Eagle Street Pier is Brisbane’s original and arguably most successful restaurant precinct. It’s now been trading for almost 20 years, but in the last five it seemed to lose its way. Pier Nine, the premier spot for seafood and high class fish and chips closed its doors as the Hill-Smith family focussed on winemaking and other interests. City Rowers became Jade Buddha and Ted Stewart’s Vino’s restaurant and function centre closed after several years of inconsistent trading. With new owners Stockland coming on board there was talk of a substantial redevelopment of the site which created uncertainty for traders. Then the ‘global financial crisis’ came and everything got a little quiet and the rumours died down. Throughout this Andy & Marcia George’s Il Centro and John Kilroy’s Cha Cha Char carried on offering calm and consistency at the centre of the storm.
The opening of Aria by celebrity chef Matt Moran in mid 2009 created renewed optimism for the precinct and now as 2010 draws to a close there is a rash of new venues opening their doors. I’ll leave it for Stockland’s PR machine to list them all out, but some highlights are the contemporary Japanese Sake Restaurant and Hamptons styled Jude Café, both of which are in soft opening mode. It’s got to be a difficult time to open a new restaurant with chronic staff shortages affecting many operators.
Let’s get this out of the way: Bavarian Bier Café is part of a chain. There’s already a bunch of them trading in Sydney along with Lowenbrau Kellen at the Rocks. The formula is great German beer, a menu with something to please everyone and young female waitresses with plenty of cleavage on display, without straying into Hooters territory. If you’re blond haired and blue-eyed, then so much the better.
The Brisbane venue occupies the plum spot at Eagle Street Pier, upstairs with a 180 degree view of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. There’s a number of distinct dining areas with long bench seating for groups, high stools for boozy afternoons or Parisienne style tables for two lining the bottom tier of the indoor dining area with even more bench seating on the wrap around verandah. A large bar curves around the central atrium with suspended glass racks reflecting light into the indoor dining area. It’s not quite as spectacular as when 90′s night spot Grand Orbit occupied the premises but it’s a successful design that make the most of the dramatic curves and expansive multi-level space.
Obviously you’ll want to try the beer and schnitzel. We polished off several Lowenbrau and Hofbrau steins (300ml, 500ml and 1 L all on offer) along with Franziskaner Hefe Weissbier Hell and bottled Paulaner Hefe Weissbier and Franziskaner Kristall Weissbier. The ‘ladies beer’, a Weissbier with a choice of cherry, peach, banana or lychee flavouring didn’t appeal and the wine list was pretty pedestrian, but it hardly matters since the beer is so good. Ordering wine here would be like ordering a Thai chicken pasta at the pub.
We chose a pretzel, beef schnitzel and Nurnberger sausages with mash, sauerkraut, onion rings and Lowenbrau jus for lunch along with french fries. Everything was competently cooked and made with quality ingredients. I revelled in the flavours of my youth, remembering stealing forkfuls of sauerkraut from the fridge as a kid and the deli next to the fruiterers where my sister and I were given cheese kransky and German sausages to snack on. The schnitzel filled the plate and was adorned with nothing more than a lemon wedge. The fries turned out to be chips but they were cooked just the way I like them. The menu is pretty extensive with salads, starters, schnitzel, mains, house specialties and dessert as well as platters and pizzas. Pizzas topped with German sausages will no doubt appeal to blokes drinking with other blokes after work who enjoy watching ladies sampling the cocktails and ‘ladies beers’.
Service was a little scattered but then the staff are still settling in. There was a more than adequate staff to patron ratio when we visited on a wet Saturday afternoon, but getting the bill was close to mission impossible. After our second failed attempt to get the bill, we got up to pay only to be led on a full circuit of the dining area back to a station metres from our table.
I’ve already heard someone make comparisons to the venerable German Club opposite the Gabba, and whilst both offer German beers, schnitzel and pork knuckle, they’re two very different animals. Yes the food is cheaper at the German Club and the beer selection isn’t restricted to stuff made by Anheuser-Busch. However, the Bavarian Bier Café has great views and a concept that will appeal to tourists, locals and families alike. As it’s two blocks from my house and has a kitchen that stays open until 10pm every night of the week, I reckon I’ll be back.
Bavarian Bier Cafe
Level 1, Eagle Street Pier
45 Eagle Street, Brisbane
07 3339 0900