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Published January 9th 2013
Speakeasy Next Door
To have lived in the 1920s would have been to live in one of the 20th-century's more interesting decades. Europeans came to terms with the aftermath of World War I, including the official formation of the USSR out of Tsarist Russia. Germany struggled with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, with the mark depreciating so badly that at one point, a loaf of bread would set you back the small amount of 3 billion marks.
The 1920s also saw Prohibition in full swing in the US. Gangsters like Al Capone made their living by smuggling and bootlegging alcohol into "speakeasies", where many of that country's great and good would pop in for a tipple while watching showgirls dance the Charleston.
The excitement didn't stop there: here in Brisbane a number of local councils were amalgamated to form the City of Brisbane, a local government area that today covers around as many people as the ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmanian government areas combined.
Exciting as all these things were, the team behind Next Door Kitchen & Bar chose Prohibition-era USA as the inspiration for their 1920s-era establishment. The decor is 1920s black; the staff for the most part in 1920s braces; the music not quite leading to a mass Charleston epidemic, but certainly from that era.
The location on Little Stanley Street at South Bank means Next Door gets quite a bit of foot traffic coming past, with the attentive staff always on-hand to try and entice customers to stop in. We scored a seat right on the footpath but were never short of attention from the staff.
As we'd arrived before 5.30pm they only had a limited food menu, including Gangster Chicken Wings and a few shared platters. The drinks were all systems go though: after the water was delivered courtesy of a hooch jug, we decided to give the cocktails a try. My companion went for the Pineapple and Basil Fix (pineapple, fresh-picked basil, vodka and soda; served on crushed ice in a jar with a handle), while I decided to go with the Flappers Fizz (house-made Bucks Fizz Shrub topped with Prosecco). Both had their merits, although on this particular 30 degree day I preferred the pineapple punch.
Neither of us were particularly hungry so we decided to sample the chicken wings. They came out sprinkled with finely-cut jalapenos with a delightful blue cheese sauce to take the edge off. The wings themselves weren't drowned in marinate like so many others, while it was a very pleasant change to find a blue cheese sauce that actually tasted like it was once actually cheese. While we didn't get onto the platters, we did see one table order one with prawns that looked rather tasty.
All up then, a good little spot in an area of Brisbane that seems to sprout them organically. With reasonable prices (platters start from $12.50; cocktails from $15), Next Door Kitchen & Bar is certainly worth a visit next time you're at South Bank.
Good thing they didn't go with hyperinflation theme though.