Category Archives: Where to Buy

Archive Beer Boutique Bistro, West End

This is a very enjoyable venue to spend a few hour sampling some of the finest craft beers Australia has to offer.  A short walk or a bus ride from the CBD, Archive Beer Boutique Bistro has been operating for a year or two now and occupies the large ground floor space over the road from The Hi Fi (formerly The Pavillion) and below Uber in still-a-little-bit-bohemian West End.

I’ve heard people in Brisbane complain that there aren’t as many good wine bars as we ought to have for city of our size.  This makes it even more remarkable that a venue as large as Archive, a craft beer specialist bar, no less, has made it past its first birthday.  It occupies an expansive place, open kitchen facing the deck at the entry, large wrap around bar, seating at the bar, at high stools, on couches, pool tables, dart boards, more pool tables and another function area through the archway.

I don’t know anything about the ownership behind Archive, but given the fact their beer list is long and fiercely independant, you’d have to assume this place is not propped up by rebates and kickbacks from multinational brewers.  There are no soggy bar mats, no corporate sponsored beer posters and coasters and no Lion Nathan/CUB branded uniforms.    The distinct lack of ‘tat’ makes you feel like your having a beer at a really cool mates place, who just happens to have on hand a few pints of really great beer.  The fitout is pitched to match this vibe, and cleverly combines beer crates, retro preloved uphostered couches, newspaper plastered walls and a bar lined in book spines and light shades made of the yellowed book pages.  They bathe the room in a warm beer toned glow, much like the patrons as they contemplate their pale ales and stouts. It adds up to a very clever way to fitout such a large space and a credit to the clever persons who designed it.

The food is a notch or two above your standard pub fare, with some nice tasting plates, soft shell crab, good chips and decent steaks and burgers.  But really, you’re here for the beer and the food’s good enough to compliment it without stealing the show.

My picks on the day were Lord Nelson Three Sheets Natural Ale and Holgate ‘Mt Macedon’ Pale Ale.  The beers are well stored, served in matter befitted the care with which they were created and priced keenly to have you planning your next visit before you’ve finished your first beer.  The staff at Archive will give you as much or as little assistance with choosing a beer to suit your tastes as you need and know their product.  Really a must for a specialist venue like this. 

In light of the recent demise of Platform Bar, you further appreciate the commitment to independant brewers shown by Archive Beer Boutique Bistro.

As an added bonus, you’ll find Next Door Cellars out the back where you can take home some of the beers you’ve sampled, if you’re still in a state to carry them.

Archive Beer Boutique Bistro

100 Boundary Road

West End

Phone: 07 3844 3419

www.archivebeerboutique.com.au

Where to Buy: Online Grocery Shopping – The Big Two

As a time poor business owner, the idea of having life’s essentials delivered to my door really appeals.  A gentleman’s personal gentleman such as Jeeves would be ideal, but since I am neither a gentleman or nor a member of the idle rich then home delivery will have to suffice. 

From large supermarket chains to boutique providores there are a growing number of choices when it comes to home delivered groceries and produce.  In what I hope will be a series on buying food online, I’ll be starting by comparing the home delivery services of Australia’s two major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths.  Coles online offer is known as Coles Online and the Woollies offer is known as Woolworths HomeShop.

Putting aside the preference that many of us who love food and booze have for buying locally or from small specialist producers, the big supermarkets carry the widest selection of products.  So it makes sense that from a standpoint of pure convenience, they’d be worth a shot.   I have no real routine to buying groceries, tending to torture by trolley whenever we run out of toilet paper, tissues, milk or some other essential.  I write a shopping list that seems to exist for inspiration only, and always arrive home to unpack with the realisation that I’ve forgotten to purchase something vitally important.  Herein lies one of the other great attractions of online grocery shopping: a shopping cart that you can add to over several days, or even weeks, taking out your credit card to pay from your computer when you are finally satisfied that every item your require is on the docket.

The online experience offered by the Big Two starts off much the same.  Use your postcode to validate delivery is available in your area and then create a customer account.   Both sites greet you with specials and navigation by category, offer recipes based on products they sell and offer lists of items you’ve purchased previously.   Both offer shopping cart functionality, allowing your order to be stored for multiple logins, until you are ready to finalise your order and check out and pay for your order.  

There are a few key differences between the ways the two retailers manage lists.  Coles allows you to build a list of items you buy regularly, to save you time searching for your favourite items each time you are putting together an order.  You can build as many of these lists as you like, allowing you to say set up a list for your regular grocery items, a list for stuff you’d buy if you were hosting a BBQ and a list of cleaning products you like but may buy less frequently ie. dishwasher tablets, furniture polish, disinfectant.  You can also view your previous orders.  You can add items to these lists as you shop by clicking a ‘list’ icon.  If you’re in a hurry or lacking inspiration, you can also use ‘Quick Lists’ of products like ‘Pantry Essentials’, ‘Sunday Roast’, ‘Pet Essentials’ (by pet type), and so on. 

