Pairings: a bartender and a chef is all that Joy needs

Duos

Brisbane

EXCERPT SUBHEAD

Joy
7/694 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006
Australia

When you think of perfect pairs, what comes to mind? For me, it’s Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden opening the batting for Australia. Batman and Robin. Maverick and Goose because, well, “I was inverted.”  Milo and Milk? Honestly, you can’t beat it. Rum and Coke — I mean you haven’t lived until you have had the mighty black rat cans. 

But when I think of drinks and food? The amazing duo of Sarah Scott and Maddie Sim from Joy have really taken Brisbane by storm.

I was lucky enough to get a seat at their soft opening after lockdown — and I’m counting down the days until I can get a seat again.  If you ever see a booking up for grabs of their Instagram page, get in ASAP: you will have the best seats at one of the best in Australia.

When you opened Joy in 2019, did you think it was going to be what it is today?

Sarah Scott: When I opened Joy, all I was sure about was that I wanted a venue that was driven by storytelling, delicious food and drinks that complemented that. I knew I wanted everything to be focused on the holistic experience. I had no idea that Joy would grow to be what it is today. 

When we first opened I would spend most days worrying that we were going to have no customers. To have nearly too many customers and a couple of awards under our belt is an absolute dream come true. But to also grow to a point where I can support a staff member and that Joy is a restaurant that someone with the skillset of Maddie would want to come and work is a huge compliment. 

Maddie, stepping into a two hatted restaurant, how was the build up to re-opening and getting this drink list up and running?

Maddie Sim: There was already a solid drink list in place, a collaborative effort between Sarah and Tim and Russ Berry. Sarah prefers to have beverages at Joy that tell a story, mostly small producers with something fun about them to tell the guest, which was probably the hardest part to get down pat. There is a lot of information to remember! 

I don’t have the most solid wine background so both Sarah and I started our WSET [formal wine training] before reopening. The areas where my strengths lie, whisky and cocktails, have added a new element to Joy with a cocktail now being one of the beverage pairings. I think that while Sarah has taught me so much, she has also learned new things from me and it has been my pleasure to be able to increase her knowledge on topics that I am very passionate about.

Sarah, does the food menu stay consistent or does it change weekly? And where do you get all your ideas from? Trial and error?

SS: The menu doesn’t strictly change weekly. It definitely sees small changes week to week — this is decided on what is going on in the farms that Joy works with. The general structure and style of the menu doesn’t change though. It takes a long time to get a menu item to the point where I feel comfortable having it on the menu. So to force myself to change it weekly would not only cause stress to Maddie and I, but would risk the food quality dropping. 

Ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes it is as simple as just wanting to try an idea I’ve had. Sometimes ideas are the result of conversations I’ve had with other chefs. I mostly like to produce menu items based on food I like to eat and cook, but presented in a way that guests may not have tasted it before. The most important part of any dish is deliciousness, storytelling and a good quality producer.

Maddie, how do you and Sarah get the food to perfectly match with the drinks? 

MS: Dishes are paired to beverages firstly by concept. Sarah will explain the components of the dish and then we discuss what would work theoretically. We discuss what beverage we would like to use, sake, wine or a cocktail, then discuss what elements we would like to highlight or complement. Then Sarah will prepare the dish and we sit down and try the options. 

Sometimes, it works exactly the way we expected. Other times it’s just not it and we have to try again. Sometimes things happen by happy accident, such as one of the pairings that is a riesling served at room temperature. We thought for sure that the pairing would be perfect, and were disappointed when it wasn’t, so we put the glass aside to try other options. By the time we came back to try it again [the riesling] was warmed up and the flavours had become much more rounded and perfectly balanced the dish in a way it hadn’t while chilled. 

That wasn’t necessarily an informed decision but it’s knowledge that we now have and use to our advantage.

What are the next steps for JOY?

SS: The next steps for Joy are growth, personally and professionally. I’m obsessed with growth and I want Joy to be a space that facilitates this. I don’t want to expand and make Joy bigger or open other venues just yet, I just want to keep focusing on making Joy the absolute best it can be. 

