new bar
Winner: Brisbane Riverbar & Kitchen
71 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 3211 9020
Why? The river view. The whimsical boathouse decor. The opportunity for a cool, green escape from Brisbane's humidity with succour to be found with a jug of Pimms or Sangria. Then there's a fun menu with drink and wallet-friendly food and a bar menu to graze on into the small hours.
Runner-up: Nant Whisky Bar
Shop 10, The Emporium, 1000 Ann Street, 3160 2633
Tucked away deep in The Emporium, Nant has bought with it from its Tassie home whisky, whisky barrels and a sharp Tasmanian produce-driven menu. Take a world flight of whisky in a a cozy grown-up's bar, where the soundtrack is the tinkle of ice in one's glass.
Best new food idea
Winner: Street food Australia
Helen Bird has a vision (she is pictured here with Street food patron Luke Nguyen). A two-wheeled vision where recently arrived migrants can get their foot in the catering door with low set-up costs. In return, city folk get to forsake their sandwich bars for a globally roaming menu of street food sold by the bicycle vendors. And being environmentally friendly, it's a win-win for all.
Runner-up: Second Bite
www.//secondbite.org, 1800 263 283
Say no to food waste. This year Second Bite who redistribute fresh food donated by everyone from farmers to caterers set up in Queensland. So far they've assisted 80 community food programs across the state with weekly fresh food deliveries – reducing waste and greenhouse gasses while helping the needy.
Best new global gem
Winner: Chow House
39 Centro on James, Fortitude Valley, 3852 5155
Yes, there are the standard pan-Asian street food dishes, but pursue the menu a little further to be rewarded with pork belly sticky with a star anise scented jus, crisply curled pig's ear, watercress, lychee and orange salad or green tea smoked duck breast with a steamed bun, hoisin, green onion and pickled cucumber.
Runner-Up: Dapur Dahlia
3/1888 Logan Road, Upper Mount Gravatt, 3161 6615
In May this year, former accountant Felina Farid found a more permanent home for her market satay stall, and it's now gaining the reputation of the most authentic Malaysian in town. Don't expect much in the way of swish decor but do expect a menu of genuine nasi lemek, roti and rendang, as well as special dishes like chicken in durian/coconut gravy.
Now it's over to you. Did your favourite new bar, restaurant or bottleshop make the list? Share your recommendations in the comments below.