Eating local: Brisbane's paddock to plate experience

If you love to experience a city via your plate - Brisbane is the place to unfold your napkin.

From the salad bowl Lockyer Valley to urban inner-city beehives, Brisbane's restaurants, bars and cafes go above and beyond to ensure where possible that its dishes and drinks come from within the local region.

Fine dining

ARIA, Brisbane City

Head chef Ben Russell says throughout the summer months, the sunshine state delivers in produce.

"It's an amazing time of year to be cooking in this part of the country, with so much spectacular produce to work with right on our doorstep."

Russell uses heirloom tomatoes and cauliflower from the nearby Lockyer Valley region, plus melons, figs, berries and lettuce from the wider south east Queensland area.

Customs House, Brisbane City

From the basement to a banquet – eat fresh produce grown in the depths of Brisbane's CBD at Customs House. Operation manager George Musat and chef de cuisine John Offenhauser swapped oven mitts for garden gloves and have rolled up their sleeves to grow mushrooms in the Customs House cellar.

Handpicked daily, the pair are currently focusing on shiitake and oyster mushrooms and these postcode 4000 fungi can be found in everything from the breakfast omelette to pasta dinner. 

Other than mushrooms, the Customs House kitchen try to source local produce with the scallops coming from Hervey Bay, pork from South Burnett, and vegetables from the Lockyer Valley.

E’cco, Brisbane City

"We do as little as possible with the best ingredients available."

The Brisbane institution e'cco gets its vegetables from the Lockyer Valley, apples and quince from nearby Stanthorpe, and strawberries, citrus and pineapples from the north coast of Queensland and the Sunshine Coast.

GOMA Restaurant, South Bank

Ambassador for Scenic Rim's Eat Local Week, executive chef Josue Lopez chooses to showcase the best Queensland produce using sustainable and organic ingredients where possible.

Lopez features suckling pig, carrots, beans, onions, cucumbers, finger limes, macadamias, rhubarb, coffee and sheep's milk products from the Scenic Rim, plus honey, elderflower, mint, wagyu, seafood, halloumi, eggs and pecans from the wider South East Queensland area.

Pethers Rainforest Restaurant, Scenic Rim

"I can't think of too many fine dining restaurants where the chef can grow his own foods," head chef Obie Faulkner said.

Set in the heart of the fertile Scenic Rim at North Tamborine, Pethers boasts a vegetable and herb garden just metres from the kitchen filled with seasonal produce from yarrow and brussel sprouts to broccoli, sorrel, wild rocket and plentiful herbs growing.

Faulkner started the garden for environmental sustainability, superior taste and to supplement the local produce already used at Pethers. There is also an avocado orchard on the property and four beehives.

Sake, Brisbane City

"Queensland seafood and Queensland meat is among the best I have worked with," head chef Daisuke Sakai said.

"The quality of our local produce is always excellent and its vast abundance means I can explore new ideas and create exciting dishes that do justice to Queensland farmers and producers."

Sake brings the best of Queensland to Brisbane with Sunshine Coast king prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, Hervey Bay scallops, tuna from North Queensland, tofu from Byron Bay and Wagyu beef from Longreach in Central West Queensland.

Spicers Balfour Kitchen, New Farm

Schultz Family Farms won’t supply its suckling pig to just any restaurant - you have to be doing good things with it. Spicers Balfour head chef William Wallace gets his pork from the Toowoomba farmers who have been operating in the region for over 120 years.

Wallace also uses small select suppliers in the Sunshine Coast region for mushrooms, citrus, strawberries, herbs, raspberries, blueberries, figs and other fruit and vegetables, plus gets eggs from Nindigully.

"We try to use local as much as possible and within season, always," Wallace said.

Tukka, West End

Tukka celebrates native Australian food with a menu that serves up crocodile, emu, kangaroo alongside lilly pilly, bunya nuts and strawberry gum. Tukka gets the majority of its native bush plants from its own seasonal garden out the back.

Urbane, Brisbane City

Award-winning degustation restaurant Urbane sends each plate back to the paddock. The restaurant has a special composter that recycles all organic waste back into soil for its local farmers to use.

