It’s safe to say a lot of us know Smith Street pretty damn well. We know the best tables at Kent St and which Sunny's banh mi to order (it's the chicken). So it might come as a surprise to hear a sneaky lil’ cocktail bar has been operating off Smith Street for the last few months...and boy oh boy is it good.
Headed by cocktail expert Hayden Lambert (ex Bar Americano and The Merchant Hotel), Above Board is not your typical cocktail joint. For one thing, there are no booths, just a huge timber island bar in the centre of the space. The décor is minimalist to the point of thrifty, but look closer and you'll note the sophisticated touches: plenty of leather and wood detailing, and just the right amount of dirty lighting.
First things first, finding the damn thing. Your best bet is to walk inside Beermash and go through the unmarked door at the back. Head down the stairs (trust your instincts, you're getting close), and you'll see a little sign for Above Board. You can enter from the back lane too, but that takes Jedi-level Melbourne bar skills: walk down Perry St and hook into Chopper Lane (can't miss it, it's covered in graffiti). Now just search for the unmarked front door...
This isn't a cocktail bar for all-comers. It's more select than that. Pull up a pew at the 12-seater bar and you get to witness Lambert work his magic, as he mixes up one of the curated cocktails on the menu (he tries to keep the number hovering around 20. Told you this place was select). There are the classics like bitter-kick Old Fashioned plus Lambert’s own boozy creations, with hand-cracked ice cubes for full effect.
FYI, this is a serious cocktail bar. So if you rock up for a few pints with the lads, you might be disappointed. Seriously, Lambert is known for his dry humour and lots of banter. So don/mock your best James Bond & co. impression and order up a martini, the dirtier the better.
If you’re keen for a quiet night and some cheeky banter, be sure to drop by Above Board from 5:00pm, Tuesdays to Sundays.
Image credit: Annika Kafcoulidis