STOP. This is not a typical HITW post. Instead of reading top to bottom, you get to choose what happens next. Follow the links between sections and discover hidden places you’ve never been before. Good luck.
You’ve decided to have a night out in West End – dinner, drinks, more drinks, and maybe conversation if there’s time. You’re doing this not because you love kebabs and untamed facial hair, but because a friend of yours – who clearly is a facial hair fan – keeps telling you West End is “going off,” and you’ve been feeling like you’re missing out. You’ve convinced a few other friends for whom FOMO is a factor to join you on what you hope will be an adventurous night out.
The three of you arrive at the end of Boundary Street, meeting up with Megan, the fourth member of your group, who insisted on driving in and then miraculously found a park just near The Three Monkeys. Since that’s the only place any of you have ever been at West End after midday, you all agree to try somewhere else. The trouble is, no one wants to take the lead and make a decision, so it’s up to you.
Do you have a drink first, or go somewhere for dinner?
If you want pre-dinner drinks, go to 3.
If you’re all about the food, go to 2.
As soon as it’s been mentioned, you just can’t resist the temptation of food. It calls to you. Besides, it’s probably a good idea to build a solid foundation of food in your stomach before going drinking. It quickly becomes clear that you all have different ideas about the kind of place you’d like to go for dinner.
If you go somewhere sinful, go to 4.
If you go somewhere secret, go to 5.
If you go somewhere sharp, go to 6.
It feels like cocktail hour, and you remember hearing about a place somewhere off Melbourne Street not far from here, so you and Google Maps lead your friends around the corner to Habitat. This trendy, mood-lit bar looks like the perfect place to start your night.
Taking one of the circular booths in the restaurant area, you can see that practically the entire place – tables, chairs, walls, even the bar – is made of weathered pieces of wood. You weren’t planning to eat here, but it turns out Matt has only had protein shakes all day, and after he orders a duck leg with apple salsa, the rest of you are curious enough to share an entree.
The scotch and lime cured beef is easy to eat, which makes it hard to share, particularly with Matt, who has his own food, which he refuses to let anyone else taste. If it weren’t for the calming effect of the cocktails you all ordered, the night could be over before it begins.
You soak in the atmosphere as you soak up your drinks, and soon conversation turns to where you’ll go next.
If you’re still hungry, go to 6.
If you want to keep drinking, go to 7.
On your way in, you saw something you just have to try, and you’re not going to let your friends’ bickering stop you.
You rush into PJ’s Steaks, leaving the others to catch up when they’ve finished watching through the front window as chefs hack meat to pieces, fry it, and marshal it into a breadroll. That’s not the most flattering description of an American cheesesteak, but this isn’t a food that needs flattering. The Mushroom Cheesesteak you order comes with shredded wagyu beef, grilled mushrooms, fried onions, and melted cheese. It’s one of the most satisfying meals you’ve had in a long time – sure, it’s not exactly health food, but that just adds to the guilty pleasure.
All that food has made you thirsty, so you wander back down to a bar you passed on the way: Archive Beer Boutique. You’re about to go inside when you notice a staircase leading to a place called Loft.
If you walk on into Archive, go to 8.
If you’d rather try Loft, go to 9.
You’re hungry, but you don’t want to eat just anywhere. After all, you’re here to explore West End, so there’s no point settling for the first restaurant you see. After wandering around without any real idea what you’re looking for, you find yourselves on Hardgrave Road. In the middle of an impressive strip of cheerful Asian restaurants, you spot a cosy, dark, wooden room and go inside.
Holloway looks like a restaurant hidden inside a shop and, as the waiter later explains, it is a shop during the day, selling watches made from old skateboards. He’s probably had to explain that hundreds of times tonight, because the place is packed. Luckily, a table opens up just after you arrive. It’s a weeknight, so the main course options are all pizzas. But you’re too excited to concentrate on the menu – this is just the kind of offbeat West End experience you were hoping for.
After eating a pizza each – they looked too good to share – you realise there’s a cinnamon-topped dessert pizza which cannot be ignored. Even though you share two between the four of you, getting up is a real struggle when it’s time to leave. There’s also yawning and someone mentions calling it a night.
If you give in to your food coma, go to 10.
If you want to kick on, go to 11.
A big, hearty meal with strong flavours is what you need right now. As you walk up Boundary Street, you’re starting to think West End really is all kebabs and pizza when you see a restaurant that looks and smells very different, and you know where you want to get dinner.
Chop Chop Chang’s is a slick mashup of Asian flavours which, it turns out, appeals to your friends as well. Even Matt gets something.
Sriracha sauce bottles ominously line the wall, but the menu isn’t a trial by fire. Your chicken curry is thick and meaty rather than spicy, and the son-in-law eggs you share as an entrée are delicious. On a night like this, you’re glad to see so many cocktails on the menu, and you’re delighted by how well they complement the food. Before you know it, your plates and glasses are empty.
Where to now?
If you feel like low lights and leather-bound books, go to 7.
If you feel like fun and gin, go to 11.
When Megan suggests now is a good time for scotch, you readily agree. She’s sure she saw a promising-looking bar somewhere on Browning Street on her way in. You walk up past the Melbourne Hotel, and then you see it. The sign suggests it’s a law firm, but the shelves of bottles and the long bar suggest otherwise.
You’ve certainly come to the right place to satisfy your scotch cravings. Cobbler has a wide-ranging whisky list and a comforting near absence from the passage of time. You and Megan agonise over the options while the others choose a couple of interesting cocktails and find a table. Three drinks later, you’ve just discovered Japanese whisky when you suddenly become aware of how late it’s getting. Despite protests from the group and your own better judgement, you insist on moving somewhere else before it’s too late.
