Canberra gains a new bar, with top-notch bar snacks and a touch of jazz.
For a city obsessed with the need for a narrative background for its venues, Bar Rochford is refreshingly absent of one. Instead, it offers intimate and informed service from a young crew passionate about Canberra's transformation.
Ian Poy, a chef with experience at such notable Sydney restaurants as Sixpenny and Nomad, as well as Braddon favourite Eightysix, produces snacks and small plates that are a cut above other bar-food offerings in the capital. It's just small steps for now - four or five share-sized plates with a focus on high-quality produce that's locally and sustainably farmed.
Lamb tartare with onions and buckwheat is silky, deftly seasoned and spiced, and served with thin grilled slices of Three Mills sourdough. Earthy fig oil and a suggestion of sweetness from Pedro Ximénez vinegar lifts fresh burrata, while seared wagyu flank arrives with a perfectly piquant anchovy hollandaise. There's continuity as well as change in the drink options, including exciting developments from local producers such as Sassafras and Nick O'Leary, alongside Eric Texier's biodynamic and organic Chat Fou from the Rhône.
The well-worn 1920s Melbourne building is an apt location for a bar that's probably more at home in Fitzroy. Seventies-era lampshades and Deco pendants radiate a sepia-tinged glow across the space punctuated by a central bar lined with battleship-green stools. Booths occupy one wall and there's a communal bench at the large arched feature window. It's the perfect spot to take in a cocktail and some of owner Nick Smith's extensive collection of soul, jazz and blues vinyl. The bar has been raised.
Bar Rochford, 65 London Cct, ACT, (02) 6230 6222