Level 1/306 Smith Street
Collingwood, Victoria


Compiled by Sam Bygrave


We think it’s one of the world’s best bars. There are just a dozen seats, all centred around the main event: the bar itself. There’s no back bar. Everything is stored in neat drawers, spirits decanted into crystal, the inner workings of the bar hidden. And when it opened in 2016, it was a dream bar come to life for its bartender and owner, Hayden Lambert.
The design and aesthetic of the bar feels Japanese or Scandi-inspired, all about minimalism. But the key to Above Board isn’t Japanese, but the bartenders of yesteryear. Whereas today’s bartenders throw out their cocktail creations with each new menu change, and have become increasingly specialised behind the bar to the point of becoming technicians, the bartending Lambert practises harks back to an earlier era. Many of the drinks on Above Board’s menu have been there since they opened; he has refined them bit by bit over the years. The hospitality is from another era, too: in the bar, Lambert greets the guests as they walk in, clears the bar, washes the glassware, takes the orders, and makes the drinks. He is bartender, host, glassy, and entertainer. Executing service at Above Board’s very high standard is no easy task — there might be half a dozen bartenders in Australia who could do it this well, night in and night out.



Q&A with