First Look: Bar Beirut | HerCanberra

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First Look: Bar Beirut

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Remember when we told you about how (the artist formerly known as) Beirut Bunker Bar was transforming itself into a new venue?

Well, the time has come to discover Bar Beirut—the city’s newest late night spot.

An evolution of the venue’s vision for the space—to emulate the pumping nightlife of post-conflict Lebanon—Bar Beirut’s reinvention called for a complete reimagining of the Garema Place location.

This is because Bar Beirut is no longer just a bar, but a Middle Eastern-Mediterranean meze restaurant too—bringing the taste of Beirut to Canberra, as well as the party.

“I first visited Beirut in 2011 as a backpacker and knew immediately I was going to love the place,” explains Chantelle Tannous, who owns the space alongside husband Soumi, who she met in Beirut.

“I had travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to Syria and north to Turkey. But Lebanon was different. It just felt good from the moment I landed.”

“Lebanon teeters on a knife’s edge with regional tensions but the locals just get on with life. They have big hearts, great energy, a yearning for fun, and a true appreciation for life. We really wanted to capture that spirit in our venue.”

Soumi Tannous at Bar Beirut.

Chantelle and Soumi sought the eye of interior designer Kelly Ross for the task of reinventing the space, who has used textural elements to transform the space with a warm palette of dusky pinks, brass features and dark wood.

“My design approach has a dual priority. To understand our clients and the place, such as the history, venue, cultural references, and politics,” says Kelly.

“When you look to a place as vibrant as Beirut you can see the scars in a society determined to smile. It’s layered, complex and exciting. Much like Soumi’s cocktails.”

Guests can now lounge on European-style circular tables (created from reclaimed timber from Boorowa) towards the front of the space or cosy up near the bar under hand-woven and dyed pendant lights created by craftswomen from the foothills of Morrocco’s Atlas Mountains.

Of course, the bar itself—resplendent in pink—pulls focus thanks to Soumi and his team’s dedication to their craft.

Chantelle and Soumi met when he was working in East Beirut’s nightclub district. Fast forward a move to Canberra and three kids later and Soumi became a familiar face in Canberra’s bartending scene, culminating in the opening of the couple’s own venue in 2019.

Soumi’s signature cocktail style is rooted in house-made additions that show true dedication to the art of the stiff drink—like the house-infused cardamon vodka in Simon’s Mango Lassi, the smoked chilli salt rim in Beirut Express or the house-made rosewater in Archie Visits Japan. There’s even a “boozy bubble tea” menu.

As you can probably tell, imagination is in no short supply behind this bar—although yes, he will make you any classic cocktail you like.

Naturally, there’s also an extensive wine and champagne list, which is perfect for pairing with the new meze offerings.

Helmed by Head Chef Struan Preston, formerly of Kokomo’s, Bar Beirut’s menu includes Middle Eastern classics such as hummus and baba ghanoush alongside reimagined traditional Lebanese and Levantine dishes like Kibbeh Nayyeh and Dirty Rice.

And, celebrating Beirut’s Mediterranean roots, there’s also an extensive seafood menu with Oysters in a pomegranate mignonette with little yoghurt pearl, grilled octopus with black thoum (a Lebanese garlic sauce) and Salmon Tartare with mandarin chilli dressing, pomegranate arils, zuni onions, and pickled currants.

We’ll raise a glass (of very excellent cocktail) to that.


What: Bar Beirut
When: Open now, from Tuesday to Saturday from 5 pm for cocktails and dinner
Where: 25 Garema Place, Civic
Bookings + more information:

Photography: Zachary Griffith

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