Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to the cosy little soft opening of the newest kid on the Brisbane beer block, The Oxford Tap House. While I am all for a new bar in Bulimba, I thought that the weather they had arranged for the opening – coming in at around one hundred million dollars – seemed a little over the top and was perhaps unnecessary. Like most people I love a bit of rain and a cooling breeze, but as the great Farsi poet Farrokh Bulsara once wrote: “Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening, me.”
Without a word of a lie, several months ago Brad and I had talked about how – if we had money, business nous, contacts or any discernible skill related to opening a bar whatsoever – we would open a bar on Oxford Street. It appears that we’ve been beaten to the punch.
But why has it taken so long? If there was ever a suburb in the greater Brisbane area that was desperately calling out for a good bar, it was Bulimba. An affluent suburb with an incredible density of restaurants and almost entirely populated by upwardly mobile young go-getters. In fact, I would take a punt and say that there is more Lorna Jane sportswear in the Bulimba/Hawthorne area than any other place on Earth.
The Oxford Tap House is the latest venture by Gilliam Letham, Gerard Hartnett and Anya Bogatek of The Mill on Constance repute. Although I will never be able to forgive them for shamelessly going ahead and doing the exact thing Brad and I spent at least 24 minutes talking about doing, I must concede that the bar is lovely.
Let’s start with the food. Let’s be honest, when it involves Ali Orchard you know it’s going to be on the money. Ali was brought on board as a consultant and along with head chef Ash Pickett have written a menu that for once doesn’t entirely consist of chicken wings, burgers and fries. I sampled some mini chimichangas, soft shelled crabs, white bait, a mullet taco and I’m really looking forward to going back for more.
On the beer front it’s an all domestic type affair with a focus on the locals. The six taps include one ginger beer, one cider and four beers with a nice variety of styles. While there was nothing outrageous on the taps for opening night, they are all solid beers from some great Australian breweries like Green Beacon, Fortitude, Balmain and the venerable Stone & Wood.
Most importantly, Gill, Anya and Gerard are sickeningly nice people. I’ve become accustomed to bar and brewery people trying to butter me up so I can write nice things about their joints to my 10s of readers (this has never actually happened), but everyone at the Oxford Tap House are genuinely pleasant to talk to.
There is already a bar on Oxford Street with the word Oxford in its name - Oxford 152, but that’s where the similarities end. The Tap House is cosy, friendly and focused on good beer, wine and food, and 152 is practically one of the gates of hell. If you enjoy being ignored at the bar, eating paint by numbers pub food, speed drinking shit lager and the complete inability to talk over deafening and execrable music, then 152 is the place for you. For everyone else, you’ve finally got somewhere in Bulimba to call home.