Canvas Cocktail & Wine Bar
- (07) 3891 2111
16 Logan Rd,
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- Price Range:
- Moderate - (mains $15 - $30)
July 15, 2011
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The thing about opening a small bar in Brisbane is that it will inevitably be compared to bars in Sydney and Melbourne. No matter how original you try to be. It. Will. Be. Compared.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s a lot of great things Brisbane could learn from southern hospitality. But we’ve really got to get over our little-sister complex. (Would the day ever come when a bar in St Kilda or Surry Hills is applauded as being 'very Brisbane'?)
Now, Woolloongabba's one-year-old Canvas Cocktail & Wine Bar may be young, but she's far too comfortable in her own skin to be bothered by what they're doing in other cities.
Tucked between the restaurants of the popular Logan Road precinct, you enter Canvas via a short ramp to the below street-level floor, a smart design that immediately makes you feel you've arrived somewhere, not just tripped in accidentally off the street.
There’s second-hand furniture - low tables, leather sofas - but it doesn’t feel mothballs-and-furniture-wax vintage. There’s a feature wall with a mural painted by Brisbane artists Jimmy Bligs and Teibo, but it doesn’t have the street-art gallery feel that it might if it were overdone. It doesn’t feel like anywhere else. It's lovely.
On a recent visit, I arrive with a friend about 8.30 and we take our seats at the only available table left. The crowd is mostly 30-something, chic, and look very much at home. Though they're busy, one of the bar staff is at our side almost straight away with water and the drinks list.
While there's a small selection of wine and a decent range of beer and cider, it's the cocktails that are the focus at Canvas. One of the bar's four co-owners, Marco Nunes, is one of Brisbane’s best-known bartenders, and he's created some very original cocktails from a mix of top-shelf spirits and truly unusual ingredients.
One called a Night at Mama's catches my eye, mostly for curiosity value, with its walnut-infused Maker's Mark, dry Oloroso Sherry, bitters and a quail egg ($17), as does a Middle-Ages-meets-Middle-Kingdom-sounding concoction called a Mandarin and Saffron Crusta (Bombay Sapphire, Mandarine Napoleon, mandarin juice, Riesling and wormwood syrup, mandarin bitters and a saffron tincture).
But the promise of 'leather and cigar bitters' in a Most Wanted cocktail ($17), however, seals my choice, and it arrives in a tumbler, a blend of ten-year old Talisker Scotch whisky, balanced with the sweetness of vermouth, Benedictine and cocoa liqueur. It's strong and sweetly smoky.
We've also ordered a Montenegro Sour, with Amaro Montenegro and quince liqueur, as well as the usual egg white and lemon juice ($16). Both cocktails are grown-up without being too serious.
There's also a small food menu, nothing too complicated, nothing that constitutes a meal, just elegant plates to pick over. We get a charcuterie board, $35, with a selection of cured meats with good toasted bread, tomato chutney, cornichons and caperberries.
Canvas' owners, including Marco and his wife Emily, and Tom Sanceau and Bonnie Shearston, have evidently taken the trouble to create a very Brisbane destination, from the locally sourced vintage furniture to the works by Brisbane artists (the illustrated drinks list is literally a work of art). Even the coffee used in the cocktails comes from a West End roaster.
Our one gripe was about an evidently well-pickled group who shouted, stumbled, threw a drink on the ground and generally caused enough racket as to visibly annoy almost every other guest. It's something that I don't doubt is difficult for hospitality staff to deal with - how do you ensure everyone feels welcome while trying to limit drunken behaviour? - but one that I'd hope not to encounter when you're paying $17 for a drink in a small bar. I can get that elsewhere.
As the only cocktail bar on a strip of restaurants in a suburb pretty much devoid of options for a quiet drink, Canvas was always going to be a success.
But its devotion to good taste and refusal to be anything other than exactly what it wants to be has secured its place as one of Brisbane's best bars.
This reporter is on Twitter: @georgiawaters
- (07) 3891 2111
16 Logan Rd,
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- Cocktails $17
- Tuesday-Sunday 3pm-midnight
- Asher Kilner-Blackford
- Marco Nunes, Emily Nunes, Bonnie Shearston, Tom Sanceau