I want to keep connecting with farmers and creatives and make sure Joy stays unique, interesting and tasty. I’d like to slowly expand the drinks offering, so having Maddie on board will make that possible.
Joy has such an incredible platform and gets the attention of a lot of people — I want to use that for good and make sure I’m giving back. Through Joy I hope to connect with charities and spend some time focussing on working with them. 

Personally, I want Joy to help me grow and develop skills as a business owner and a chef. Joy holds me accountable in a lot of ways and I’d like that to keep up. 

Ever thought about getting together and writing a book about drinks and food together?

MS: Now that you mention it – absolutely! 

Sarah and I would create such a fun book, as anyone who has spent any time around us would agree. It would be informative but also very playful and a little bit cheeky. There would absolutely be stick figure drawings and a whole chapter devoted to orange wine titled ‘Rosè’s Funky Brother’. 

It would also be cool to include a few of the pass sheets we use each night — a piece of paper taped to the bench that has notes scribbled all over — to give people an insight into how we operate behind the scenes. This book would most likely need an 18-plus rating because of our style of humour.


Inside Commercial Road Public Bar with owner Kyle Weir

Bartender

Brisbane

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I recently had the pleasure to sit down with longtime friend Kyle Weir, who is the wonderful and creative mind behind Commercial Rd Public House in Newstead. Why I enjoy this bar is that when you walk in, you feel you have entered a realm of disco with the kind of wine list where you want to start from the top and work your way to the end. And in this realm you find yourself in such a safe and beautiful bar. It’s filled with killer food and great times with friends. But enough about why I love it — suffice to say you won’t want to leave. 

When did your career kick off in the world of hospitality?

Just over 11 years ago which is pretty crazy. I was waiting tables towards the end of high school for some pocket money, then graduated high school, gave uni a few cracks but kept gravitating towards bars and restaurants.
Went from a local suburban venue to venues in the city which I loved. I found a home at Monastery Nightclub which turned into Oh Hello!. At about 21, combining the nerdy side of hospitality during the week by collecting pokie machine data for ALH Group with the blinding lights and big nights of the clubs in Fortitude Valley, ALH offered me work in Sydney and I was off. I continued working for ALH then got sick of the computer screens and started with Solotel Group. Four and a half years, four venues and two states later, I was back in Brisbane much to Mum and Dad’s joy running Little Big House as General Manager.
I combusted under the hours, sold my half in a fashion label and went hunting for a space to call my own.


You have just opened Commercial Road Public Bar and started the build during COVID-19 restrictions. How was the lead up to all of this
?

Like a rollercoaster to be honest. I looked at the site in October 2019, a bit of back and forth with the landlord then signed the lease in December with a prospected March open date. A few build delays knocked the proposed opening date to the end of March, coinciding with the country’s lockdown due to COVID-19. 

The forced pause allowed me to revaluate the whole project, I had the opportunity to withdraw and stop progressing but after a lot of numbers, advice, wines I decided I had enough experience to make it through to an open. The lease was renegotiated during the lockdown so pretty much every day, my Dad, girlfriend and mates were in the tenancy learning to build a commercial bar and kitchen. Because we had so much time, I could afford to do it DIY with the help from Google and Youtube. The roadmap was released by the QLD Government for easing of restrictions and this is when I could finally plan an open date to work towards.

How do you describe Commercial Road Public Bar?

Bottom line, it’s a neighbourhood wine bar. There are so many different demographics in Newstead, I wanted to create a space where everyone felt comfortable. The bar is covered in glitter, it’s light and vibrant, fun, you can sit at the window overlooking Commercial Road or sit at the bar and talk my ear off for four hours while listening to Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel a few times every hour.
To me, customer experience comes first which is something I’ve learnt from my previous roles in hospitality, then the offering with the service the next top priorities.

Working 40-plus hours in your own venue how do you find that good work-life balance?

Coming from previous roles I knew what I was walking in to opening a venue of my own. To be truthfully honest, the biggest factor I faced was my alcohol consumption and pulling back on the shots and wine every night amongst open. It’s exciting to open a venue to call your own but I knew it wouldn’t be mine for much longer if I kept up that sort of habit. Being able to work, host, lead the venue sober wasn’t hard for me to do, I just had to continually remind myself, which I’m lucky and thankful to be able to do.

