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20 of Canberra’s best bars

HerCanberra Team

Keen for a quiet drink, or a merry night out with friends? Here’s where to head…

A quick update as at September 2015: since we published this article, a few notable additions to Canberra’s bar scene have opened. Click on the names to check out our articles on Akiba, Bacaro, The WellMuse and Joe’s Bar and this article on nine new bars.

NEW ACTON

MONSTER

It’s one of those rare places that’s as comfortable for breakfast as it is for midnight cocktails, and you never EVER think you’re sitting in a hotel foyer.

There are nooks to hide away in, a fire to warm yourself next to, and the elegant salon right next door, should you decide to head in for something more substantial.

The great thing about Monster isn’t Sean McConnell’s inventive cuisine (although it’s amazing), or the carefully crafted cocktails and interesting wine list; it’s that this is a place that transcends generations. It’s that perfect watering hole for any age.

Monster

the essentials

What: Monster Kitchen and Bar
Where: 25 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton
When: 6.30am to 1am every day.
Phone: 02 6287 6287
Web: www.hotel-hotel.com.au/eat-and-drink/monster

A.BAKER

Once you’ve made your way past the instagrammers and bloggers crowding A.Baker, you’re in a unique venue that deserves praise for its ambitions. Head downstairs for the ‘speakeasy’ bar – a dim and striking escape from the activity above ground, the feature piece a row of amazing old marine lights, found in Jodhpur.

speakeasy

It’s place to relax after work, or to wait for your table with some olives and nuts…but with a voyeuristic one-way glass window into the commercial bakery, it’s a fun way to pass the time. And with a good list of Australian spirits like Tasmanian whiskies, a nice plump list of local wines and a reserve list that goes a bit further afield, you won’t go thirsty either.

the essentials

What: A.Baker
Where: 15 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton
When: Monday to Thursday 5pm to 10pm; Friday and Saturday 5pm to 12pm.
Phone: 02 6287 6150
Web: www.abaker.com.au

PARLOUR WINE ROOM

Snappy and modern with a focal square bar that takes pride of place in the centre of the room, Parlour Wine Room has emerged anew. Packed with tables and cosy nooks with couches perfect for hiding away from the cool of winter, it’s on Parlour’s terrace that you’ll be wanting a seat this summer as you overlook the evolving precinct of NewActon with a signature cocktail in hand.

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the essentials

What: Parlour Wine Room
Where: 16 Kendall Lane, NewActon (Kendall Lane runs off Marcus Clarke Street).
When: 12pm-midnight Tuesday to Thursday, 12pm-late Friday & Saturday, 12pm-10.30pm Sunday
Phone: 02 6257 7325
Web: www.parlour.net.au

LUCKY’S

Many think a speakeasy should be underground, but the emphasis is on ‘hidden’ – in this case, Lucky’s is at street level, but you do have to find it via a secret entrance at the back of the hotel’s Barber Shop or a discreetly lit entrance from outside. Those readers of a certain ‘vintage’ may remember the space as its previous incarnation as‘Bobby McGee’s’ but let me tell you, there’s no ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ being played here – it’s all class with a curated DJ set adding atmosphere.

luckys

It’s sizeable, the space feels sophisticated and intimate, with booths providing privacy. Add a well crafted list of classic and newer cocktails, regular dance entertainment, DJs and more, and it’s sure to be a place to ‘get lucky’. Read more here.

the essentials

What: Lucky’s Speakeasy
Where: 1 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT (inside the QT Hotel)
When: Thursday to Saturday from 5pm – late; Mondays from 7pm til late.
Phone: 02 6267 1270
Web: www.qtcanberra.com.au

THE LIBRARY BAR

Tucked away inside the stylish Peppers Gallery Hotel in New Acton, this tiny bar is a hidden gem. It’s always popular, so help yourself to the books from the library and see people you won’t see elsewhere, and the pizzas from Bicicletta next door are great.

diamant

the essentials

What: The Library Bar
Where: 15 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra (inside The Peppers Gallery Hotel)
When: Open seven days
Phone: 02 6175 2222
Web: www.peppers.com.au/gallery

CITY

MOLLY

Even locals can’t find this bar — and that’s just how the owners like it. It’s Canberra’s only ‘real’ speak-easy and it’s so cool it hurts.

