Bar Rochford, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory © Bar Rochford
Canberra’s best bars
Drop into a speakeasy-style sofa with a martini in hand, or thumb a list of artisan whiskies as long as your leg in one of Canberra's hip bars.
By Jennifer Pinkerton
Lighting bolts of energy have swept through Canberra’s bar scene over the past few years, resulting in a fresh crop of establishments in the precincts beside and within the city centre. Chill out or party on at one, or all, of these exceptional bars in the nation's capital.
Mint Garden Bar
Where: Gorman House Arts Centre, Batman St, Braddon
Summer-loving Canberra folk gather among the climbing vines and flower pots at Mint Garden Bar in Braddon. Only open in the warmer months, this bar has a Turkish-tiled bar front staffed by bow tie touting ladies and gents. It sits outside fine dining restaurant Sage in the Gorman House Arts Centre, an Art Deco-style building with open-air courtyards. Perch at one of the bar's high tables, or take a seat around the fairy light festooned tree with a rose and lychee sangria and a plate of pulled pork croquettes to keep you company.
Parlour Wine Room
Where: 16 Kendall Ln, Acton
If you're after a drink in a sumptuous space, Parlour is for you. This wine bar was one of the original foodie occupants of the NewActon precinct, and its timeless and lavish feel will make you want to settle in for a while. Quilted leather adorns the bar area, velvet chairs and chesterfield couches dot rooms, and a leafy terrace out the front carries views over NewActon and beyond. Parlour’s inventive food, especially its tapas, matches the quality of its wine list – the handiwork of Peter Bell, a sommelier previously engaged at lauded restaurant Aubergine.
Where: 1/17 Garema Pl, Canberra
Hippo Co’s glass-fronted balcony looks out onto the hustle and bustle of Garema Place – the city centre's version of a public square – while inside, its owners have crafted a world that recalls the American Midwest. Taxidermied creatures feature on wooden walls, vintage light fittings hang from the ceiling, and more than 250 varieties of whisky stand proudly on bar shelves. Catch jazz performances here on Wednesday nights.
Where: 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston
Both sophisticated and seriously playful, Joe's Bar is tucked inside East Hotel. The locally sourced Italian food here is a highlight, particularly the mozzarella and pea arancini balls, as is the eclectic decor that combines fuchsia walls with chain-draped lights, bright coloured benches, an assortment of funky and elegant glassware, a marble bar and the occasional fur throw. Step through the floor-to-ceiling concrete curtain at the bar's entrance and treat yourself to a wine from the bar's list of Italian and local blends, selected by Canberra region vigneron Fergus McGhie.
Where: First Floor, 65 London Circuit, Canberra
Hidden away in the iconic Melbourne Building, the sign out front of Bar Rochford may say "wine bar" but inside you'll find that the wine, cocktails and beer have all been selected with equal care. The place itself has funky retro vibes, so slide into a cosy booth for drinks and snack plates or make your way through the tasting menu. The food is inventive and after desserts have been served the party atmosphere really comes to life.
Where: Wooden Door, Odgers Ln, Canberra
Built inside an old bank vault, Molly likes to keep herself a secret. The bar's website enigmatically includes mere latitude and longitude coordinates for hunting down its location. Its unmarked entranceway – in Hobart Place in the city centre – could be confused with a cleaning cupboard. Yet inside, this prohibition era space hums with whisky appreciation nights, cocktail lessons, monthly jazz performances and hidden rooms. In winter, warming menu treats such as roasted chestnuts and heated cognac can be found on the menu.