Opening a restaurant within a heritage-listed building comes with its fair share of challenges. Strict building constraints aside, one of the biggest hurdles is coming up with a concept and look that won’t strike guests as incongruous when contrasted with the existing architectural aesthetic. When Meagan Gregorski first stepped foot inside the Bank of New South Wales Building on Queen Street, she knew in an instant what sort of venue would perfectly suit the landmark’s marble-tiled lobby. The publican, who is co-owner of the Port Office Hotel on Edward Street, was invited to inspect the site back in January with the prospect of activating the space as a new and engaging hospitality identity. Ideas and visions of a classic European-inspired brasserie-meets-rustic-bistro began to form, alongside plans on how to complement the building’s stately facade and interior with a sense of breezy romance. After scoring approval to implement her grand design, Meagan sought out a capable general manager to help her execute the ambitious plan. Jordan Ashelford – a hospitality veteran with experience overseeing numerous venues – jumped at the opportunity to make dreams a reality, seeing the chance to bring a dash of glamorous gourmandising to Brisbane City’s main shopping strip. Banc Brasserie & Wine Bar is the result of months of careful planning and hard graft, a multifaceted venue that pays homage to the building’s pecuniary provenance while also delivering a novel spin on elevated Euro-influenced epicureanism.
After undertaking some cross-country gallivanting to gather inspiration for Banc’s visual identity, Meagan and Jordan set about designing a venue that blended modern touches with the structure’s chic surrounds. With assistance from Hogg & Lamb (the architectural-design practice behind Lune Croissanterie and Gemelli Italian’s recent fit-outs), the team has created three distinct sections – brasserie, bistro and wine bar – with an estimated combined capacity of 160 patrons. Stepping through the entry threshold past the building’s neo-classical frontage, guests are greeted with vaulted double-height ceilings hoisting six modern chandeliers, each casting luminous light across the central foyer. Here sits Banc’s bar – an existing fixture left in situ from a previous development attempt. The bar itself has been floated above the lobby’s marble-tile floor, with a profile (comprised of brass fixtures, stacked shelves of wine and tiered mirror-backed back bar) designed to evoke an old-school bank teller’s booth. Banc’s brasserie area and semi-private group dining space (which seats 10) lines the venue’s George Street side and features cushy curved banquettes, patterned curtains and a scattering of four- and six-seater marble-topped tables. Decorative touches inspired by Australia’s colourful bank notes are evident here, from the gold tone of the $50 note on the banquettes to the pastel rouge of the soon-to-arrive Dublin chairs. On the opposite side will sit Banc’s forthcoming bistro area and lounge space, which will be imbued with a more eclectic and rustic decorative palette – perfect for those seeking a relaxed locale for a drink and snack before heading to QPAC, just across the river.
Although Banc Brasserie & Wine Bar draws plenty of inspiration from bistro dining’s French and Italian-influenced recipe book, Meagan and Jordan are eager to ensure that the venue isn’t pigeonholed into a strict culinary paradigm. They’ve recruited talented chef Lucas McMillan (who has worked at award-winning institutions like Montrachet, La Cache à Vín and Detour) to deliver a menu that hits familiar brasserie beats while sidestepping staid pitfalls. Lucas is drawing upon stints working in Dubai and Singapore to add a sprinkling of globe-trotting accents to the menu (helping to cut through the richness of modern European flavours), while also sourcing locally sourced produce and native ingredients to put a bespoke Australian spin on his plated fare. Banc’s launch menu kicks off with entrees including house-cured hay-smoked salmon served with fresh fruits and pickles, petite tarts of heirloom vegetables, goat’s curd and sorrel, and Moreton Bay bug tagliatelle with chilli and marjoram. Large-format plates feature the likes of lamb racks served with eggplant, onion, kombu and cavelo nero, braised lion’s mane mushroom served with Jerusalem artichoke and a vegan demi glaze, and the classic steak frites, which will boast a rotating cut of beef from week to week. The menu is set to evolve and grow, with share plates and feasting menu additions to the lunch and dinner menu expected by week’s end, and the launch of brunch and high tea offerings slated for early next year. A thick wine list will give guests plenty of quaffing material to choose from, with a broad assortment of Australian and international drops available alongside high-end Coravin sips. Banc’s bar will also sling a selection of signature cocktails (think a few martini variations and spritzes), including a range of mini cocktails – lilliputian libations that allow for indecisive imbibers to sample a greater variety without the next-day regret.
Banc Brasserie & Wine Bar is now open to the public. Head to the Stumble Guide for contact details, operating hours and booking information, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more on this venue as it evolves.