Speakeasies of the Prohibition era were a well-kept secret — illegal, hidden drinking dens where you really only needed a bottle to qualify. Molly has recreated this prohibition experience for their customer on every level. Firstly, you need to find the place (the website offers little more than map coordinates), but once you do locate the unmarked door, descend down a fairly uninteresting staircase and open an incredibly weighty wooden door; you are immediately transported somewhere different.

molly

The bar is king at Molly; it dominates the space, while a wall with bottles of every spirit imaginable hangs directly in front of you. There are secret rooms, a cheese and charcuterie station, and during winter Molly serves up roasted chestnuts and heated cognac. With live jazz during the week, cocktail lessons and whiskey tastings, this is one place worth whipping out the GPS for.

Read our full review here.

the essentials

What: Molly
Where: -35° 16′ 46.45″ S – 149° 7′ 35.23″ E
When: Tuesday to Saturday, 4pm – 2am
Web: molly.net.au

HIPPO Co

All Alpine ski lodge in decor, Hippo Co is one of city’s leading bars with a commitment to the craft of making a serious drink.  There’s a great collection of whiskey and scotches, plus a balcony to take in the scene over Garema Place in Civic.

hippo

There are plenty of spots for a chat and conversation-starter objects (awhole pack of taxidermic critters, framed vintage prints and retro light fittings, to name a few) about the room if you get stuck for topics. There are some nicely thought out original recipes on the menu as well.

Add live music several nights a week until late, including jazz on Wednesdays, and you’ve got one lively date launch pad. Read more here.

the essentials

What: Hippo Co
When: Wednesday 5pm – Late (Jazz Every Wednesday); Thurs – Sat 5pm – Late.
Where: 17 Garema Place, Civic
Phone: 6257 9090
Web: www.hippoco.com.au

PLAYGROUND

An original concept and a good spot for meeting friends, keeping the tone light, and the Martinis are pretty good – being one of their raison d’etres. The outdoor lounge in Garema Place is great in summer for people watching. The iPod order system doesn’t instil confidence, though…you’re not sure if the staff are instagramming or ordering your next round.

playground-bar

the essentials

What: Playground Bar
Where: 25 Garema Place, Civic
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 4pm til 1:30am
Phone: 02 6262 7171
Web: playgroundbar.com.au

HONKYTONKS

Whisky bars seem to be all the rage at the moment, but Honkytonks does things a little differently – here it’s all about the TEQUILA! If too many ‘lip, sip, sucks’ have put you off it for life, I urge you to try again…this is a different experience entirely. Combined with some pretty amazing Mexican food, moreish Sangria, and a ‘cantina’-like atmosphere, the incense-filled interior of Honkytonks is great for a chilled after work drink, or something a little noisier.

honkytonks

Not only that, Honkytonks has a fantastic commitment to supporting local artists through their ‘The Wall’ gallery and regular market nights. Arriba!

the essentials

What: Honkytonks
Where: 5 Garema Place, Canberra City
When: Monday to Thursday 4pm to 2am; Friday to Sunday 2pm to 2am.
Web: drinkhonkytonks.com.au

TREEHOUSE

Treehouse is a great little bar in the Sydney Building on Northbourne Avenue…the fitout is impressive, with a beautiful illuminated tree the defining feature.

Spread over two floors (main bar and room for boogying downstairs and a more intimate cocktail lounge upstairs), Treehouse is good for a quiet glass of bubbles or slightly noisier cocktails with the girls. You want to head to the upstairs bit which is a bar within a bar and can be reserved for functions.

The team care about their cocktails, and it has a relaxed vibe. Downstairs is sparse décor wise, so its to the treehouse you want to go….up the stairs.

upstairs-bar

the essentials

What: Treehouse
Where: Sydney Building, 32 Northbourne Avenue, Civic.
When: Open Wednesday-Saturday, $9 lunches from noon on weekdays only. Open til late.
Phone: 6162 0906
Web: www.treehousebar.com.au/

BRADDON

KNIGHTSBRIDGE PENTHOUSE

The Knighty has been around for what seems like forever, and is a wonderful escape from the busy city centre and the hustle and bustle of Lonsdale Street. Perfect for a before or after dinner tipple, its interior takes its cues from Melbourne’s shabby chic laneway bars, and has a somewhat timeless appeal.

