Daniel Lewis and Simon Benjamin have given the ‘small is beautiful’ mantra somewhat more credence with their charmingly petite all-day eatery, Napier Quarter. Lewis hails from Brisbane, while Benjamin would be known by many a Melburnian as the former part-owner and front man of the much cherished, and also modestly proportioned, institution that is Bar Lourinha. Lewis may be less familiar to southerners, but his Woolloongabba restaurant, Pearl (which he sold to move to Melbourne), would accord him equal fame to Benjamin amongst Brisbanites.
Occupying the site that formerly housed ICI, Napier Quarter took up the existing daytime café trade, but pushed its offer into the night, albeit with no small degree of licensing challenges. With only 26 seats inside, and 16 weather-dependent pews on the pavement, this is a deeply personal venture, with both Lewis and Benjamin working the floor. The existing fit-out of the heritage bluestone building, with its Parisienne vibe, very much played to the duo’s sensibilities when they first took the keys in 2016, though it has been tweaked somewhat over time.
Occupying the tiny kitchen is Elaine Horsnell, who was formerly the Head Chef at Lûmé, before Sean Quade took it in a more casual direction. She has also worked at Biota and Urbane, as well as four years with Lewis at Pearl. The food is produce focused, with an all-day offer that wends through eggs and pastries to entrees and mains, depending on the time of day. Horsnell talks of her food as being wine friendly, but it would be a mistake to think that it is a mere crutch for Benjamin’s concise list, with the pithy menu descriptions belying a high degree of sophistication and peerless craft.
The mantra for Napier Quarter is “quality, community & artisan,” and this is keenly felt across both the food and wine offer. Much like Benjamin’s prior gig, the wine list is necessarily brief, but it is unquestionably dynamic, with a focus on scarce products from micro-makers making for great fluidity. There are typically about 30 bottles chalked up on a baize green blackboard, with about half of them available by the glass, though the pouring list might change from bottle to bottle, depending on Benjamin’s mood, and Horsnell’s specials.