Woolies deals with lists a little differently, you can view your previous orders as well as a master list of everything you’ve ever purchased from them before.  However, unlike the Coles online shopping site, you can’t build your own lists.  Similar to Coles, you can view ‘Quick Lists’ of Woolies assembled products, with headings like ‘Newsletter Specials’, ‘Tick Approved Products’ and ‘Winter Warmers’.   There is however only 3 of these lists, whereas Coles has 50+ Quick Lists. 

After using both sites on a number of occasions, I can firmly say that Coles offers a better online shopping experience.  They were first to market with the online shopping and home delivery service and the Woolies online shopping experience seems to largely mimic what Coles offers although in a number of areas, such as Quick Lists, only a token effort seems to have been made. 

Because you’re choosing from a virtual stock of products, occasionally your preferred items won’t be available when the order goes to picking.  Both online retailers allow you to set a default preference on whether you wish to allow substitutions, and then to adjust this at a product level. For example, you may be happier to have any brand of white sugar than you are to have a supermarket gofer chose to substitute your favourite brand of tomato chutney with some other random selection.

Once you’ve finalised your order you’ll be asked to choose a delivery time.  Coles and Woolies both offer delivery windows where the tighter the window (ie. 4 hours of hanging around vs. 2 hours of hanging around) the more you’ll be asked to pay.  The process of selecting the delivery window is a little easier on the Coles site with better visual organisation of your options and the ability to choose with a single click.  Both offer delivery to your door six days a week. 

Of course, shopping for items and placing an order online is only one half of the online grocery shopping experience.  Delivery is what seals the deal.   And this is where the offers of the Big Two really starts to diverge.

Coles consistently delivers towards the top of the delivery window, meaning less hanging around waiting for your groceries.  Items are grouped together with like products and bundled into biodegradable shopping bags.  Despite living in a security controlled building, on each occasion they have followed the instructions at our front entry and delivered the groceries to our front door after first checking in with the security office.  Items have been in good order, except for some fruit and veg items that I would probably have left in the store had it been up to me to choose.  Generally the quality of fresh produce is fine and as you would expect from a large supermarket.  Refunds for any incorrect items are handled promptly and politely with a refund issued to the shopper’s credit card within days.

Woolies on the other hand have some serious catching up to do in the area of delivery.  Deliveries arrive outside of delivery windows, after multiple calls from the dispatch office to clarify the address.  Rather than checking in with the security office and then proceeding with a delivery to our door, groceries were dumped at the security office, with glass bottles broken by the delivery driver and no offer made to clean up the mess.  Complaints were handled tardily by disinterested staff with a credit taking 3 – 4 weeks to be processed.  Woolies does offer their Everyday Rewards program which earns Qantas Frequent Flyer points, and after giving them the benefit of the doubt and receiving several botched deliveries, I have to say this is the only reason still remaining to use their online shopping service. 

Coles Online also does some nice social media stuff on Twitter.  Mention either Coles or Woolies and a Coles team member will reply to your tweets offering to help.  They even helped confirm that some tricky eco-friendly specialist light globes I was looking purchase a quantity of were indeed the right ones for my needs. 

Verdict:  Woolies came late to the online grocery party.  Rather than trying to outdazzle Coles with great service, easy to use online ordering and an efficient and well organised delivery service, it appears they simple created a ‘me too’ service, simply to tick a box on their corporate scorecard.  Whilst the Coles Online service isn’t at all personalised, it’s functional and delivers the convenience an online shopper expects from a large supermarket.

Where to Buy: Scotch Whisky

If you’re an avowed scotch and coke drinker or think whisky is best served on the rocks then its probably safe for you to skip this article.  But for those of us who like a wee dram of something more interesting than Johnny Walker, I want to turn you on to the best places in Brisbane to stock your drinks cabinet with Scotland’s Finest.  And if you’re really adventurous, there are local retailers who can also provide you with International whiskies.  Here’s a few of my favourites:

Grand Central Cellars - Brisbane CBD
Grand Central Cellars at Grand Central Hotel is my local, and their selection of whiskies would keep the most dedicated scotch drinker going for a very long time with their wide range of interesting bottles.  Not only will you find a really great selection of scotch whisky including single malts, blended malts and rarities, but if you crane your neck up to the very top of the whisky shelves you’ll see some of the most interesting very old whiskies available locally.  They also have a great selection from smaller producers, including Australian whisky makers like Lark and Compass Box.  Recently they added a selection of Japanese whiskies, including Nikka to their range.  

The staff are more than happy to let you have a leisurely browse through the selection, despite the lack of room to manoeuvre around the tiny store.  They are also very accommodating about sourcing your favourite dram from their network of suppliers. 

