Since its first night of service some 18 months or so ago, a general hunch has been building quietly and steadily amongst those in the know that Bar Rochford is not just Canberra’s best bar, but possibly the best in Australia.
Maybe it was the excellent list of classic cocktails or kick arse wine list served with flair and real knowledge from the young and passionate bar crew; or the impeccably executed menu of light bar-style dishes from the talented kitchen team.
Maybe it was the just so distressed classic Canberra-meets-subtle-luxe of the first floor Melbourne building location; or the soulful sounds delivered through the proper vinyl medium that warmed the space. Or maybe it was all these things.
Nonetheless, this week that hunch is closer to being confirmed by none other Gourmet Traveller with their announcement that Bar Rochford is one of three Bar of the Year national finalists in their 2018 Restaurant Awards, with the winner to be announced Wednesday evening at an appropriately swanky ceremony in Sydney.
The awards ceremony will also mark the hotly anticipated opening of Chin Chin Sydney, and grant the first look in decades inside the newly renovated Griffith Teas building, one of the city’s most mysterious landmarks. But this is neither here nor there, as we in Canberra will be interested in only one thing: That our hunch is confirmed.
Of course, owner Nick Smith will be at the ceremony, and he says he’s just humbled by the nomination. ‘Gourmet Traveller is one of the most reputable publications in the country,’ he says. ‘It’s a real honour. I’m really proud of the achievement of our great team in the kitchen and the bar. Some of them have been here from the start and really been committed to delivering great product and service while staying humble. That’s really important.’
Bar Rochford is up against some tough competition in the form of Sydney’s Big Poppa’s and Brisbane’s Seymour’s Cocktails and Oysters. Whether they take the top prize or not, they are testament to the growing sophistication of the Canberra hospitality scene and proof that one does not necessarily need to be in a big city to do great things and be recognised nationwide. What is necessary however, is talent and passion; and this nomination shows that Canberra’s new generation of hospitality operators have it in spades.