Head outside the building and look for two black doors. These were the only hints staff would give us to find the entrance to The Walrus Club at Toowong. We were on a mission to check out Brisbane’s hidden rum bar and were not disappointed with the result. It’s cute and comfortable, it’s cosy and intimate, and it’s certainly one to add to your list.
The Walrus Bar is styled as a Speakeasy
Looking around after several wines and one of their interesting rum cocktails, I was getting flashbacks to the old Boot Factory on Caxton Street pre-ICB. However, the food looks much more interesting, and you won’t find spaghetti bolognese on the menu but rather pizza, wedges and bacon bites. But this place isn’t really about food, it’s more about the around 300 spirits that line the old brick walls and reside in lovingly lit glass cabinets in the 1920s-styled Speakeasy.
Where is it?
All will be revealed at the end of this post but start looking at 543 Coronation Drive. Don’t bother checking for signs, you’ll have to be guided by the aroma of molasses, leather and cigars and the faint glow of dim orange-filamented bulbs.
The Walrus Club pays homage to the 1920/30s Temperance Movement (AKA Prohibition). Behind the bars at The Walrus Club, there is no attitude, rather attendants who pine for an era where a Manhattan, old-fashioned and straight up, was made with love, and patrons enjoyed the wait. They pour neats and can tell the flight from the aroma, blindfolded. When it comes to their drinks, and only their drinks, they prefer the pure and the rare to the transient and corrupt. They don’t ask questions; they don’t tell secrets, and in this dimly lit space, that could be helpful. You can ask questions about the cigars for sale and don’t forget to ask where you can smoke them without leaving the premises though you will have to walk under a garage door.
A poster child for rum runners
The namesake of The Walrus Club is not exactly one of Brisbane’s shining historical lights, but the ‘SS Walrus’ was a boat with a hell of a story. She was a steam-operated boat, a mobile distillery serving numerous plantations along the Brisbane River. Built at Cleveland in 1864 as a sailing vessel, she was sold in 1869 to James Stewart who converted her to steam and installed a still. A license to operate as a floating distillery was reluctantly granted on 14 April 1869 by the inspector of Distilleries, although he deemed the boat unsuitable for the purpose as there was then no other licensed distillery in the area. The boat then operated as the Pioneer Floating Sugar Mill. Its license was not renewed in 1872 as it did not fulfil the requirement to carry cane-crushing equipment and acted solely as a distillery, producing rum from molasses.
The SS Walrus was Queensland’s poster child for rum running, and The Walrus Club celebrates her place in history. So begins a place where secrets once again stay secret.
Bootlegger, baron, dandy or a dude, gangster, degenerate aristocrat?
If you fancy yourself as a bootlegger, baron, dandy or a dude, gangster, degenerate aristocrat, decadent aesthetes, a corrupt politician or muso-riche or just like a good drink, this is the bar for you. Be warned, that once you are let in, you may never want to leave.
The Walrus Club is open from Thursday to Sunday from 6 pm until late.
Bottom line: Still searching for the door? Here’s a hint – look under the rear of the Regatta Hotel.
Best tip: Uber it.
More great Brisbane Bars
I remember that bar. So cool that it’s back.
Severe flood damage caused it to shut for a while but so good it’s open again.