Highball rises in the Melbourne Building once again: New setting, first look. | HerCanberra

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Highball rises in the Melbourne Building once again: New setting, first look.

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For those who have longed to recline in one of Highball’s whitewashed booths under a slow-rotating fan and a palm frond or three, we bring you glad tidings.

And now you can.

And the even better news is this beloved Cuban-inspired bar is not only returning to the Melbourne Building, but it’s got a better spot with superior views as well as being almost twice the size of the old Highball Express. This means a capacity crowd of more than 300 people.

When Highball 1.0 closed its doors back in February due to a Covid lease issue, there was considerable angst that Canberra had lost an airy Central American style dancehall, come glamorous speakeasy.

The creation of Jess Arena and Lorenzo Focarile of the Lala Hospitality Group, Highball promised the historic Melbourne Building high energy and an extensive cocktail list that veered heavily into rum, just as they did in Cuba during the prohibition era.

Highball 2.0 is even more beautifully themed, with a much grander, more luxe vibe.

From the double frontage doors off London Circuit (no more sneaking up the fire stairs in the back alley) to the massive black staircase, the entrance is draped in greenery and offers a small hint of what’s to come.

Once upstairs there is no end of places to sit or stand to take in the elevated view across the city. With velvet teal banquet seating and private, small group tables, cane chairs and high bar tables, all glowing under massive rattan light shades and lanterns, the new Highball is a feast for the senses.

But that’s just half of it. In a planning permission coup, the team has received permission to remove the glass windows on the corner spot overlooking city hill, reclaiming 180 degrees of large and airy balcony space.

And in what will be a boon for those wanting to hold special events, there is a segregated function area with its own bar, named Casita Bar.

The décor has a slightly more coastal feel than the old Highball and includes fresh colours, lots of warmly lit lanterns, gorgeous hacienda-style tiled floors and more greenery that you can poke a watering can at.

Photo by Pew Pew Studio

As for food and beverage, well that’s expanded too.

Jess said the increased floor space means the menu will include a larger array of South American-inspired share plates—think Canadian scallop ceviche, with mezcal compressed watermelon, pickled cucumber, avocado, and corn chips, or an ‘El Jefe’ Cubano of Mojo roasted pork shoulder, leg ham, mustard, pickles, and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread.

Photo by Pew Pew Studio

The crab tostadas with blue swimmer crab, salmon roe, pickled radish, avocado, finger lime and hot sauce sound good, and the Hiramasa Taquito with Hiramasa Kingfish ceviche, pico de gallo, salsa verde, avocado in a wonton taquito are apparently the mini crunchy tacos of your dreams!

The cocktail list is as tropical and fresh as it ever was and in a spot of perfect timing, the bar opens on Friday, just when the warm weather arrives.

Highball, welcome back! We have missed you so.


What: Highball reopens in a new location
Where: Melbourne Building, 77 London Circuit, Civic.
When: Seven days from 4pm
Web: www.highballexpress.com.au

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