Above Board

Get a front-row seat to the Hayden Lam­bert show – a deft dis­play of sto­ry­telling and cock­tail craft

Time Out (Melbourne) - - BAR AWARDS -

HAYDEN LAM­BERT IS a for­mer Time Out Bar­tender of the Year for his ten­ure at Bar Amer­i­cano. He must have got­ten used to close quar­ters at Pres­grave Place, be­cause his cur­rent digs are al­most as com­pact. His bar is a com­mand cen­tre at the heart of a tiny room, with only a hand­ful of seats fac­ing Lam­bert as he dis­penses drinks that put the art back into ar­ti­sanal.

The menu proudly de­clares that Lam­bert de­liv­ers cock­tails and bad ban­ter: some­thing worth men­tion­ing as he’s had years hon­ing his daggy dad jokes, dry wit and old-man grump. This adds to your ex­pe­ri­ence, rather than de­tracts, as the of­fer­ing at Above Board is not just per­son­alised, but per­sonal. Sure, a chat with Lam­bert will help you de­ter­mine if you’re af­ter a clas­sic or a sig­na­ture cock­tail (all $21), but you’re also get­ting a lit­tle bit of his life story with ev­ery drink. There’s one named af­ter his pre­vi­ous em­ployer, cock­tail bar dis­rupter Matt Bax – the Em­pire Strikes Bax. One is a bla­tant ded­i­ca­tion to his wife – Erin’s De­light.

The HSL Spe­cial sounds like a cock­tail to fin­ish your night with on pa­per, but it’s sur­pris­ingly re­fresh­ing. The amaro and ab­sinthe are the high and low tones in your glass, de­fined and de­tectable but not over­pow­er­ing or overindulged. They are es­pe­cially bal­anced when shaken with lime and black­berry and de­liv­ered to you over a large block of of ice stamped with the bar’s logo.

Lam­bert’s chops have al­ready earned him the ac­co­lades, but with a bar en­tirely of his own vi­sion, and backed by the skill to ex­e­cute such an am­bi­tious feat, he has, with Above Board, earned Time Out’s Best Cock­tail Bar gong for 2018. lvl 1, 306 Smith St, Colling­wood 3066. above­board­bar.com. Tue-sun 5pm-1am.

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