The first few weeks were so full on, so many friendly faces, so much family and the support was so heart-warming, but my body was that of a zombie’s.

We’re doing midday to midnight and as we all know in the industry; opening weeks mean early mornings after late nights. We were adjusting service styles, making cosmetic changes, picking up stock on Saturdays and Sunday mornings after selling out of stock lines, it was chaotic to say the least.

I’m so lucky the team we’ve organically grown is supporting and driven to help the venue succeed, especially my partner Chimay. A hospitality weapon in her own right.

We made sure our living situation was one that was easy for us to maintain being at the venue pretty much non-stop the first months but what helps us the most is getting out of the house, getting coffee and lunch and sitting by the pool.

Mental health is so important, everywhere, but especially in the hospitality industry and even more so this year. We need to be comfortable checking in with each other and I think this year has helped the industry improve in that area.

I had a lot of messages asking how the venue was going which I was so grateful for but the messages asking how Chimay and I were going were the ones we appreciated most.

With over 50 wines on the list, do you see a change in customers drinking patterns?

Upon signing the lease and putting together the concept of Commercial Road Public Bar, I knew the general palate of Newstead locals was pretty adventurous but this was more in line with looking at the craft breweries in the area. The likes of Range Brewing on Byrnes Street push the boundaries of what locally and nationally made craft beer can be. Both methodically, aesthetically and flavour profile. With their success and the other crowds of craft breweries in the area, I suspected the Newstead locals are looking for something different to drink and I believe I could fill that void with small scale, bio-dynamic, natural wines. 

I thought the venue would roll through house sauv blanc and classic Barossa shiraz but it’s the weird and funky stuff that is 95 percent of our wine sales. It’s really cool to see.

If I, or any of the staff at CRPB express their love for a wine we have, it’s usually a pretty quick and resounding yes to getting a bottle from customers. We’re a super young venue but to be trusted by a lot of our customers is the best feeling.
Exciting stuff for wine in Brisbane.

Are your customers willing to try new wines or they always go for their favourites?

So far, they’re really interested to try new wines. We rotate our wine list every two to three weeks so there’s always something new to try. Especially as there’s some really small batch wineries sending their wine up to us and not many others in the area.

If you could collaborate with any wine company, who would it be and why?

I think there’s a few answers in here. With a fashion background form my time in Sydney, collaborating with brands is really multi-faceted.
In regards to teaming up to make some really cool juice, I’d love to hang out in Tasmania while Joe Holyman, Peter Dredge and Mike Bennie from Brian make their fun to drink natural wine. The colours, textures and journey you go on while sipping your way through a 375ml bottle is incredible.

In regards to branding and collaborating on a visual level, Fin Wines from Preston in Victoria are sick. A collective of juice lovers that have unique intriguing labels and strong branding. They’re pushing boundaries about what wine is in Australia. CRPB flew through a delivery a few weeks back. Would love to work towards working with those guys.

Have you noticed a spike in cocktails since restrictions have eased up?

We’re definitely doing more cocktails than I anticipated. We’re keeping them really simple, fruit-forward vibrant charged sodas and the classic Italian stir downs and spritzes.

A few of our cocktails are un-ashamingly named after Harry Styles songs, (Watermelon Sugar, Kindness and Kiwi) these are our most popular — I don’t know why…

What are the next steps for the bar?

Venue number two is in the works so there’s a bit of focus on that at the moment but we’re still tinkering with the venue and am looking at making some cosmetic changes in the new year. Perhaps a later liquor licence, outdoor dining and turning our store room into a function room and continuing the venue out for more space and tables. Exciting stuff.


The team at Savile Row, Brisbane.

‘It’s more important to reach out.’ Meet Tim Speechly from Brisbane’s Savile Row

Bartender

Brisbane

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Living in Brisbane and drinking in my favourite watering holes, I always make time to pop into Savile Row to get a drink from Tim Speechly. Why? I enjoy his random talks about the NBA, NFL, hip-hop and Call of Duty. But Tim is one of those bar managers with whom you can chat to like you’ve known him for years. To see the energy and encouragement that he gives to his team is world class. You might say he’s the hype man of the bar.

