It’s easy to spend the weekends within routine; we’re all thirsty and we all know where we can go out and get a drink. We all like the comfort of familiarity: checking into the same bars and tagging the same faces before we buy the same drink. But every now and then a gust of inspiration sweeps over us fun-hungry Gen-Y’s, desperate to rinse the bank in a manner we haven’t done before. It’s this lust for change that drives our progression, plunging us into unfamiliar situations that fall outside what we’re used to. And it’s then, my friends, those times that stray from the norm, that we always seem to have the most fun.
If you’re nurturing a nasty habit of drinking more than you should, throwing away a large portion of your expendable income on any given weekend is probably an integral part of your poorness. Alas, a few hundred over a weekend in your home city seems nothing on the insurmountable amount of cash outlay required to jet abroad. It’s this separation of cost that spawned the mini-vacation, a one or two night hotel-driven holiday that doesn’t require you forking out an extra $300 to sit in a crappy seat next to a crying baby to fly to a city you’ll spend most of the weekend trying to figure out.
The amazing hubs dotted around Australia that lend themselves to this relatively new phenomenon have nurtured the rise of these escapes. Melbourne has Prahran, Sydney has Surrey, and Brisbane has Constance Street, namely Limes Hotel and Roof Top Bar, Alfred & Constance and Alfredo’s. This delicious little hub of food, drink and comfort is mini-vacation verified, providing an almost entirely self-sufficient grouping that’s scarily good at making you forget you’re in the same city you’ve lived in all your life. We’d heard talk of it, but last weekend a story from such a place was worth being told.
A man and a woman stand in the foyer of Limes Hotel and Roof Top Bar in Brisbane. The man exchanges his bankcard for a short form required to check in. The friendly receptionist takes his bankcard so that if (when) the two Brisbane residents demolish the mini bar in a drunken stupor at 3am, they’re charged accordingly. After formalities are brushed aside, the man thanks the receptionist, slings his overnight bag over his shoulder and wanders hand-in-hand with the woman toward the lift. They’re on floor three of the beautifully designed five-story complex. ‘Half-way to the top ain’t bad,’ the man thinks to himself. The woman smiles as the two of them hop into the lift. She couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend.
The two let out a sigh of relief as the door swings open to their temporary home-away-from-home. The woman immediately notices the in-house Nespresso machine. “That’s amazing,” she says to the man, who smiles, teeth full of the decadently rich fudge he’d found on the bedside table. Everything in the unit reminds them why they’re better off here than spending the same amount of money at a bar they’d been to a thousand times before: everything from the spacious room and giant shower to the complimentary wifi and comfortably sized balcony. The woman is already applying makeup in front of the mirror as the man pulls a bottle of Moët out of the fridge and pops the cork. He can’t afford it; neither can she. But it’s the weekend.
Four glasses later and the man and woman are on the rooftop bar of Limes. It’s a spacious open-air bar, filled to the brim with liquor you can’t wait to drink. It’s there they meet James, the bar manager. He’s friendly. They order two Amaretto sours. Who doesn’t like Amaretto sours? You? Please leave.
They drink all afternoon. They eat share plates of food. They laugh. They meet people whose personalities don’t double as a contraceptive. The bartenders are friendly and know their shit, guiding them on a liquor-laden journey that involves cocktails they can barely pronounce in the company of people they actually like. The man and woman watch the sun set on comfortable couches, slightly hazy but perfectly prepped for the night ahead. Just as the chill starts to sweep over the rooftop, the heaters fire up. The man and woman decide to stay for one more; the bar staff bring them over a cocktail comprising of their previous selections. The attention to detail is unbelievable. Limes Roof Top Bar has a habit of keeping you for just one more.
It’s seven thirty and the two wander downstairs. They can’t justify room service because Alfred & Constance is right next-door. People had told them A&C was up for Bar of The Year. That sounded impressive, but the fact it was right next-door was even better. They wander no more than 20 meters down the now bustling Constance Street and walk up the stairs, into one of the most renowned eat and drinks in Brisbane. It’s a nice feeling knowing stumbling home won’t be a tumultuous affair. They are quickly seated. “Drinks?” The woman smiles cheekily, “Of course”.
A stacked list of beer, wine and spirits, and the night is well underway before a single bit of food touches the couple’s palate. As hunger’s push turns to a shove, the two order a trio of meat. Half a glass of Pacifica Pale Ale and a quarter glass of Pinot Grigio later, the meals arrive steaming hot. Pork belly, lamb cutlets and steak fill the table. Each serving is as good as the last, but alcohol has the reigns and the couple want more. Enter winter vegetables, buckini salad and duck, the hero of the night. The food is a 9.5 and the drinks are a 10, but the atmosphere is trumping everything.
Upstairs is the Tiki Bar. The man and woman run into Damian Griffiths on the way up there; he essentially owns the precinct, the Scarface of Constance street, minus the guns and drugs. He’s scattering around his venues, making sure everything’s running smoothly. Damian has four venues, each just as eclectic as the last. “The drinks are strong at the Tiki Bar,” he smiles, explaining “I took inspiration from the real Tiki Bars in Hawaii.” Authenticity clearly his game, the couple say their goodbyes to Mr Griffiths and find a place at the bustling Tiki Bar.
“I’m drinking out of a fucking coconut!” The man exclaims, grinning at the woman with a sense of accomplishment. They find a spot on the outdoor verandah of the converted home and watch people stream in and out of the spacious confines. It’s refreshing seeing so many people as excited as we are to be here. One familiar face rolls past: Mike Goldman from Big Brother. The man and woman chat with Mike Goldman and his friends, and each person decides to try the ‘Zombie’. Damian warned us about this drink. Apparently limited to one per person per night, these drinks have anyone’s guess as to how many shots are in them. The woman finishes a quarter and discards the rest; the man finishes his after about an hour. ‘Birdbaths’ are also a fun alternative to a regular drinking experience; five straws placed in a shallow dish full of flaming liquor, and in the middle a fire-hot shot for the bravest drinker of them all.
After organising a visit to the Big Brother House, the couple decide it’s time to eat some more delicious food. Having been to Alfredo’s twice before, they knew the meatball pizza with the bourbon base was their favourite. They spent the rest of their evening sitting in their luscious Limes hotel bed, savouring takeaway pizza and chocolate almonds ’til they couldn’t stay awake any longer.
Who would’ve thought that you could have a cheeseboard and a journey of sunset cocktails, a decadent six course fine dining meal, piña coladas from a coconut, five shots from a spinning wheel above a Tiki bar, a gourmet takeaway pizza accompanied by Moët, and a dance floor session with the host from Big Brother, all within a 500 metre radius of one another. And all in the same hub of authentic and delicious bars and restaurants, with absolutely unparalleled service.
The domestic weekend away is the new week abroad. Spend less and gain more, and know your own city, state and nation better than anyone else by discovering these enriching cultural hubs. Thanks Alfred and Constance Street, you’ve truly made our lives better.