Australia’s biggest bar visionaries spill the ice

Australia’s biggest bar visionaries spill the ice

Text: Yeong Sassall

Image: Instagram
Image: Bulletin Place

Mark Ward talks to some of Australia's most innovative bar owners and uncovers the stories behind their vision

I have a fascination with people's creative visions. I always wonder what inspired them and what drove them to bring their idea to life. There is without a doubt an underlying instinctual drive that we all follow, however, I'm sure in time somebody will do a study and work out that it's a culmination of small moments that work to trigger and unlock the kind of creative forces that are changing the way we live, eat, drink and generally engage with life.

I have nothing but admiration for those that open a restaurant or bar. Remembering that most venues have a blank canvas, it's your job as a bar owner to paint the ultimate picture and make it inviting, comfortable and moreish with a mouth-watering food and drink offering.

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This leads me to three very exciting and already celebrated recent venue openings in Sydney. First we have Bulletin Place from the dream team of Tim Phillips, Adi Ruiz and Robb Sloane. 

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Combined, they are old-school bar slingers making drinks across the globe in various drinking dens, however, they are about to open their second site in Sydney and really do lead the cocktail offering with a truly seasonal list that changes daily, depending on who is mixing drinks.

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The newest addition comes from two internationally celebrated bartenders - Luke Ashton and Charlie Ainsbury - in the form of This Must be the Place

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Both Luke and Charlie have represented Australia in the highly esteemed Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year competition and I believe they've created a place to engage in their hospitality and hairy brand of charm over everything else.

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Lastly, the marriage of kitchen and bar comes in the form of the already infamous ACME. As fellow contributors to Buro 24/7 you'll know their work, however, this really is a dream team when it comes to the kitchen and bar coming together with Andrew Emerson, Cam Fairbairn, Mitch Orr and Ed Loveday. I personally love anything that comes from Mitch's kitchen and would happily have my last meal here, accompanied by one of Ed's signature aperitifs. 

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Naturally, I was interested in how their restaurant/bars were developed, so I sat down with Tim Phillips, Charlie Ainsbury and Ed Loveday and asked them to share their stories.

Can you pinpoint a key moment that made you think about creating your own venue?

Tim: I guess it's always been the end-goal dream. I'm not much of a studious person, nor a corporate slave, so moving into a degree or 9-5 role would have really stifled my passion. Around about the age of 26, after getting back from extensive travel, I started to knuckle down. 

Charlie: As a bartender, the dream to open up your own venue arrives very early in your career. I think I was only two or three years in (out of 11 years behind the stick) when I thought about creating my own venue. Over the years the ideas evolve and change, as you'd imagine. Luke and I set out to create This Must Be The Place a full year before we found the venue and signed the lease. This is by no means our dream bar, but then again, I don't think I'll ever have one - just lots of them.

Ed: First and foremost, we wanted to create our ideal 'neighbourhood joint'. A restaurant that expressed not just the personalites of the four of us (Andy, Cam, Mitch and myself) but also a sense of the area around us, too. Ideally, we want the people that live in the neighbouring streets to feel at home at ACME - a place they can pop into on their way home from work for a bowl of quick pasta, or somewhere they can host a special occasion.

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What's the one experience you want customers to take away from going to your venue?

Tim: We don't take ourselves too seriously. Many high-end cocktail bars forget that these days. It can be a intimidating process if you're not that into drinking cocktails. We try and take that bulls**t away. We're about nice drinks by nice people, with nice ingredients. Easy. 

Charlie: Just an overall sense of happiness and satisfaction. What more could you ask for?

Ed: Yes - we play rap music. Yes - sometimes it's loud. Yes - the pasta is always al dente. Yes - Cam did just call you "mate" even though he's never met you before. I'm not saying it's ACME's way or the highway, but to an extent we don't want to compromise on product, service or atmosphere. If you try and appeal to everyone, you end up watering down the product. ACME is for ANYONE, but it may not be for EVERYONE.

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What would be your last drink and meal?

Tim: Easy - to drink, a gin martini with Tanqueray 10 and Regal Rogue Rosso Vermouth. To eat, a Huxtaburger cheeseburger, a bag of pork crackling, brussel sprouts with bacon, roast charcoal chicken with hot chips, gravy and chicken salt. Then, sticky date pudding with vanilla ice cream, pecan pie and a Kinder Surprise. NO, two Kinder Surprises.  

Charlie: My mum's Thai green curry with fresh jasmine rice and a glass of water.

Ed: Right now, with Sydney's weather as it is, it'd probably have to be a big bowl of Mapo tofu and  a bottle of Michter's rye whiskey.

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