We explore Dirty Sultan, shisha bar and crown jewel of TRYP Fortitude Valley.

dirty sultan bar brisbane

What are you looking for when you take your partner out for dinner?  Cheap and fast was for when you were at uni working two part-time jobs.  Fine dining with a price tag is for those big occasions when you’ve got cash to splash and time to kill.

No, that thing you’re looking for is the experience.  Great food is a prerequisite, and good service never hurts, but you want time with your significant other, a way to end the week on a high note and bond over something that’s a little bit different.

Maybe you’re a complete creature of habit, frightened of leaving your comfort zone.  Maybe you can’t stand eating out – Netflix and Ben and Jerry’s is your idea of a good date night.  If that sounds familiar, stop reading now.  Dirty Sultan isn’t for you.

But if you’re an explorer, a gastronomic adventurer, a bon vivant still excited about all the amazing things life has to offer, then scroll faster.

You’re about to be introduced to Brisbane’s best rooftop shisha bar, which surmounts Brisbane’s only street art hotel.  TRYP by Wyndham Fortitude Valley Hotel Brisbane is now crowned by Dirty Sultan, a shisha lounge/cocktail bar hybrid that also offers authentic Turkish cuisine in neo-Mediterranean surrounds.

Like TRYP, Dirty Sultan is an enigma.  It exists on the periphery, in a space between excess and haute, where colour and taste and sound create a collision of the senses that simultaneously excites and overwhelms.  Some of the décor is bold-patterned and dizzyingly bright.  Other parts are strikingly minimalist.

Sometimes, it feels like an inner-city bar, exuding a hip urbanism.  At others, it’s refined hedonism, a fever-dream from the streets of Istanbul or İzmir.  The modern and the traditional clash, then seamlessly meld together.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re Brisbane locals or travellers who’ve just arrived in Queensland’s capital – dining here will be the culinary experience you’ve been waiting for.

The Dirty Sultan attitude is best summarised by a description of one of their cocktails, Yaśmin:

“Fluffier than a sky-full of billowing clouds, this delicately crafted delight was perfected by the Sultan himself as an ode to the love of his life: getting lit.”

The Alcohol

Dirty Sultan’s assortment of alcohol seems like a good place to start.  After all, cocktails are the gateway drug – you go for a quick drink to cap off a day of exploring, and suddenly you’ve polished off a meze platter and sucked down a dozen puffs of shisha smoke.

There are 13 house-crafted cocktails on Dirty Sultan’s drinks menu, ranging from Leylã (a refreshing pomegranate and mint combo with a hint of lime) to Hiră (tequila- or vodka-infused peach and apple tea).  These aren’t your typical mixes, either – there’s a couple, like the chilli-infused tequila, that are formidable enough to challenge even seasoned drinkers.

Point of interest: if the names of each drink start confusing you, the menu has a short description in Turkish at the top of each listing.  Whip out Google Translate, and plug those in for a fun and interesting way to learn more about the drink (and the Turkish language).  Leylã, for example, is a nar mojito, or ‘pomegranate mojito’.  It’s fascinating cultural touches like this that make Dirty Sultan such a delightful experience.        

If you’re not in the mood for exotic and exciting, they offer a range of on-tap beer, bottled beer and cider, spirits and wine.  You can also ask the bartenders for a classic cocktail, but where’s the fun in that?  You go to Dirty Sultan for a gustatory adventure, not so you can knock back a Cosmo or three.

The Food

dirty sultan dining hall

“Share,” said the Sultan.

You don’t go to Dirty Sultan by yourself.  It’s a journey designed to be embarked upon with friends and partners, and so the entire menu is shareable.  You won’t find any main courses here – it’s all meze platters and nouveau-Turkish street food, tied together by a bouquet of Mediterranean flavours.

Char-grilled chicken and lamb skewers, pide topped with slow-cooked lamb and red pepper, Turkish steamed buns stuffed with chicken, garlic sauce and tomatoes, opulent Turkish Delight sundaes with pistachio gelato, berry coulis and halva … are you getting hungry yet?

In countries like Turkey and Greece, meze platters are traditionally consumed in a social setting – friends drink and smoke while nibbling on flavour-packed delicacies.  They’re a way to bring people together, hearkening back to times when community dining was the norm rather than exception.

Tackling a combination of meze platters with your significant other is fun, but it’s also a great way to bond.  Forget banal conversation about work or the in-laws – you’ll be chatting about the quirky names and bold flavours in no time.  Adding an experiential aspect to dining elevates the Dirty Sultan from a place to eat to a place to go.

The Smoke

dirty sultan shisha smoking area

The nucleus of Dirty Sultan is its shisha, a beacon for both culturalists and hookah veterans.  A dedicated smoking room is separated from the main bar and dining areas by sliding screens, but you can still feel the lure of it: to lie supine in couches overlooking the city as the air vibrates with an eclectic combination of trap beats, European hip-hop and house music.

The vibe is simultaneously fringe and deeply traditional: nothing is mainstream, yet smoking water pipes has been a social pastime in the Middle East for hundreds of years, and there’s an echo of that here.

Luckily, you’re not limited to the traditional tobacco-in-water style of hookah smoking.  Dirty Sultan offers a selection of quality shisha flavours in both tobacco and non-tobacco varieties, which offer a smoother, fruitier smoking experience than cigarettes or cigars.  Regularly smoking shisha (even the non-tobacco sort) isn’t great for your health, but it’s certainly fine as the occasional holiday indulgence.

Why Should You Visit?

Brisbane shisha bar

Well, if you’ve read this far and you’re not already intent on visiting, maybe you’re not as adventurous as you thought you were.  But, just in case, here’s a few more reasons (aside from the amazing food, excellent cocktails and shisha) that you should give Dirty Sultan a try:

  • The atmosphere. It’s hard to find a restaurant with an ambience that’s both unique and culturally authentic, but Dirty Sultan manages to pull it off.
  • The ’gram-worthiness. You don’t need to be ashamed – it’s perfectly normal to want to make your friends and family envious with all the fascinating places you’re visiting on holiday.
  • The convenience. If you’re staying in TRYP Fortitude Valley while you’re in Brisbane – and if you aren’t, why not? – then Dirty Sultan is literally just an elevator-ride away.  They also offer catering for hotel guests, so, if you want a quiet evening, you can even enjoy some of that delicious Turkish cuisine in your hotel room.

What are you waiting for?  Go to Dirty Sultan with your partner, sample the divine cocktails, enjoy a delicious meze platter, and then watch the sun set over Brisbane while sharing a hookah.  If that’s not true romance, we don’t know what is.

Feel like you’d love to visit Dirty Sultan the next time you’re in Brisbane?  We can’t wait to see you there!

Here at My Wyndham Holidays, we also publish articles about other fascinating places to eat and drink in some of the world’s most exciting destinations, so, if you enjoyed reading this, why don’t you subscribe?

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