Stewarts Wine Co -  Ascot, The Barracks Paddington & Portside Wharf Hamilton
With whisky savant Lance Currey on staff, Stewarts have put together a massive range of scotch whisky, with the best range of offer at the newly opened store at The Barracks, Paddington.  Hell, this store has a great range of pretty much everything!  Great prices on champagne, awesome specials on wine and spirits and cover all the bases of big name whiskies right through to some more unusual bottles.  You’ll find Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Bowmore as well as a nice range of rarities from Macallan and much, much more.  A challenger for the title of Best Whisky Range in Brisbane.
Stewarts Wine Co. website

Spiro’s - Toowong
Spirits importer Neil Dixon is responsible for the excellent selection of hard to find whiskies on offer at Spiro’s Toowong.  Looking much like any other suburban bottleshop, a closer look behind the counter reveals the most impressive range of Japanese whiskies in Brisbane.  Not only that, Neil can source other rare and exotic spirits including fine gins, a very international range of vodkas and many other unusual liqueurs and spirits.  Best time to visit is on Saturday mornings, when Neil will take the time to guide you through whats on offer.  Cloudland, The Bowery and The Lark all call on Neil for exotic bottles.
Spiro’s bottleshops   Neil’s website

Other notable mentions:
Cru Cellar – James Street Market, New Farm
This is a great place for browsing for more unusual wines and spirits with extremely knowledgable and passionate staff.  If they don’t have the whisky you’re after, they will probably be able to tell you who does.

Wine @ Era – Cnr Melbourne & Merivale Streets, South Brisbane
Before you even step inside you know this place is going to wreak havoc with your credit card!  Whilst there is a strong emphasis on wine and beer, there is an enormous range of pretty much everything alcoholic.  Their range of whiskies covers all the important bases.

Purple Palate – Queens Street, Brisbane CBD
A recent entrant with a mere 3 – 4 months of trading under its belt, the buyers at Purple Palate here really know their stuff.  Its handy being able to pop next door to Bar Barossa and taste some of the fine whiskies offered for retail prices in the bottleshop, although you might find it hard to leave.  As the name suggests, they are also the best place in Brisbane for sourcing Barossa gems.

Vintage Cellars – various locations
While there are some signficant gaps in the range they have available, Vintage Cellars deserve an honorable mention here simply as they are the main stockists of the fabulous Bruichaddich range in Australia.  Add yourself to their mailing list to keep updated on the great whisky education events they run throughout the year.  They’ll spam you a little, but it’ll be worth it.

Where to Avoid
Big box liquor retailers Dan Murphys and First Choice Liquor Superstores (brought to you by Woolies & Coles respectively) both claim to have the widest range of whisky outside Scotland when in reality you’ll only find an at best average range of garden variety whiskies distributed by giants like Diageo and Suntory.  Whilst they claim to have cheaper prices, often you’ll find the same or better prices elsewhere, and a better buying experience too.  Only recommended for conservative whisky drinkers and coupon shoppers.

Not Sure About Whisky?

If you’re keen to learn more about whisky, or you don’t know where to start, the Queensland Malt Whisky Society is a great way to explore all types of whisky in a relaxed, informal setting without doing your dosh on a bottle you may not like.    Monthly meetings are held at various locations around Brisbane.  Leave a note in the comments if you’d like more information.

Where to Buy: Spices, Nuts & All Things Indian

For a long time now, I’ve been a fan of spicy foods of all descriptions, and in particular the endless variety offered by Indian regional cuisine.  Indian food is so much more than the ubiquitous Korma or Butter Chicken you get from your local takeway, there is a fantastic variety of dishes to discover.   With access to the right recipes and ingredients you can create delicious Indian dishes at home.  One tip before you start -if you restrict your spice buying to the big supermarkets, it can be very expensive. 

Here is Brisbane, the best place I’ve found is All India Foods at Woolloongabba.  Visit the warehouse style store on a Saturday morning and you’ll find the place busy with the chatter of many cultures, all keen to get their hands on top notch ingredients at knock down prices.  The core of the products on offer at All India Foods are dry goods – spices, nuts, rice, pappadums, dried beans, etc but there’s also a great range of indian pickles & chutneys, cooking oils, coconut milk as well as some rather curious Indian cosmetic products and toiletries and a nice range of Bollywood DVDs and CDs.

Here’s an example of how their prices compare to major supermarket prices:

Fennel Seeds 200g $2 – Supermarket Price: approx $3.15 for 26g
Green Cardamom Pods 50g $3 – Supermarket Price: approx $2.50 for 10g
Cumin Ground 200g $2.50 – Supermarket Price: approx $1.45 for 25g
Ord River Chick Peas 1kg $4.50 – Supermarket Price: approx $1.90 for 375g
Cinnamon Sticks 100g $3.50 – Supermarket Price: approx $2.20 for 12g
Mango Chutney 350 g jar  $2.50 – Supermarket Price: approx $4.35 370g jar
Tamarind Paste 335g jar $3.50 - Supermarket Price: approx $4.75 per 200g

The quality of the spices at All India Foods is so much better than what’s available at the supermarket as well as being a fraction of the price.  The Ord River Chick Peas are the very best quality and are grown in northern Western Australia – they are difficult to obtain anywhere else locally as most of them are exported.  If you love your middle eastern food and hommus, these are the ones you’ll want to get, and 1 kg of dried chick peas will go a very long way!

Whats the best source of spices where you live?  Or is mail order where its at for you?  Let me know your local spice source and your favourite Indian recipe.

All India Foods

31 Balaclava Street

Woolloongabba

P: 07 3391 1420