Tinseltown Brisbane – A Curious Christmas Pop-Up Bar

I was excited when I found out about a Christmas pop-up bar in Brisbane, as I like bars and experiencing new things in my city and I thought getting into the Christmas spirit a little early might generate good vibes. Additionally, I was intrigued by the photos of Tinseltown Brisbane’s advertisement, as it looked fun and it was in a ‘secret location’! I pictured myself having an eggnog or two in a funky cave bar smothered with tinsel, baubles and Christmas paraphernalia.

Fast forward to the day and we were lining up out the front of the EC Venue in Fortitude Valley on a hot Saturday afternoon in early December, sweaty but hopeful. People were donned in Christmassy colours and a few of us started chatting in the line. This could be fun, I thought. Pretty soon festive-looking ladies, our hosts, gave us big smiles and drink tokens, and inside we went…

The ladies were giving it their all

The Atmosphere & Decorations – Tinseltown Brisbane

Well, it’s never a good idea to envision yourself having too much fun before you go out, as it was evident upon entry that Tinseltown Brisbane wasn’t as funky as it made itself out to be. The bar area was decidedly lacking in Christmas decorations, compared to the pictures. It just looked like a bar that had a last-minute makeover – a bit like my loungeroom every Christmas.

The only Christmassy part of the bar!
Probably the nicest corner in the whole place. Well done young lady!

There was a nice, Christmassy-looking section in the corner, the kind I had envisioned, although this was just a tiny part of the venue and patrons pounced on the few available seats. Apart from that, the place looked pretty spartan – just a modern, minimalist bar dressed in Christmas decorations that were little more than an afterthought.

Yes, there’s a bit of tinsel!

The Drinks

Nevertheless, my spirits were high and I’m generally a happy, optimistic person, so I thought I’d get Nikki (my partner) and myself an awesome cocktail to start the night with our drink tokens. We’d caught the bus in from our inner-city apartment so there would be no driving tonight. I saw the barman making mimosas – orange juice with champagne – which I soon found out was our entry drink. My happy heart sank a little lower.

Our mimosas

I then went up to the bar and asked for an eggnog and I received a blank look from the barman. A couple of the bar guys then said, ‘that’s got cream in it right? No, we don’t do that here’. Damn, although admittedly I was still in a pretty good mood. I then asked him what his favourite drink to make was and I soon received a cosmopolitan, which I enjoyed.

Our coconut margarita and cosmopolitan

Tinseltown Brisbane did have a Christmas cocktail list, with drinks on it such as a coconut margarita, which wasn’t bad, but certainly didn’t feel very Christmassy. Any hot toddies? None of those either. Although I must admit, the drinks Tinseltown Brisbane did have were pretty good. At one point I ordered a whisky sour and it had a nice flavour with some real kick in it.

My whisky sour (right) was strong!

The Entertainment

I wasn’t expecting entertainment, nor did I really want any, but upon entry we were given a piece of paper with a succession of emojis on different lines. This was code for Christmas carols which we had to work out. I didn’t bring my glasses so Nikki was on her own and we pretty much sucked, which is okay. I was surprised that the first song was ‘Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer’, which we knew! My father-in-law plays that every Christmas and laughs at his wife (grandma). It’s a funny song.

Our MC did a fine job

While this was going on, we were given some creative freedom to write ‘confessions’ which were put into a box and read throughout our short night (more on that later). This produced some chuckles and I had fun with some creative silliness here. I was also chatting quite a bit with the staff as I was making the most of things despite being disappointed.

Heads down in trivia

There were also some Christmas trivia questions, which we did terribly at. One group called themselves ‘Tinsel Tits’, which I thought was pretty good. I like trivia and didn’t mind this, but I wasn’t paying too much attention, as I was taking shots, filming, drinking and absorbing my surrounds, as I knew it would all be over pretty soon. Tinseltown Brisbane books guests in for one-and-a-half-hour slots only.

The Music

I must say, this is one aspect of the evening which I feel Tinseltown Brisbane got right. There was a nice mix of classics and modern Christmas songs, which you can hear in my video at the end of this post. The sound level was also pretty much perfect – loud enough to enjoy the music and not so loud that we couldn’t engage in conversations. I didn’t hear Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer though…  

There were a few stylish, Christmassy ladies at Tinseltown!

