It’s one of those typically gorgeous Brisbane afternoons. The air is crisp and cool, the sun beaming through, casting a warm golden glow over South Bank and our beautiful river city. The sky is a brilliant shade of blue with candy-cotton puffs of perfect white clouds floating by. I know, as the sun sets, those colours will change from blue and white to rich shades of pink, orange and yellow.
Sprawled out on a bright red picnic blanket at South Bank’s River Quay Precinct, it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of the city. I roll over and reach for another Arancini ball, perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, stuffed with gooey cheese inside and going down a little too well with the glass of wine in my hand. This delicious morsel is just one tasty part of the most grown-up picnic I’ve ever seen and it’s making me feel some kind of way.
Here’s the thing about the brains behind Brisbane’s burgeoning food scene, not only do they produce amazing food, they see great opportunities and pounce on them. The savvy restauranteurs in River Quay saw the lush green grass along the river and knew it was the perfect spot for a picnic fuelled by gourmet food, just one of the delights of the upcoming Regional Flavours program.
If you haven’t heard of it before, Regional Flavours is an annual food and wine festival hosted at Brisbane’s South Bank precinct. We’re talking an influx of celebrity and world-renowned Chefs, amazing fresh produce and free entertainment for two deliriously wonderful days. Think big names like Maggie Beer, Adriano Zumbo, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. This year, it’s being held on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July. I know I’m biased, but Brisbane really is coming into its own as a fantastic food destination.
But, back to my blanket of heaven. The team at Popolo have prepared a picnic feast that’s putting the waistband of my jeans to the test. A selection of cured meats, cheese, olives, mustard fruits and pickled vegetables haloed with breads. Arancini balls, fried Sicilian olives stuffed with anchovies and the most perfect of pizzas adorned with sugo, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil.
As far as picnics go, this one is seriously kicking the butt of my usual store-bought supplies, with not a water-cracker in sight! What’s best, all I had to do was show up, collect the mystical basket of flavour and get comfortable in the warm afternoon sun. Given the grassy location of my River Quay feast is licensed, a BYO bottle of wine (or two) is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. It’s the perfect way to lose an afternoon laughing, eating and drinking with those you love, followed by a jug of Aperol Spritz cocktail at Popolo.
Afternoons like this one tend to get lost. People get busy, they run out of time and it all seems too hard. The worry of organising things can get in the way of what it’s really about – spending time with the people you love. Sitting on the picnic blanket I can’t help but picture my best girlfriends being there too, all of us laughing and giggling over the latest romantic mishap or life-fail. It makes me want to call them all immediately and arrange a picnic together.
The afternoon sun is setting and the twinkling lights of the city are bouncing off the river. Rather than go home, the picnic is packed up and returned to the kitchen at Popolo, no dish washing required. Back at the restaurant, I’m treated to a flowerpot full of Tiramisu, beautifully prepared by the kitchen. I don’t normally like Tiramisu, but this one is different. It’s equal parts gorgeous and delicious and I eat the whole thing without hesitation. It has me rethinking my stance on Tiramisu.
The evening is finished off at Stokehouse with a delicious Poire Royal cocktail, a full tummy and a gorgeous view of our pretty little city. It’s the perfect spot to finish off the afternoon and the best picnic I’ve ever had. Ferries float by, taking tired commuters home to their families. Music plays in the background and I’m a million miles away, dreaming of upcoming adventures, sipping on my sweet little drink.
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Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.