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Best pubs in Queensland: No better spot than up the Creek

Courtney Fitzgerald and Sarah Lewis enjoy a beer in the bar at the Breakfast Creek Hotel.
Courtney Fitzgerald and Sarah Lewis enjoy a beer in the bar at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. Adam Head

BEYOND the Story Bridge and the River Cats and even the purple bloom of the jacarandas in spring, it's the Breakfast Creek Hotel which effortlessly crystallises the spirit of Brisbane.

How it usurped its rivals to grab the "iconic” title is not quite clear, but it may have something to do with that haughty French Renaissance architecture which gives it such a stately air, the creek in front serving as a moat for a princely pub.

Yet Brekky Creek's antecedents are far from aristocratic and that's not merely because its first owner, William Galloway, met an ungentlemanlike end when he got drunk for three weeks in 1895 then fell out of a second floor window to his death.

The pub, built in 1889, has been a working class stronghold for much of the 20th Century providing a home away from home for thirsty wharfies and all manner of blue collar workers before their wardrobe turned orange.

Journos (who were mostly working class not so long ago) and key figures in the Australian Labor Party also crowded the bar before Chinese restaurants became the preferred venue for ALP intrigues.

It was the wharfies - led by Lulla Wilson - who led the protest in the 1970s when Castlemaine Perkins had the temerity to phase out the pub's wooden kegs, replacing them with stainless steel.

A protest petition was organised, some say with the collaboration of then ACTU president and later Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Castlemaine's managing director Paddy Fitzgerald saw sense, personally overseeing the return of the wooden kegs while the grateful pub immortalised him in the form of "The Paddy Fitzgerald Bar.''

Nearly half a century on the wooden keg tradition continues, along with the signature steak, baked potato, coleslaw and floury bun which no longer represents merely "lunch” but a beloved culinary artefact from a simpler era of trams, trunk calls and listening to Blue Hills on the wireless.

The Creek is an island of consistency in a sea of change, the analogy taking on a literal sense when the Queensland wet season arrives and the lower reaches of the pub (slightly below sea level) disappear with monotonous regularity below a brown tide.

But it always bobs to the surface largely unscathed, and for more than three decades it's had Melinda Venning waiting to welcome it back.

Melinda, the catering manager who has clocked 31 years of service, says the pub has slipped beyond the bonds of mere bricks and mortar.

It's absorbed the very spirit of Brisbane over the century and then shone that genial, welcoming light back out to a grateful world which never stops beating a path to its door.

"I think it's a real peoples' pub,'' Melinda says.

"It's character has been formed by the wharfies, the politicians and all the characters who made Brisbane what it is today.

"I can't imagine being anywhere else but the Brekky Creek.''

Topics:  best pubs queensland heritage nightlife queensland pubs


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