Restaurant Awards

Bar of the Year 2019: the finalists

From high-concept watering holes to bars with heart and soul, these are the spots you wish were in your neighbourhood (even better if they already are).

We may yet see more operators in Australia jumping on the dark-tiki bandwagon, naming their bars for the Hawaiian-shirted psychiatrist from Twin Peaks, and tiling parts of their floor in a zigzag homage to the show's Black Lodge. But for now, this radical Sydney watering hole from Pasan Wijesena of Earl's Juke Joint has the niche all to itself. If that all sounds a bit spooky and intense: relax. The bar might be dimly lit, but quite a few of the drinks arrive in fire and the mood is perfectly upbeat. Never mind if you don't know your David Lynch from your Don the Beachcomber: there's no mistaking the good times on offer at Jacoby's.
In short: A loopy concept brought to life with impressive care.
Located in a Western Australian regional centre five hours south of Perth by car, this plucky bar-slash-diner is inspired rather than defined by its isolation. Ingredients from the Great Southern (pristine seafood, grown-to-spec veg) and booze (mostly supplied by renegade winemakers, brewers and distillers) star in the handiwork of chef-owner Amy Hamilton and bar manager Keryn Giles, yet the vibe is party rather than preachy. An action-packed calendar of regular events speaks to a strong sense of community; this is a local any neighbourhood would gladly claim as its own.
In short: Liberté feeding (and watering) the people.
The Bushfire cocktail at Galah.
Melbourne's bars can take themselves very seriously. Not so at Galah (with a name like that how could it?), where great music – both from DJs and live bands – enthusiastic table service and a semi club-like atmosphere mean that fun times are the go. But Galah isn't joking around with the booze: a thoughtful Australian emphasis on spirits, local beer and wine rule the roost. The downstairs entrance is a bottle shop where you can choose a bottle of wine that'll be served to you in the loft-like warehouse space at the top of the stairs. Or opt for good cocktails with ridiculous names (The Commodore; Handsome Galah). Good times, good attitude, good booze.
In short: Aussie-accented good times in a southside loft.