Head chef Alejandro Cancino uses as much local and sustainable produce as possible, and has direct contact with the farmers themselves. Urbane also has a vertical herb garden out back, and its own bee hive on the roof.

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Casual dining and cafes

Locavore, Woolloongabba

All fresh produce at Locavore comes from within a 150km radius of Brisbane. While this doesn't sound like an easy feat, owner Nathan Olsson feels passionate about supporting the small guys.

"It is just to support more local businesses and the local economy. So many small businesses get pushed out by large competitors," Olsson said.

Meat comes from the Darling Downs and Beaudesert area, fish from Tweed River, fresh fruit and veg from the Lockyer Valley-Toowoomba region, berries from Caboolture, milk from Maleny and organic eggs come from Echo Valley.

Plenty, West End

"Know your farmer" is the motto behind West End cafe Plenty. The venue celebrates locally grown food, building a connection between the city community and regional farmers.

Here the tomatoes roll in from Kalbar in the Scenic Rim, the owner makes a weekly trip to the Fassifern Valley in the Lockyer Valley for the freshest and tastiest vegetables, and the cafe's website hosts a blog that tells you about each local farm and farmer.

Wild Canary, Brookfield

“The more that we can be supporting local growers and producers, plus ensuring food security in the region, the better,” head chef Glen Barratt told Visit Brisbane.

Barratt is passionate about visiting local farmers and farmer markets to connect with growers and bring the best back to Wild Canary. He sources vegetables from Lockyer Valley producers Bauer Organic and UB Farms, gets sustainable seafood from the south east Queensland coast, free-range eggs from Eggcettera in Allora, and smallgoods through Adam’s.

“Most of our producers know what we’re after what we’re looking for. It’s as fresh as it can possibly be,” he said.

More than a restaurant, Wild Canary is connected to the Brookfield Garden Centre. Seasonally it grows anything from capsicums, eggplant, zucchini and corn, to leafy veg, herbs and edible flowers (all organic of course). 

Wild Canary also run monthly producer lunches, where they bring a local grower in and design a special menu.

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Bars

John Mills Himself, Brisbane City

John Mills Himself

If you can find the small laneway bar and coffee shop that is John Mills Himself you'll be rewarded with the best of the South East.

The drinks menu lists how many kilometres away each wine was produced, each spirit distilled and beer brewed - the focus is on short food miles, and even the soda water comes from a small maker in Toowoomba.

Maker, South Brisbane

With just 10 seats, Maker is an intimate cocktail bar in South Brisbane. Behind the brass bar Nick Royds and Edward Quatermass create their own liqueurs using local and native ingredients for a bespoke cocktail experience.

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Cooking schools

Wild Lime Cooking School, Scenic Rim

Wild Lime Cooking School

Set in the middle of the Lost World Valley, this cooking school makes the most of local ingredients by gathering produce from farms in the regions (including the neighbouring Tommerups Dairy Farm) as well as wild growing bush tucker and local fresh water yabbies.

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Markets & grocers

Jan Power Farmers' Markets, Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane City, Manly & Mitchelton

Director Sammy Power was in the news last year after she banned Chinese garlic from being sold at her fresh produce markets. At the time she told the ABC it was a move to support local farmers.

Head along to a Jan Power market (there are four locations) to purchase fresh produce direct from the farmers themselves and get everything from honey and eggs, to berries, bananas, herbs and other vegetables. 

Northey Street Organic Farmers' Market, Windsor

More than just an organic farmers' market, Northey Street is a community. Real farmers set up shop beside the City Farm Nursery where you buy fresh organic produce for the week, along with organic plants, potting mix and lucerne.

The Stores, West End

The Stores has arrived in inner-city Brisbane to supply the community with real food. It is owned by the people behind Schulte’s in Lockyer Valley - makers of smallgoods and fresh meats - who have brought together a network of farmers from the Southern Queensland Country region.

Head instore to discover fresh local cheese in the fromagery, take your pick from the delicatessen, eat the region via the fresh fruit and veg section, and of course there is a good selection of fresh meats and smallgoods under the Schulte's name. You can also pick up local Queensland wine here to complete your cheeseboard.

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