Hot Times at the Tinderbox

OK, I’ve been holding out. I was through the door at the Tinderbox pretty much when they opened in November last year and have been a regular ever since. Tinderbox is the noisy baby brother of PJ McMillan’s Harveys and sits just behind it off James Street.

Sitting outside
Sitting outside

Tinderbox doesn’t take bookings, except for large groups, which means it can be hard to squeeze a table out of them on the weekend, giving me an incentive to reduce traffic. On a recent Friday, however, the swarms have moved on. So I invite you all to enjoy the delights of Tinderbox.

The restaurant is bright and breezy with seating outside and in and is set up for casual dining. Close to the Palace Centro, the restaurant is a good place to meet up on the weekend for a glass of wine and dinner. The centrepiece of the inside space is the wood-fired oven, around which the menu is based.

A lot comes out of that oven with roasted meats, creative vegetables and pizzas as the basis of the menu. You can go a couple of ways. Order the roast or one of the Italian inspired pasta dishes with some sides from the Market Garden part of the menu or head for the pizzas. The last couple of visits I have not been ale to go past the pizza with Mooloolaba prawns, chili, zucchini, fior de latte and cherry tomatoes ($23). This pizza is guaranteed a crisp base from the woodfired oven, though on the right side of chewy, with fresh and flavoursome toppings. For the gluten adverse, gluten free bases are available.

Mooloolaba prawn pizza
Mooloolaba prawn pizza

The stars of the menu are the vegetable dishes. The wood-roasted leeks are soft and silky and at the moment they come with capers and goat’s cheese ($12). There is also a William pear salad with rocket and parmesan ($12) and fire-roasted mushroom with balsamic onions and blue cheese ($12).The menu is seasonal means recent favourites can suddenly disappear.

Leeks with goat's cheese
Leeks with goat’s cheese

The same happens with the small, though carefully chosen wine list. The staff sold me on a marsanne roussanne, a style I had never tried before, and after enjoying it a couple of times, it went the same way as some vegetable favourites. None of this I think is bad. The philosophy is to deliver produce driven and seasonal food which means sacrificing some preferred choices as the seasons turn.

The one source of anxiety at the Tinderbox is occasional difficulty in flagging down the wait staff. The staff are under pressure on busy nights and can sail right past. It is not the sort of place to dither about ordering. Yet despite, the pressure, everyone who turns up seems to get settled, receive a drink and a feed.

The Tinderbox serves fresh food, particularly great vegetables, and has a creative and evolving menu. Just don’t get too attached to your favourites.

Tinderbox Kitchen
7/31 James Street, Fortitude Valley
Open: Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner
Phone: (07) 3852 3744 (for bookings over 8)

Around the Corner at Sixes and Sevens

Once you get over the dissonance of an Americana bar situated within a Queenslander, it is easy to get comfortable at Sixes and Sevens, on the corner of James and Arthur Streets. A brother bar to the Cru Bar in James Street, Sixes and Sevens is so crowded on the weekend, with a lively and relatively youthful clientele, it is hard to squeeze past them on the footpath. Lunch on Thursday is a much more sedate experience and a good way to do a leisurely check-out of the menu.


The menu moves from snacks at the bar to share plates, such chicken wings and prawn pick-up sticks, to ‘hungry’ and ‘off the grill-carved’. You can add a number of sides, including potato bake and a green salad, as well as a cheese board and two desserts for those so inclined. We started with one of the bar snacks, a smokey eggplant with white beans a and feta dip served with some warmed sourdough ($9).  The dip was like a baba ganoush  with a spin. Garlicky and tasty.

Bar snacks

For mains, we bypassed the ‘hungry’, and went for the ‘off the grill-carved’ with a roast pork loin with the house coleslaw and a chicken supreme with a cajun rub and a corn salsa ($20). The slices of pork were slightly sweet with a southern glaze, served with a generous chunk of crackling and a finely sliced coleslaw with a decent viniagrette dressing

Cajun chicken
Cajun chicken

The servings are generous and the food well prepared and designed to complement a civilised drink in a comfortable bar. Sixes and Sevens feels like sitting inside a whiskey barrel, surrounded by dark, wooden walls and lit by large, metallic lights hanging over the small bar tables. What makes this different from a bar in America is the food. It is way, way better at Sixes and Sevens.
Inside the bar
Inside the bar

Sixes and Sevens
67 James Street, Fortutude Valley
07 3358 6067
Open 7 days 11am to midnight

James Street Food Trail

New Farm Food Stories has been dedicated to some more, er, mundane writing jobs and has been remiss in filling in readers about this week’s James Street Food and Lifestyle Trail. Events started Monday but the big day is Saturday 20th October. All day events include a Vietnamese street stall set up at kitchen shop Taste (behind Space)  and Bucci will transform its restaurant into a side street with producers and suppliers offering samples of wine, olive oil and other treats. As well the Cru Bar will set up a Veuve Clicquot Bar in James Lane.

There are also many scheduled and  ticketed events all day Saturday. Free events include sample breakfast bites from Gerard’s Bistro at 10am and the launch of The Foodies Guide to Brisbane at Scrumptious Reads at 2pm.  If you don’t mind paying a bit there is a tasting of high end Italian wines at Taste at 1pm ($10) and for the enthusiastic,  a five course degustation menu with wine at Gerard’s Bistro for $80 per person.

Gerard’s Bistro

Parking will be atrocious though the 470 bus goes down James Street. The full itinerary is at