Our favourite bar openings of the year (so far) have little in common. In fact, most aren’t bars at all. Joining Peel Street’s beautiful new cocktail bar and a subterranean boozer with cold beer, hot wings and live sports is an urban cellar door and two huge brewhouses from a couple of industry big guns.
What was once Chihuahua Bar now bears little resemblance to its former self. Paloma, which opened last month on Peel Street, is a beautifully bright two-storey cocktail bar from the Palmer Hospitality Group (which also owns 2KW). Named after the cocktail (a tequila-based drink popular throughout Mexico) Paloma, naturally, focuses on agave-based-spirits. Some are fresh and herbaceous; others, such as aged tequilas, are chocolate-forward and dessert-like.
The cocktail list has a strong amaro focus and uses house-made preserves and cordials. Bar manager Luke Fleming (ex-2KW) plans to ramp up the fortifieds list, which will align well with the Spanish-accented menu. In a tiny pantry, shelves are lined with jars of house pickled, fermented and preserved fruits and vegetables, plus tins of anchovies and sardines, available to eat in or take home. Snack on Sicilian olives, goat’s cheese with roasted apples and honey, and hot-smoked ocean trout with wholegrain-mustard mayo.
The team behind Wing It was missing “the kind of classic sports bars you find on every corner” in the US. Their new venue fills that void with an Americana theme and a tried-and-tested formula: hot wings, cold beer and live sports “every damn day”. The subterranean space has been splashed with the American flag’s colours, plus there’s on-brand chain-link fencing, a shrine of sports memorabilia, and a “Locker Room” sign leading to the bathrooms. Catch screenings of NBA, Major League Baseball, AFL, cricket, NRL and more, or there’s a pool table and darts if spectating doesn’t cut it.
You might come for the sports and beers (expect quintessential American brews such as Coors, Blue Moon and Pabst Blue Ribbon), but you’ll stay for the chicken wings. They come by the kilo – or half – slathered in your sauce of choice (try buffalo, tonkatsu or Thai nam jim). All chooks, sourced locally by Something Wild, are organic, free range and grain fed, so you’ll get your hands dirty but keep your conscious clean.
Everything about Pirate Life’s new home is vast. The enormous Port Adelaide warehouse has a 25-metre-long peacock mural emblazoned on the outside and 10,000 square metres of floor space. Inside, a customised, energy-efficient, 50-hectolitre brewkit is dwarfed by the former Dalgety Wool Store’s 14-metre-high ceilings. Studio Gram looked after the design for the venue (which can accommodate 300 people), and it’s predictably slick.
Twenty-four taps – pouring Pirate Life’s core range and limited releases – gleam behind the polished concrete bar, which is 22 yards long (the same length as a cricket pitch). There’s also an arcade area with a 22-foot shuffleboard, pinball machines and other games. As for snacks, the bar will have charcuterie, cheese plates and toasties. Punters are also welcome to order their own food in, and there are plans for an on-site restaurant in the future.
In an industry dominated by men, a brewpub headed by women is a distinction worth noting. It’s why Sparkke officially opened its CBD brewpub, restaurant and rooftop bar on this year’s International Women’s Day. The brewery moved into the 180-year-old former Whitmore Hotel on Morphett Street in March. The fit-out has softened but sits comfortably with the pub’s early history. An original Georgian frontage is preserved behind floor-to-ceiling glass. In the restaurant, painstakingly preserved brickwork runs into blush-pink archways. Up on the rooftop there are city views on one side and the perfect vantage point into the treetops of Whitmore Square on the other.
In the thick of it all is head brewer Agi Gajic’s lab. The nano-brewery yields around 50,000 litres of limited-release, keg-only beer yearly. Newly recruited head chef Emma McCaskill (ex- The Pot, Magill Estate Restaurant) has traded fine dining for elevated pub-grub. Start with her famous paratha (a roti-style flat bread) or pork and ginger dumplings before moving onto a curried lentil and beetroot salad, or Angus beef rump cap with sweet and sour tomatoes.
When Little Bang Brewing Company moved out of its home on Union Street in Stepney (into a much bigger one 500 metres down the road), two winemaking cousins moved in. Behind the roller door you’ll now find wine barrels, not beer tanks, courtesy of former Proof bartender Jordan Hein of emerging label Moorak Wines, and seasoned winemaker Bevan Ferguson of Massey Wines.
This is Ferg’s, the cellar door for the two brands used for blending, bottling, storage and tastings (production is based at Ferguson’s Stonyfell winery). The bar will also highlight a third, rotational producer without its own cellar door, plus beer and gin collaborations. Like Little Bang before it, food trucks will regularly pull up in the front car park. But in their absence you can snack on bread-accompanied salumi and cheese plates.
“We hear a lot, ‘Where can we grab a quick drink?’ Golden Boy co-owner Sondra Deering told Broadsheet in May. The answer? A gorgeous new basement bar for pre- or post-meal. It’s not a separate venue – you’ll have to book a table at the beloved Thai diner to scope it out, but with a beautiful new interior of soft apricot walls, plush blue carpet and brass detailing designed by UFO Agencies, it’s worth a visit.