Restaurant Review: Fifth Element, South Brisbane

I was keen to try Fifth Element after watching the fitout progress for a few weeks.  The anticipation was heightened when I heard that they would be first place in Queensland to install Enomatic machines.  I’d read about Enomatic’s wine dispensing technology years ago in Wired magazine and marvelled at the concept of allowing customers to use a prepaid card to taste dozens of wines.  A neat idea but possibly the kind of technology that might detract away from your tasting experience.  These machines use inert gas to allow wine to be dispensed in a taste, half glass or full glass, without the wine becoming oxidised through prolonged exposure to oxygen. 

Fifth Element has been put together by the ambitious people who brought us Byblos at Portside Wharf, Hamilton.  An altogether more streamlined venue it combines bistro, bar and bottleshop in a atmospheric inside/outside setting at one end of South Bank’s Little Stanley Street lifestyle precinct.  Blinged out with a highly polished pot still and cascading water feature behind the bar, an open kitchen and four Enomatic machines its already making an impression, with around 40 diners at various stages of drinks, tapas and dinner when we visited on a Sunday night. 

We headed straight for the bottle shop which is lined with floor to ceiling matt black wine storage dotted with the Enomatic machines we were so anxious to check out.  Two chilled machines for whites and two circular freestanding units for reds although one of the reds machines was experiencing technical difficulties of leaking gas variety on our visit and so was out of commission.  There’s also an impressive range of unusual imported beers and ciders from the US, Canada, Belgium and beyond as well as some interesting and rare spirits.

We charged our card with $50, found the cabinets of quality stemware and set about trying the merlots, shiraz and other tannic varietals.  Staff are on hand to talk you through the selection but are good enough to leave you to it once you’ve grasped the finer details of how to redeem your wine.  We restrained ourselves and tasted various merlots, cab savs and the Elephant Hill Syrah from Marlborough NZ before trying the Grange Hermitage 88 and 2007 respectively.  Even at $35 a taste this is still a more manageable way to try arguably Australian’s most revered wine.  A vintage from Hill of Grace is also available.  There’s even some tasty Lebanese reds, reflecting the heritage of Fifth Element’s backers.  Let’s just say it wasn’t long before we were recharging our Enomatic card!

It might have been the wine or maybe just the attractive dining area attached to the bar but we decided to grab a table and settle in for a light dinner.  The menu offers an interesting selection of tapas, entrees, mains, deserts and cheeses along with a wine list reflecting most of what’s available in the Enomatic machines along with a good cocktail list.  We sampled a tangy Thai style flash fried salt and pepper calamari, sand crab tomato and avocado bruschetta and fresh figs stuffed with soft cheese and wrapped in prosciutto.  All were good without being amazing but nicely complemented the Elephant Hill Syrah we were drinking by that stage.  We found it a bit hard to get the attention of wait staff to actually order the food, possibly due to the fact that having come from the wine tasting area with glasses in hand and no wait staff to greet us we had seated ourselves.  It would appear some fine tuning of service is still needed.

The inside outside vibe of Fifth Element is really great and makes grazing, drinking and lounging very comfortable.  I could see myself visiting for a drink mid-afternoon with friends and staying on for dinner and dessert. With plenty of transport options available at South Bank it makes the decision to have one more a little easier.

Fifth Element Bar & Cellar

Shop 1b, 188 Grey Street
South Brisbane
Phone: 07 3846 5584

Fifth Element website


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