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Izakaya Restaurant

When you get to Hotel Indigo in Brisbane, you’re presented with some impressive big red doors and instructions for how to get to the hotel’s reception, Bar 1603 and the Izakaya Publico restaurant on the first floor. As you head towards the restaurant, you’ll probably be tempted to stop in at Bar 1603 for a drink, especially if you’re visiting on a Friday night when there is live music and the bar has a lively vibe.

This speakeasy-inspired bar was named after the year the first izakaya (a bar that also serves snacks) was said to have opened in Japan. From the bar area, you can watch the street outside through large plate glass windows from your lofty perch on the second floor and also look down into Izakaya Publico and admire its dramatic wall mural depicting a Japanese woman and an ancient war horse.

Bar 1603 & Hotel Indigo Reception
Bar 1603 & Hotel Indigo reception
Izakaya Publico Restaurant
Izakaya Publico Restaurant

The space is very open but a clever use of seating and contemporary mural art has created a surprisingly intimate space with cosy brown leather booth seating and smaller tables for two or four. If you’re coming here as group, there is seating to accommodate this as well. It’s definitely worth booking as the word is getting out about this funky dining venue.

Izakaya Restaurant Art and Space
Izakaya Restaurant art and space

The a la carte menu is extensive and features designed-to-share dishes showcasing Japanese favourites, both traditional and contemporary. Many of the dishes are cooked on a Warayaki grill that gives the food a rich and tasty char-grilled flavour. Being seated with a view of the open kitchen means you get dinner and a show as the chefs work their magic using the Warayaki grill’s dancing flames. The tempting smells of fresh and marinated meats and vegetables grilling held the promise of great things to come.

Assorted Kushiyaki Skewers over the coals
Assorted kushiyaki skewers over the coals

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Edamame with house togarashi and brown butter
Edamame with house togarashi and brown butter

Lots of people were ordering a generous bowl of edamame (soybeans in the pod) with house made togarashi and brown butter, but we couldn’t resist the pork gyoza dumplings and the yasei kinoko, which consisted of two skewers of shitake and brown mushrooms with a teriyaki glaze. We would return to Izakaya Publico for the mushrooms alone, they were delicious!

Yasei kinoko and pork gyoza

Next we moved on the large plates which arrived a few minutes after we had finished the starters. The waygu was sliced and served with burnt leek, honey glazed carrots and a rich kobocha puree which provided a lovely textural contrast. This was great but our favourite was the Japanese take on a traditional chicken Maryland, but with duck rather than chicken. Paired with broccolini, shitake and soy yakisoba, this was the standout dish of the night.

Izakaya Publico mains
Ahiru Maryland and waygu suteki at Izakaya Publico

The only disappointment of the night was – surprisingly – the Kinoko Garden dessert. The plating looked so good that it drew a delighted gasp from my wife when it arrived but the dish was let down by the very dry cake that was used to create the stem of the mushroom. After a few bites, we abandoned the cake and enjoyed the creamy berry mousse inside the red mushroom top made of chocolate.

Izakaya Publico Kinoko Garden
Kinoko Garden dessert at Izakaya Publico

I hate the term ‘hidden gem’ but tucked away on Level 2 of Hotel Indigo, Izakaya Publico is exactly that. Drop in for a drink followed by dinner and some of those delicious mushrooms skewers – you’ll be glad you did! 

Disclosure: The writers dined as a guest of Izakaya Publico.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Brisbane, we have reviewed the Treasury Hotel, The Calile, Ovolo The Valley, W Brisbane, Capri by Fraser Brisbane, Hilton Brisbane, The Johnson, NEXT Hotel Brisbane, Sage Hotel James Street, The Westin Brisbane, Oaks Brisbane Festival Suites, Royal on the Park, Ibis Styles Elizabeth Street, Sofitel Brisbane, Crystalbrook Vincent, The Inchcolm by Ovolo, Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments, and Pullman Brisbane Airport.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.