Brisbane’s West End is utterly intriguing so this is a work in progress as far as exploration goes.
But the story must start somewhere and today it was the big white West End markets building with the palms either side of the entrance that caught me quite by surprise. It has an unmistakable feel of the Mediterranean about it, so much so I was disappointed not to find the word “mercado” on it somewhere.
That’s ironic really, as the area was named by early English settlers who found it reminiscent of London’s West End. I’m not sure what prompted them to think that, as it bears little resemblance to its London namesake today.
The Mediterranean feel is not so surprising considering the West End is the home of the Greek community – the Greek community centre, the Greek Orthodox church (since 1928) and the annual Paniyiri Festival (since 1976), the longest running Greek festival in Australia.
It’s also traditionally the home of Brisbane’s largest indigenous Australian community, as well as Chinese and Italian communties, which puts the West End among Brisbane’s most successful multicultural areas.
It shares a peninsula in a curve of the Brisbane River with South Brisbane and Highgate Hill and is a pleasant walk from either South Brisbane train and bus station on the city side of the peninsula to the east or the West End Citycat terminal on the St Lucia university side at the west. The ferry terminal was destroyed by the 2011 floods but reopened later in the year.
Getting back to the beautiful white market building, it was built in 1928 and is one of Australia’s best examples of the mission revival style, an architectural movement inspired by the Spanish mansions from California south to Mexico (think Zorro) that started in the late 19th century. It was built as a soft drink factory by Tristram’s, a company established in 1875.
These days the area is hip, with lots of cool cafes, restaurants and drinking holes (many superbly Greek, the Aegean coming through in blue and white checked table cloths on little outdoor tables – saves a trip to Athens) mainly along the main street, Boundary St.
Today was a quick reccy mission of the area and is just scratching the surface so you can be sure you haven’t heard the last of the West End.