Whenever the weather is chilly and churlish, dismal and dreary, there’s nothing I like better than a nice pub. I’m not talking about open interiors, squawking pokies machines, and a calamari special. No, I’m talking warm, cosy, and dim. I’m talking mulled wine, leather chairs, stews and hot pies washed down with something dark and hearty.
Now, we all know Brisbane isn’t exactly some village in Connacht. Our winters are mild, our summers are fierce, and the last time I saw a thatched roof was at a tiki bar. That said, I like to think we do our best.
We might not have a lurching stone-and-shingle pub complete with stables, five-foot ceilings, and a name like ‘The Swan With Two Necks’—but we’ve certainly got something.
308 Queen St, Brisbane City
Situated in a wing of the National Australia Bank building, The Gresham brings us a cosy nook after the fashion of the old world—mighty sandstone, old leather, dim lights, vaulting armchairs, you get the vibe. They offer up an astonishing assortment of rums and whiskies, not to mention cocktails, which are crisp, delicate, and many. So, if you feel like a couple of drinks in the majestic bower of a late Victorian edifice this winter, The Gresham’s got what you want.
10 Marie St, Milton
The Polish Association of Queensland—Polonia—is an institution. It’s sprawling, friendly, and what it lacks in chic it makes up for in quality. Polonia makes the list because there’s nothing better for the winter chills than their wild selection of vodkas—enough to warm the coldest of cockles. They also do some of the best Polish food in town; goulash, roasts, and pierogi—Polish dumplings that bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘comfort food’.
Death and Taxes
36 Burnett Ln, Brisbane City
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, but I’d go so far as to say that this joint is certainly bangin’. Death and Taxes is an intimate bar on Burnett Lane, known for its eccentric curation of paintings, artful lighting, and myriad bottles of fine spirits. There are neat tables, cosy booths, and a smoky atmosphere reminiscent of the underground bars of interwar Paris. For a warm, luxurious retreat this winter, Death and Taxes comes with my highest recommendation.
Sixes and Sevens
67 James St, Fortitude Valley
Show me a gabled 19th century cottage, and I’ll show you the money. Sixes and Sevens is a charming little pub on James St, just the place to relax after a long day trudging through the moors. Some have told me we don’t have moors in inner-city Brisbane, but, had you felt the icy gale I did just the other day, you’d also beg to differ. Sixes and Sevens has a broad and varied menu, traditional ales and ciders, and a hearth—precisely what we’re looking for on any hibernal outing.
Hope and Anchor
267 Given Tce, Paddington
A favourite among locals, and styled after the seaside British Pub, the Hope and Anchor is a winter classic. They serve hearty pub classics (they used to do this absolutely phenomenal fish finger sandwich—don’t knock it till you try it, folks), and a carefully curated selection of beer, cider, and whisky. Upstairs is a quaint dining area, downstairs a little bar, and outside, a fireplace!
The German Club
25 Caxton St, Petrie
The German Club is home to some of the most winter-appropriate sundries around. They’ve a huge bar stocked with hundreds of German beers—wheat beers, stouts, cherry ales, smoke beers; you name it, they’ve got it. They also do schnapps (because who doesn’t love a cheeky shot) and, most triumphantly, piping hot Glühwein that will have you positively glowing.
The German Club also hosts its official restaurant, Zum Kaiser, a place where you may find the most outrageous of Teutonic treats—pork knuckle, sauerbraten, frikadellen, the list goes on!
186 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley
Netherworld offers some of the best entertainment of any bar venue in Brisbane—arcade games, pinball machines, and a slew of board games ensure even the most disciplined among us cannot help but be distracted. Their food, though fast, is off the damn chain, and they earn their place among Brisbane’s best winter haunts owing to their mulled cider—that’s right, mulled cider, people; it’s about as delicious as it sounds. Get to it.
Mrs J. Rabbits Speakeasy
Somewhere on Logan Road
Mrs J Rabbits is positively saturated with character; laden with charm like a wax-encrusted candelabra. It offers a warm, intimate setting of leather armchairs, rugs, candles, chandeliers, tapestries, and a stunning masterpiece of a bar. They specialise in whiskies, gins, and all manner of heartwarming cocktails.
To find Mrs J Rabbits, you’ll need to get the password from the Electric Avenue bar on the ground floor, before heading upstairs and through an antique wardrobe door—more whisky-wonderland than winter-witchscape, but surely no less magical!