It might have been (another) year of bottled cocktails and home-delivered booze here in this part of the world, but in between lockdowns, shutdowns, and staff shortages, the hospitality industry in Australia and New Zealand delivered the goods with some seriously stunning spots to sip a Margarita or three.
Say chin-chin to 10 of the most stunning new bars to open in Australia and New Zealand in 2021.
Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters
From Melbourne's Speakeasy Group, Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters (or, PDCO) is all about oysters, but it's also setting the tone for the Martini renaissance currently hitting both Melbourne and Sydney—and we're not mad about it. Oysters are sourced seasonally from across the country—and they come served up to eight ways. You can't go wrong whichever route you take, though you'd be remiss not to order up a half dozen with Pearl Diver's signature martini. As for the bar's design, it's a luxurious nautical look dreamt up by Studio Y, with a colour palette inspired by the inside of an oyster, naturally, with silver drapery and pearl-like lamp shades.
With an extensive Negroni list and a vodka pasta most of Melbourne has been raving about since this spot opened in November—Bar Bambi already has a lot going for it. This late-night Italian lounge feels like it would be at home on the set of Legend with Tom Hardy, a supper club for midnight gangsters complete with a sunken dining room floor, plush velvet chairs, hidden booths, pink neon, and a silver drinks trolley too. The design is a collaborative effort from owners Nick and Daniel Russian and designer David Hicks.
Dean And Nancy On 22
From the crew behind Maybe Sammy—Australia's best bar, according to the 2021 World's 50 Best Bar Awards—Dean and Nancy on 22 is one of the most beautiful hotel lobby bars we've ever seen. Designed by George Livissianis, expect a striking black and gold palette, a baby grand piano, low leather banquettes, intimate lamplit tables for two, and a view of the twinkling city skyline that, come nighttime, feels a little like a scene from Lost in Translation.
While it is technically three bars and a restaurant—we're including the whole of Shell House in this list because each of its bars deserves a mention. The team behind The Dolphin, Harpoon Harry’s, and Bondi Beach Public Bar reimagined the multi-storey venue alongside interior stylist Anna Hewett and Woods Bagot Architects. The first bar of note is The Menzies Bar, a glamorous groundfloor cocktail bar and bistro which, in spite of the building's European bones, feels very Wall Street. Take the hidden elevator to the top floor and find Sky Bar, an opulent but relaxed rooftop hideaway with a stunning polished timber bar as its centrepiece, floor-to-ceiling glass doors, and large outdoor loungers. Finally, there's the Clocktower Bar, housed beneath the building's enormous heritage clocktower and lined with luxurious timber.
Our Land Is Alive
Located at the entrance to one of Auckland's most luxurious hotels, Our Land Is Alive is a bar dedicated to all things Aotearoa, but not in a predictable silver fern sort of way. Throughout the bar, design details celebrate The Land of the Long White Cloud, like literal clouds painted onto the ceiling by local artist Ross Lewis. The bar is made from reclaimed kauri, and prints of native birds and other Kiwi creatures adorning the walls. At the entrance, a sign pumps out geothermal-ish smoke and alcoves have been decked out in moss.
Dreamt up by Auckland hospitality all-stars Carlo Buenaventura, Craig Thompson, and Matt Venables, Bar Magda is an underground bar and bistro with a cherry red glow and heaps of character. Just off Karangahape Road, the space used to be a nightclub and the team has let its chequered past shine through with polished concrete floors and exposed concrete walls still peppered with glitter. Filled with intimate candlelit tables for two and artwork by Olivier Stein, Bar Magda has all the mystique of a late-night haunt—complete with a modern Filipino-inspired menu and a strong organic and biodynamic wine list.
Featuring a lush canopy of mauve wisteria, this luxurious Mediterannean-inspired spot from Brisbane's Ghanem Group is Fortitude Valley's newest rooftop. Called Iris, it's housed within Hotel X and is the perfect spot for a sunset cocktail with postcard-perfect views of the Brisbane city skyline and the Story Bridge. Space Cubed is behind the design, which includes a private dining room, poolside bar, and restaurant. Fitted out with marble tables, olive trees, and curtained booths, Iris channels The Med without interrupting that view.
Set within one of Brisbane's oldest buildings on Edward Street in the CBD, Dr Gimlette is a newbie from the crew behind Death & Taxes. Walking in, you’ll be greeted by a wall of cosy leather booths and rich, warm lighting, with old-world furnishings complemented by plenty of exposed brick and timber flooring. The real eye-catcher here is the nine-metre long white marble bar, where you can witness all the pouring, shaking, and stirring of your cocktail order right before your eyes.
Jetty Bar & Eats
Over on the West Coast, Jetty Bar & Eats in East Fremantle is a refreshing take on your standard harbourside fish and chip eatery. Designed by Space Agency's Michael Patroni and interior designer Kate Archibald, its unassuming shack-like exterior gives way to a roomy 120-person bar lined with ocean blue tiles, timber cladding, and a soft palette of blues and greens. Outdoor benches painted in faded colours bring a smack of summertime nostalgia to the mood—and this is the place to be for sundowner drinks and aperitivo.
Housed within a 150-year old heritage cottage, Nieuw Ruin is the latest venture from Dimitri Rtshiladze and the talented Foxtrot Unicorn crew. With a gorgeous sprawling verandah that wraps the property, loads of reclaimed jarrah, beautiful high ceilings, and oodles of vintage character, they've done a great job of retaining the building's history while creating a space that is supremely comfortable, warm, and welcoming. We're also big fans of the fact you can choose to cosy up indoors amongst the endless shelves filled with wine or plonk yourself down outside for a spot of people watching.
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Image credit: Mark Roper, Pearl Diver, Mark Roper, Steven Woodburn, Maclay Heriot, Our Land Is Alive, Bar Magda, Iris, Dr Gimlette, Emma Bryant, Elle Borgward