Above Board – Less is more
I saved my favourite two bar adventures in Melbourne for last. The best is yet to come. Both concepts shaped by their own “style and personality”, experienced and knowledgeable. Both concepts are owner-managed and independent and do not belong to large companies. I’ll start with Above Board that ticks all the boxes of my favourite “go-to” bars. Stylish and intimate, attractively lit and atmospheric, with a welcoming spirit and an amazing host.
Above Board literally means honest, open. The phrase originates from card games, which have enhanced the English language with a large variety of expressions. In this case, above board probably refers to the idea of keeping one’s hand above the table or board to prove that one is playing fairly. “It is an honest statement,” the very pleasant co-owner, Hayden Scott Lambert, told me.
Two years ago, this unusual drinking oasis was created by three ambitious restaurateurs. Hayden Scott Lambert is one of the creative minds and co-owners behind the concept. He has been a bartender since 2002, internationally experienced and has travelled to many countries. He has already won awards for his former venue, Bar Americano (Melbourne), and is currently nominated for Best Cocktail Bar at the Australian Bar Awards. Finding the place isn’t easy. It is located on the first floor, above a nice craft beer shop. Small and intimate as I like it. From the very first moment, this bar impressed me with its simplicity and well thought-out mature concept.
Above Board thus combines Asian purism, interpreted in an Australia way, topped with masterfully crafted cocktails.
The appeal of the place lies in a combination of minimalism and coziness. The interior features a mix of concrete and dark wood. As soon as you enter, you find yourself in front of a massive concrete table that lies at the very heart of the bar. There are seats for around twelve guests. “We were inspired by the open kitchens we have in Australia. So, guests feel like they are home or at their friend’s place,” Lambert told me. The simplicity of Japanese Bars also served as a model.
The minimalistic concept of the place continues in its spirit selection. There’s no back bar stacked with bottles and brands. Lambert has focused on a few very selected spirits. Less is more, and I like concepts where the focus is more on the taste than the product. The simplicity of the drinks impresses, with three to four ingredients and minimal decoration. Lambert’s style is boozy, subtle, with unexpected combinations. Guest come to enjoy a perfect drink and the minimal atmosphere. The focus is on the guest and the bartenders take their time to tailor your cocktail to your needs. The huge communal table connects bartender and guests alike.
Classic drinks are served in a stylish and sophisticated drinking den.
A handful of classics and signature drinks is listed on the elegant menu. It is one of the few rare and hidden gems. Minimal, boozy and hospitable. The glassware is in accordance with the concept: simple but high-quality. The ethos of the bar is simple, too. “We want to make our guests happy,” said Lambert, and I nodded with a big smile. One of my largest “nightlights” of this Australia trip.
35 ml Amaro Montenegro
15 ml Creme de mure
25 ml Fresh Lime juice
7.5 ml Sugar syrup (2:1)
1 dash Pernod Absinthe
Shake, strain over cracked ice, garnish with a blackberry and lightly dust with powdered sugar.
Visit Above Board // Pictures were provided by © Above Board, Hayden Scott Lambert