If you go somewhere relaxed, go to 11.
If you go somewhere fruity, go to 12.
You resist the mysterious appeal of the stairs and head straight to the bar at Archive. It’s like you’ve walked into a beer library. The four of you are paralysed by the sheer number of options. Fortunately, the bartender has a PhD in beer recommendation, and deftly manoeuvres a different drink into everyone’s hands.
You’re amazed to discover that you like saison beers, and someone else is singing the praises of a new beer by Bacchus. The whole scene would be getting dangerously close to beer snob territory if Matt hadn’t ordered a lager.
You want to read the pages from old books and comics which are stuck to the walls, but you can’t quite bring yourself to walk around the room approaching tables and staring above people’s heads. The beer and the acoustic cover band put you in the mood for pool, and the four of you play a surprisingly competitive game before deciding it’s time to move on.
If you stick with beer, go to 13.
If you switch to spirits, go to 7.
You decide higher is better and climb the stairs to Loft. You notice the hanging ferns and cushioned chairs on the outdoor deck and you’re confident you made the right choice. Approaching the bar, you find there’s a good selection of beer and cider here, but you’re all feeling more like a glass of wine or some spirits now – it must be something to do with the elevation.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options on that front, too. You and your friends end up getting a combination of champagne, white wine, and a fruity cocktail. The plush couches inside look dangerously comfortable, but it’s a beautiful evening and you just can’t ignore that deck.
As you look out over Boundary Street and beyond, you can understand why people are so enthusiastic about West End. It feels like there’s so much going on here. You could spend weeks exploring these streets and still find something new every day. When you all eventually finish your drinks, some people talk about heading home, but you feel as if the evening has just begun.
If you keep exploring, go to 7.
If you call it a night, go to 10.
Your friends persuade you to end the night on a high note rather than risk getting lost looking for bars you’ve never heard of. It sounds like they may not have been as committed to this adventure as you were. Still, you all agree to do this again soon and try some more places. On the whole, you’re happy. You had a great time, but you just can’t shake the feeling that there’s so much more waiting for you around another unexplored corner of West End.
As you wander along Vulture Street, you start to feel like you’ve come too far and left all the nightlife behind. Then you pass a darkened corner doorway which you’re sure can only lead to a bar. Partially trusting your instinct, you convince your friends to go in first, while you follow behind them. It turns out you were right: you’ve just walked into BOSC.
You cast your eyes over the impressive collection of gin and kick yourself for not coming in here sooner. You’re certain you want a martini, but you’re going to need some advice on choosing a gin. The friendly bartender recommends Broken Heart gin and introduces Megan, who’s not a gin fan, to some interesting local beers on tap. Everyone’s satisfied with their drinks and you take seats at one end of a long, rustic wooden bench.
After a few rounds, you’re feeling really settled here, but people start to talk about moving on. You would like to keep exploring, but you’re not sure you’re ready to break the spell of this place yet.
If you stay here, go to 14.
If you leave, go to 15.
Searching for something sweet after all that whisky, you head up Boundary Street and turn right into Vulture Street. You haven’t gone far when you see a bar that looks like it belongs in 1960s Hawaii. It’s Jungle, and it’s a proper tiki bar. Heading in, you see so much kitschy island décor you almost trip over a table. If you were unsure, the pineapples on the bar confirm that this is a place to get some fruity drinks.
After trying all the classics like the Mai Tai and the Blue Hawaii, as well as some new concoctions, you’re convinced that these bartenders really know their way around rum. You’re also starting to wish more beverages came in such intricate mugs. But your friends are now eager to try somewhere different. You walk out of Jungle and realise you’re not sure what direction to head in.
If you continue along Vulture Street, go to 11.
If you go back the way you came, go to 15.
You don’t normally have more than a couple of beers when you go out, but beer seems to be working well for you tonight. You almost miss the alleyway with its intricate metalwork gates, but you don’t miss the sign above: Brisbane Brewing Co. Despite the sign, you’re somehow surprised to see all the brewing equipment beside the bar. It’s not just a name; Brisbane Brewing Company brews its own beer and sells it onsite.
If Archive is a beer library, this place must be a beer laboratory. You start off with a Brisbane Pale Ale, but you know you’ll have to try their Russian Imperial Stout – for the name as much as the beer – it’s called Putin on the RIS.
Beer puns aside, you’re having a great time, and it’s clear the brewers here really love what they do. You’re a little disappointed when your friends insist on moving to a new venue.
You manage to convince your friends to stay for one more drink. Returning to the table with your glasses, you realise you’ve been having such a good time chatting that none of you noticed one of the most important features of the bar. There’s a pile of wooden blocks for playing giant Jenga sitting in the corner just begging to be used.
Forgetting your drinks for a moment, the four of you assemble a chest height tower and start playing. Losing yourselves in the intense competition, you spend hours playing, starting again, and sipping your drinks. Strangers even come over to watch. Common sense whispers that the bar will eventually have to close, but you don’t care – there’s nowhere else you’d rather be right now.
You walk back down Boundary Street looking for somewhere else to try, but it starts to become clear that some of the group would rather go home. You can’t see anything that looks really appealing, so you all decide to call it a night. You’ve tried some excellent bars and some surprising food, but most importantly, you’ve tried West End and loved it. You’re sure you’ll be back again as soon as possible to go hunting for places you missed this time.