Literary City Guide | Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane is Cindy Crawford sitting on the porch reading a book while plump older sister Sydney tap-dances on the sidewalk in a leotard that’s too tight, hoping a talent agent drives by.
— Augusten Burroughs, The Australian

Tour Guide: Lani Pauli


Lani is one of Yelp Australia’s community managers and spends her day throwing the spotlight on Brisbane. Lani is a proud Brisbanite and if she’s not seeking a coffee, you’ll find her discovering Brisbane’s best cocktails, dinners or walking her golden doodle by the river. (All photos by Lani Pauli)


Relationship to Brisbane: Resident since 2008. I’m Queensland born-and bread and returned after a brief stint living in Sydney. 

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Jonathan Safran Foer or Sloane Crosley

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Probably local-chef Rory Doyle. He’s doing some rad things around casual dining. Maggie Beer or Ben Williamson (another standout Brisbane chef). 

Writing soundtrack: Silence mostly. Or the app Simple Noise. It drowns everything out and lets me think. 

Pen or Pencil: Pen. Even though I’m still trying to find the perfect one. 

Coffee or Tea: Coffee

Paperback or Hardback: Paperback 

Good Reads


Scrumptious Reads. If you are in any way a fan of food this is your heaven. They’re a bookstore that only stocks cookbooks and food journals. It’s amazing and easy to spend a lot of time (and money!) there. 

Avid Reader. A Brisbane book institution. It’s a must go for any book-lover. 

Atavist Books. This might be Brisbane’s smallest bookstore. But it packs a punch with lots of second hand books carefully selected by owner Sian. 

Archive Fine Books. Can you spare a few hours? Spend them wandering the shelves of this inner-city bookstore. 


Asia Pacific Design Library. This launched in 2010 and focuses on curating a selection of publications around design. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in this discipline and there’s a lot of inspiration to be found among the pages of the books. 

State Library of Queensland. A part of the Cultural Precinct, it is truly one of my favourite areas of the city. Sitting in one of the rooms overlooking the river, it is perfect for thinking, planning and they have a great range of programs and events.     

Brisbane Council Libraries. Don’t let anyone tell you that being a member of your local library is uncool. The Brisbane City library network is fantastic and I’ll often wander into the Brisbane Square Library to borrow a handful of books. 


Avid Reader. A lot of local author’s will host their book launches at this West End institution. It’s has a truly authentic community that continues to support it and it’s a part of our city’s fabric. 

Scrumptious Reads. These guys recently hosted the Monocle book launch in Brisbane and host a regular series of author events.  

Brisbane Writer’s Festival. This festival is going from strength to strength each year with a growing program of writer talks, lectures and more. 


Nook. Every great writer needs inspiration and think of this as your stationary and home inspiration. Although I hate to say it, imagine it is like Etsy In Real Life. 

Street Reads. This is a pretty cool concept by the Brisbane City Council. Brisbane has been home to a lot of Australian writers – John Birmingham, Nick Earles and Benjamin Law to name but a few – and these tours are another way to discover the city.  

Brisbane Powerhouse. There’s many events held here and a lot of our annual festivals like the Comedy Festival find home amongst this historic building. As well as being beautiful to explore, there’s often great events such as the upcoming David Sedaris show. 

Good Eats


Bunker. As the name suggests, this café is the size of a bunker, but beneath the green ivy covered walls is a community of coffee lovers and drinkers. They pour a range of local and interstate coffee roasts plus they do what is possibly Brisbane’s best hot chocolate with rotating flavours like Turkish Delight, Snickers and Lime with Sea Salt. 

The Single Guys. This might not be in the CBD but it’s a great spot to enjoy a decent coffee, complimentary WiFi and observe people in the café environment. They do a pretty decent Reuben sandwich, too. 

The Odyssey Project. A daily stop on my morning walk and great brews. I love that if they're shut you’d not even realize they existed. I think 2014 will be the year of suburban cafes in Brisbane.  


Gerard’s Bistro. High quality dining without the exuberant price tag. Ben Williamson is the head chef and puts his own spin on traditional Middle Eastern flavours. If you can, on weekends, indulge in their breakfast menu. It’s heavenly. 

Taro’s Ramen. Simply a MUST DO in Brisbane. It’s an institution and from the first sip of their broth, you’ll know why. 

Public. I feel like Public is often forgotten but it’s a great go-to for dinner whether it’s a “just because” or special occasion. They’ve just started serving insects.

The Servery. This is the one you want to keep secret. Sit at the marble top counter in the main area if you can for a truly intimate dining experience

Beccofino. The duck ragu is legendary and should be eaten once by everyone. 


Chouquette. I like to get the mini pastries to kid myself that they’re less “naughty” but frankly, if you’re going to eat some of this city’s best pastries go all out and eat whatever takes your fancy.  

Papa Jack’s. This has only recently opened but some of Brisbane’s best cocktail makers are behind the bar and make a cocktail to send anyone weak at the knees.  

Esquire. There’s a reason this is recognized as one of our best restaurants time and time again. It’s the special occasion, fine dining pinnacle. Ryan Squires, the chef, is innovative and constantly challenging what a restaurant meal should be. 

Pedro the shop cat at Nook

Pedro the shop cat at Nook

Lani's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: I love the view driving over the expressway coming back into the city but you also can’t beat the view from the State Library of Queensland over the river and city. 

2. Favorite place to write: Mostly, at home. But when I need a different scene I enjoy writing/working from Brother Espresso on Margaret Street. It is a beautifully old heritage listed building, The Single Guys or The Edge. 

3. Favorite museum: We’re so lucky to have the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art but also the Brisbane Museum. I also have such a soft spot for The Old Museum building. 

4. Favorite coffee shop: This is like picking your favourite child. So hard. But The Odyssey Project and Bunker are my top two. 

5. Favorite thing about Brisbane: That we’re finally growing up and taking our training wheels off. If you’re open to it there’s some great community building happening in Brisbane and some wonderful people making it happen – from dining, entrepreneurial endeavors or festivals celebrating our great urban spaces.