martini

It has a dedicated following, a beer garden of sorts out back, and a party vibe later on. One thing’s for sure – you’ll always enjoy well-crafted drinks – these guys are serious about their cocktails. Try the Apple Passionfruit Martini!

the essentials

What: Knightsbridge Penthouse
When: Tuesday to Wednesday, 5pm to 12 am; Thursday 4pm til 1am; Friday and Saturday 4pm to 3am.
Where: 1/34 Mort Street, Braddon
Phone: 6262 6221
Web: www.knightsbridgepenthouse.com.au

MINT GARDEN BAR

Mint Garden Bar is a very stylish little courtyard bar at Gorman House, more apt in the warmer months, but with some especially well-crafted cocktails and bar food from the same kitchen as Sage Restaurant – read our review here. Seating is under umbrellas in a leafy courtyard, with low key tunes in the background.

mintdrinks

Consistently good and attitude free, just a classy operation all round. There is the date danger that you’ll enjoy the spot so much you’ll be tempted for dinner at Sage and get some serious mission creep.

the essentials

What: Mint Garden Bar
When: Tuesday – Friday from 4pm, Saturday from noon
Where: Gorman House Arts Centre, Batman St, Braddon
Phone: 6249 6050
Web: www.sagerestaurant.net.au/mint-garden-bar

HOPSCOTCH

This spacious and inviting casual eatery burst onto the Braddon scene in August and immediately became the neighbourhood’s ‘local’. With its massive outdoor area, Hopscotch may win the title of Canberra’s ‘biggest beer garden’ and on warm weekend evenings it swells with merrymakers lured by the promise of hops, scotch or the kitchen’s ‘wood-fire wizardry’. But the crowning glory is its selection of inventive, delicious cocktails – perfect for any time of year!

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the essentials

Where: Hopscotch
Where: 5 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
When: Monday to Sunday, 11am til midnight (probably later on weekends)
Phone: 02 6107 3030
Web: www.hopscotchbar.com.au

INNER SOUTH

POLIT BAR

If you like the idea of a deco inspired bar with table service, top quality drinks and a real sense of hospitality, then Polit Bar is the place for you. It aims to be the ‘thinking person’s cocktail lounge’, but not taking itself too seriously, and they also have regular music, board games, trivia, poetry and burlesque.

polit bar

Plus there is an absinthe fountain, so if the date is going well this could clinch the deal.

the essentials

What: Polit Bar
When: Monday to Thursday, 4pm-midnight; Friday and Saturday, 4pm to 2am+.
Where: 8 on Franklin, Manuka Village.
Phone: 6162 2947
Web: www.politbar.co

OX EATERY

The best collection of gin in the city…and they take their Martinis seriously… Ox Eatery is just lacking in soft furnishings in which to enjoy them properly. However, it has an outside deck ideal for summer sipping and you can enjoy the parallel universe that has the Kingston Pub drive-through just across the road.

ox

the essentials

What: Ox Eatery
Where: 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston
When: Monday to Saturday, 4pm til late.
Phone: 02 6178 0041
Web: easthotel.com.au/oxeatery

BELCONNEN

LA DE DA

It was  the first place to bring a serious bar culture to Belconnen, and its still going strong. Head upstairs above Ha Ha Bar on Lake Ginninderra around sunset and enjoy the view from the deck and the relaxed vibe that attracts a wide range of people.

Lots of live music, great cocktails and tasty nibbles make this a no brainer.

la-de-da

the essentials

What: La De Da
Where: 102 Emu Bank, Belconnen
When: Open Wednesday 5pm til 2am; Thursday Thursday 5pm til 11pm; Friday and Saturday 5pm til 1am and 3pm til 10pm Sunday.
Phone: 02 6251 6110
Web: La De Da on Facebook.

54 BENJAMIN

It’s the new kid on the block but it’s already gathering a loyal following – and with good reason. The staff put a lot of love into their cocktails and are truly passionate about inventing new and original creations.

54benjamin_large

Add a quirky interior, regular live tunes, and friendly service to the list, and Belconnen residents may have found their new ‘local’! Read our full review here.

the essentials

What: 54 Benjamin
Where: 54 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.
When: Open 4pm to 10pm, Wednesday to Saturday.
Phone:0412 315 373
Web: www.54benjamin.com.au

WANT MORE?

Check out our comprehensive list of places to drink ‘al fresco‘.

Feature image of watermelon cocktail from shutterstock.com

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