Finalists for Bar of the Year 2018
Photography: Supplied (Big Poppa's and Seymour's); Jason Loucas (Bar Rochford)
BIG POPPA'S, SYDNEY
In a move that gently thumbed nose at Sydney's new-found reputation for being the city that ever sleeps, Big Poppa's snagged a licence with a grandfather clause that allows it to trade much later than its comrades. But even if the party were being put to bed before the witching hour, it'd still be one of the most exciting bars to have opened in Sydney in many a year. Co-owner Lewis Jaffrey and manager Bobby Carey both clocked plenty of time in the Shady Pines/Baxter Inn axis of awesome, and though its music and flavour are its own Poppa's is true to those bars' good-time spirit. Throw in expert bartenders, an extensive cheese list and a rollicking hip-hop playlist that resounds across both levels of the two-tiered venue, and you've got a very attractive proposition on your hands.
In short: Big drinks, big tunes, big cheese selection.
BAR ROCHFORD, CANBERRA
Is Rochford a bar with a particularly healthy snack offering or just a really boozy restaurant where people sometimes choose to get up and boogie while the DJ works the wheels of steel? And is that a roaring fire in that grate? In the glass, things trip from local chardonnay from the likes of Nick Spencer and Capital Brewing froth to a winning line-up of Chinons, Vouvrays and Beaujolais, plus of course a kick-arse line-up of cocktails. On the plate you can play it casual with hand-cut chips, house pickles and sourdough from local heroes Three Mills, or ramp it up with snapper, black-eyed peas and chorizo oil.
In short: Fire in the disco.
SEYMOUR'S COCKTAILS & OYSTERS, BRISBANE
Cocktails and Oysters.
It's hard to go past Lefty's Old Time Music Hall, our Bar of the Year in 2014. But if your destination happens to be Seymour's - Lefty's less flamboyant (but certainly not sober) neighbour - stay the course, pull back the crimson curtain and dive right in. This compact, New Orleans-accented sibling sits alongside Lefty's and shares owners - Jason Scott, Jamie Webb and Simon Shearer. Expect laser-sharp cocktails from the best bartenders in town, cosy booth seating (or classic bentwood stools at a brass-topped bar), plus smart, simple snacks ranging from freshly shucked oysters to duck pithiviers.
In short: Hidden delights in plain sight.