The Service

The service was another winner at Tinseltown Brisbane, as I thought the staff were engaging and friendly, particularly the ladies on the floor. They went out of their way to chat with people and seemed to put real effort in. While the staff were genuinely lovely, I couldn’t shake the feeling that whoever organised the event made them go the extra yard to make up for the lack of ‘wow’ that Tinseltown Brisbane sorely needed. The staff kept reminding us to ‘take lots of photos’.

The lovely ladies of Tinseltown

My thoughts Overall

The Good

Tinseltown Brisbane certainly did a few things right, which was limiting the amount of people allowed in the bar. This made the experience more intimate and gave us room to breathe. As I’ve mentioned the music and the staff were excellent and the cocktails they had on offer were also quite tasty.

The drinks were pretty decent at Tinseltown

The Bad

I think probably the biggest negative for me was the false advertising. The Tinseltown Brisbane photos appeared garish, exciting and ridiculously festive, like a novel event, but the reality looked like someone slapped decorations onto an otherwise boring bar at the last minute.

A spartan corridor with a few twinkles

I also thought charging a $17 entry fee was a little rich for what we got. I think going to a more quality bar like Frog’s Hollow Saloon or Death and Taxes, wearing a Christmas hat and enjoying more varied cocktails for my money would have been better. At least somewhere that made eggnog and hot toddies! I know my local The Scratch Bar makes hot toddies and I love this place!

I also get that Tinseltown is a ‘limited experience’, but having us there for just an hour and a half felt a little cheap.

We were making the most of it and having a pretty good time

Some Outside Input

Adding to this, I just put up some photos of Tinseltown on Instagram and a reader commented ‘looks nothing like the photos they advertised with’. She then added that she went to the first Brisbane Tinseltown, which she described as ‘laughable’. It seems I’m not the only one who felt short-changed.

I’m not saying these things to be nasty. Actually, I don’t feel upset at Tinseltown Brisbane in the slightest. I just don’t think the venue is being transparent with its audience, at least in Brisbane (there are Tinseltowns all around the world). Saying that, another person I follow on Instagram had only positive things to say about her experience. So, of course, decide for yourself, as you might enjoy it.

Who knows, if I’d been in the Christmassy corner with some eggnog, a hot toddy chaser and Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer playing in the background, I might have had a great 90 minutes…

A Few Fast Facts

  • Tinseltown is brought to you by the makers of the novel bars – The Wizard’s Den, and Alice: An Immersive Cocktail Experience.
  • Tinseltown ticket prices vary from $13.50 to $18.17, depending on when you purchase. This allows you one mimosa and 90 minutes at the ‘secret venue’ which is announced closer to time.
  • This year’s Tinseltown Brisbane is at the EC Venue in Fortitude Valley.
  • There’s Christmas trivia, Christmas carol emoji code cracking and a Christmas confession box to entertain you.
  • There are no eggnogs or hot toddies at Tinseltown Brisbane (in case you didn’t get that already).

Did you have a better experience? Do you have another favourite Christmas bar you’d like to share? Let me know in the comment section below, on social media or send me an email.

Merry Christmas!

4 thoughts on “Tinseltown Brisbane – A Curious Christmas Pop-Up Bar”

  1. My partner and I went to Tinseltown Brisbane yesterday. I’m a big fan of Christmas so I instantly felt disappointed when I got there and saw how the small venue was decorated. I was expecting a lot based on the pictures and videos I saw on Instagram from other cities! I work in a school. Honestly, our classrooms were much better decorated for Christmas! At least now I know not to bother going to events organised by them in the future.

    • Hi Yuana,

      Yeah, I’ve heard the same from a few people now. Sucks to be disappointed but as you said, lesson learnt!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Very bad experience. Especially when the hosts aggressively defended that Paris was a country during an impromptu Trivia.

    They also threatened to slap me and another customer I didn’t know for unrelated issues.

    It seems the venue asked them to leave shortly after the incidents. Still I never thought I would ever risk my life by saying that France was a country (I am French).


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