Get ready to don those gin blossoms with pride, as Dutch Courage Officers' Mess becomes the latest spot to see and be seen in Brisbane. Owner and ex-Air Combat Officer Matthew Hilan has managed to create a space we would happily go AWOL for, next-door to the triple threat of Kwan Brothers, Alfredo's Pizzeria and leader of the pack Alfred & Constance.
If the name didn't already give it away, DC is mad about gin — the elixir that warmed the cockles of English troops way back when, making time spent outside the trenches a whole lot more enjoyable and earning the nickname 'Dutch Courage'. Whether you're a vir-gin to this rather underappreciated tipple or have a Mad Men-era thirst to quench, Dutch Courage can well and truly wet your whistle.
Forget your run-of-the-mill martinis – there are around 80 varieties of gin in the ranks at DC and plenty of ways to enjoy them. Pair it with your choice of five tonics, sip it in the form of a house cocktail (there are 18 on offer fashioned by former Lychee Lounge bar wizard, Elle Tizzard), or sample the ginventory with a tasting flight. Vodka is so last season.
Dutch Courage gives a big ol' salute to our forebears, taking its cues from British colonial outposts of the mid 19th Century. Think balmy nights under wide-paddle fans, trading spices across the seas, and the fantasy of the Far East. On special nights at this new Brisbane bar, you can even trip back through time, notch up stamps in your 'passport' and earn your Dutch Courage dogtags.
From the exotic subcontinent of India to our very own sunburnt shores, the mish-mash share-based menu is designed to be savoured with a drink in hand. Sweet potato crisps peppered with cumin salt and ham hock croquettes up the ante of traditional bar snacks, but the ploughman's platter — featuring homemade damper infused with Middle Eastern spices — wins Chef Paul Riley's highest endorsement.
If tonic is gin's best friend, seafood seems to be its sultry lover: oysters au naturel, scallops with slivers of orange, and salt-and-pepper squid will satisfy those pesky pescatarians. But the dish that has really piqued the interest of hungry Brisbanites is the seared camel tenderloin served atop a sweet potato rosti. If you love your gamey meats, order this dish — it's the perfect hump day indulgence #sorrynotsorry.
Dutch Courage is throwing its weight behind the trend of staying up past bedtime for a nightcap and a nosh; and with Australia in the midst of major gin revival, its doors have swung open with impeccable timing. If you're looking for a sign to guide your next night out in Brisbane, DC's is pretty convincing: 'Old fashioned miracle tonic soothes and comforts, restores hope and courage guaranteed'.
Travel writer by day, freelance foodie by night and full time cake enthusiast. When Ashton isn't at one with the keyboard, you'll likely find her saluting the sun in a yoga class, absorbed in a 90s sitcom marathon, or practising the timeless art of Instagramming around Brisbane. Twitter: @AshtonRigg. Want more from Ashton? Read more here!
Image credits: Hannah McCawley