Hayden Lambert is a former Time Out Bartender of the Year for his tenure at Bar Americano. He must have gotten used to close quarters at Presgrave Place, because his current digs are almost as compact. His bar is a command centre at the heart of a tiny room, with only a handful of seats facing Lambert as he dispenses drinks that put the art back into artisanal.
The menu proudly declares that Lambert delivers cocktails and bad banter: something worth mentioning as he’s had years honing his daggy dad jokes, dry wit and old-man grump. This adds to your experience, rather than takes away, as the offering at Above Board is not just personalised, but personal. Sure, a chat with Lambert will help you determine if you’re after a classic or a signature cocktail (all $21), but you’re also getting a little bit of his life story with every drink. There’s one named after his previous employer, cocktail bar disrupter Matt Bax, the Empire Strikes Bax. One is a blatant dedication to his wife – Erin’s Delight.
The HSL Special sounds like a cocktail to finish your night with on paper, but is surprisingly refreshing. The amaro and absinthe are the high and low tones in your glass, defined and detectable but not overpowering or overindulged. They are especially balanced when shaken with lime and blackberry and delivered to you over a large block of of ice stamped with the bar’s logo.
Lambert’s chops have already earned him the accolades, but with a bar entirely of his own vision and backed by the skill to execute such an ambitious feat is why Above Board has earned itself Time Out’s Best Cocktail Bar gong for 2018.