Blackbird Bar & Restaurant opens in Brisbane

The kitchen crew ... Executive chef Jake Nicolson, head chef Anthony Donaldson and pastry chef Lee Wright at Blackbird ...
The kitchen crew ... Executive chef Jake Nicolson, head chef Anthony Donaldson and pastry chef Lee Wright at Blackbird Bar & Restaurant. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

One of the most anticipated openings of the year, Blackbird Bar & Restaurant launched last night at the site of the old Queensland Rugby Club.

The venue, owned by the Ghanem Group, who also have 5th Element at South Bank and Byblos at Portside, cost almost $2 million dollars to refurbish. The interior is inspired by the 1920s and includes a rug from the set of the Great Gatsby, gold 'quilted' Spanish tiles around the bar and a wine room with a claw-foot bath and vintage decanter feature light (pictured).

The fit-out is matched by million dollar views of the Story Bridge and Brisbane River, both from inside the restaurant and outside at one of the two bars; a vista previously only available to members of the rugby club, who ran the space for less than two years before going into liquidation in July 2012.

Opulent ... The fit out takes inspiration from the 1920s.
Opulent ... The fit out takes inspiration from the 1920s. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Egalitarianism seems to be the order of the day with Blackbird boasting a well-priced menu with steaks cooked on the wood-burning Infierno grill priced from $28 to $39. The wood grill, (imported from the US and reportedly the only one of its kind in Australia) will also feature in dishes designed to share; from a cumin spiced and marinated slow-roasted barbecue lamb shoulder to wood-grilled chicken wrapped in vine leaves with native thyme.

Entrees are priced from $18 to $22 and mains between $28 and $38. Lunches, with a glass of wine, come in at under $25 for meals such as the 'Bay Bug Club' – a Moreton Bay Bug club sandwich with a light bisque aioli, jamon bacon and gem lettuce.

“We don't want to be perceived as a venue that is too exclusive, said The Ghanem Group's Nehme Ghanem.

Decorative touches ... A bathtub on the ceiling.
Decorative touches ... A bathtub on the ceiling. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

”We might look opulent but want to be approachable and friendly. We want people coming in once a week instead of once in a while, we're happy to sacrifice profit margins for that.”

The Blackbird team includes executive chef Jake Nicolson, who has come from Melbourne's Circa The Prince (and before that London's The Ledbury and The Square) along with head chef Anthony Donaldson and pastry chef Lee Wright, all of whom have worked together both here and abroad. Nicolson's partner Penny Grant is Blackbird's sommelier, charged with putting together what she says is a "maintainable" list of around 200 to 250 wines with a focus on small wineries.

There's also an eclectic cocktail mix by Aaron Clark, who's worked in London, France and New York and served the likes of Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Madonna, Robbie Williams, Jude Law and Brad Pitt, among others. The list is based on recipes from the 1920s, including drinks like Rumble in the Bronx made with a base of cigar-infused Appleton 8 rum.

Sommelier Penny Grant.
Sommelier Penny Grant. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

'The Bootleggers' section of the cocktail menu takes inspiration from bootleggers who used different methods of hiding alcohol from the authorities. These cocktails are served in everything from medicinal tincture bottles, to milk bottles, to hip flasks.

The bar will open late with a license allowing drinks to be served until 5am. A bar menu will also be offered for late-night dining.

Blackbird Bar & Restaurant, 123 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 3229 1200.