In Food + Drink

A Chic French Bistro Tucked Above A Brisbane Coffee Shop

For most Brisbane restaurants, to exist without some form of advertisement or at least a sign out front is relatively unheard of. But for the provincial French bistro Greenglass on George Street, that is half its charm.

Set up above an unassuming staircase in a busy street on the edge of the central business district, it’s a far cry from what this end of the city was typically known for. And yet three years on, it’s going stronger than ever.

Inside, you’ll find a beautiful open-brick restaurant set inside a 1900s building. For its fit-out, think New York loft complemented by the buildings’ original wooden floors, brick and century-old arch windows. Those same windows tell half the story behind the name.

There’s actually a couple of rumours as to how Greenglass got its title: some say it reflects the garden and courtyard belonging to hidden gem Iconic Coffee which sits beneath it; others point toward a beautiful green tree which can be seen through the windows.

As it turns out, the story the owners agreed upon is the colour you see when the sunlight reflects off a bottle of wine. Each Monday when restaurant manager Brie Hourigan comes in to work, it’s the first thing she notices. “I know it’s cliché, but it’s probably my favourite time of the week,” says Hourigan who formerly supervised operations at some of the Brisbane’s best hidden cocktails bars including Saville Rowe and The Cloakroom.

In the morning, Greenglass offers a small selection of pastries alongside an Italian espresso menu made with beans from Coffee Supreme. These are, of course, served alongside the view which inspired the name.

When it comes to the lunch and dinner menu, this is when Greenglass sets itself apart by plating up a combination unfamiliar to most: French cuisine paired with Australian wine.

The two, as anyone could imagine, are a rather unlikely – yet flattering – pair. Why that may be might just be because the two are about as honest as each other. How they pull it off has a little something to do with the menu.

On that, you’ll find the likes of roasted spatchcock with mash potatoes and pickled mushrooms, or pasta with clams, chorizo, chorizo oil, lemon butter and spicy homemade sauce.

To share, there’s beef tartare wagyu with a mini baguette, scallops with sweet potato puree, pistachio, red cabbage and orange dressing or oven-baked camembert with apple, walnut and potato flatbread.

When the concept was first thought up by owner brothers Cameron and Jordan Botan of Fortitude Valley’s Happy Boy and Snackman, the plan was to fill a void in the market: French cuisine which didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

At Greenglass, the brothers wanted to bring in food affordable food with a “Provençal, bistro feel”, yet a market as such didn’t exist at the time in Brisbane, says Horrigan.

Head chef and French national Damien Paliwoda delivered. In turn, most dishes on the menu range between $15 to $33. The most expensive of which, a wagyu sirloin Mable score six steak, sits only a little higher at $40.

These are accompanied by a mostly visual wine list. Here what was once an Australian dominant selection has now branched out into wine from several regions both here and abroad. The focus today “is more quality over location”, says Hourigan.

Although hosting a more international range, there’s still an emphasis on serving quality locals which can be seen with the likes of Granite Belt’s le petit mort. In summer, you’ll also find some not so typical numbers like a chilled red.

Three years on from its opening, Greenglass hasn’t just managed to pull off an unlikely combination but has grown to become a Brisbane staple. Its success isn’t simply owed to its coffee, honest French cuisine or beautiful venue but is its equally important wine list which would give any nearby restaurant a run for its money.

Since the refurbishment of the nearby Burnett Lane formed in 1829, Hourigan says there’s “a real George Street feel” around again. It’s common for customers to pop by for dinner before venturing off for a drink at the laneway’s newly opened Alba Bar & Deli or the London underground bar-inspired Death and Taxes just 300m away.

However, the fun isn’t limited to a night out on Burnett Lane. Hourigan says Greenglass has also become “a small oasis for a long lunch or for a couple of bottles of wine” for many.

Be it a cheeky long lunch, a night out on Burnett Lane or simply a coffee and pastry in the light which gave birth to its name, it makes for an elegant refuge in an area known for hosting colourful characters.

Although if you ask Hourigan, the best thing about Greenglass, beyond being a hidden gem, is how proud everyone is there about what’s on the menu.

(All images: Greenglass / provided)

Published 20 February, 2020