I have had the pleasure of working beside Tim for a rockstar shift at Savile Row and it’s a lot of fun. The man knows his shit and this is why I’m interviewing him and seeing the world from his shoes. If you’re in Brisbane, pop by and say hello — and yell at him: “Up the ladder, down the ladder.” 

Trust me, he will get it. 

How has the bar scene been going since the Premier eased up on the pandemic restrictions?

To be honest it has been extremely disheartening to watch a stadium pack out with 49,000 people to watch football, but yet our guests can’t dance or we can’t fill our venue with more than 50 percent capacity; [the easing of restictions] definitely couldn’t have come soon enough. It has been like trying to run a race with your feet tied, but after the first week I feel our team are already hitting our strides and remembering what it’s like to have the venue in full swing again. 

How did your team find the venue restrictions? And how did guests respond to the restrictions?

It was definitely an interesting transition, coming back we had as all Queensland venues did a very serious set of restrictions but for us it was just good to get back behind the bar. We basically came back from Covid with a brand new team, which was a nice fresh start and since that we have built a team that Jacob Cohen [Savile Row’s venue manager) and myself are extremely proud of. The chemistry amongst the team is really awesome and I think this is definitely my favourite — and also the best — bar team I have been apart of so far. I think that you can expect to see a lot in the near future from this group of legends that we have put together.

How goes the new cocktail list? How much did your team have input in the new list?

We have had fantastic reviews all round so far, but although we all did have a lot of input on this one the brains for this comes straight from the fantastic minds of Jacob and Maddie Sim, who is our ex-bar manager and now a part of the fantastic Duo at Joy Restaurant. I really think they have smashed this one out of the park. Using some simple summer flavours with complex techniques, they have created a super approachable menu for guests to enjoy.

I think when it comes to writing menus sometimes bartenders get a bit too excited using and combining weird flavours and can tend to scare people off when reading their menu. Although for us creative progression and experimentation is essential, the key is finding balance. A friend of mine who is a DJ once told me that when they come to picking music they have to find a balance between what the DJ wants to listen to, what guests want to listen to and finally what the DJ thinks the guests should listen to. I think when it comes to writing cocktail menus it comes to finding that exact balance.

Have people changed what they’re drinking since Covid?

I think drinking trends have changed massively during Brisbane’s Covid shutdown, coming out of it there is a definite trend that people are binge drinking a lot more. Which is extremely alarming with rates of depression and mental illness rising at a huge rate for obvious reasons. This is clearly not a healthy coping mechanism, but it’s a coping mechanism nonetheless. Because of this it has never been a more crucial time for bartenders to seriously watch who they are serving the how each guests is going as they are enjoying their night in your bar. Obviously, there are certain venues that are larger and where this becomes difficult but now is not the time to be complacent with your RSA. 

With this has come what I can see as a large decline in low and no ABV drinking trends. It was a massive thing previously that all bartenders and operators were getting behind, as a trend of people checking their wellbeing and healthy lifestyle choices that began to sweep through hospitality. Unfortunately, I feel that this has been cast aside as a dark veil of mental health questions started to be asked in all of us — I can’t remember a time where it’s more important to reach out to friends and ask each other how are all tracking in this new Covid hospitality scene.

When your customers have had enough of your service (and shit chat), which three bars do you recommend them to check out nearby?

Number one for me has to be my local, Commercial Road Public Bar. Not only does Kyle Weir, a good friend of my own and operate it but for me it is just the quintessential no pretence bar. He just wanted to serve great wine with yummy pizza and that’s exactly what he’s done and he’s killing it.

Number two would be Suzie Wong’s, sitting on the location of my old stomping ground, The Bowery. The team there set a wild environment for you to forget about all your stresses and drama to sit in a bar and get buck wild, it’s awesome. 

Alba Bar & Deli is definitely at the top of my list. This venue has everything I want: great drinks with a large assortment of sherry and wine, fantastic food on an ever changing menu that always pleases your palate and the pinnacle of everything, always slapping hip-hop and grime carefully curated by the always handsome owner Jamie Fleming.