The austere design of Above Board – with a simple wooden benchtop and all the alcohol hidden away in drawers in unmarked decanters – has bartender Hayden Lambert standing at the 12-seater bar like a blackjack dealer doling out drinks instead of cards. The difference here is that whatever you bet on from the short, thoughtful menu will be a winner. The precision with which Lambert designs the menu around the limited drawer space means that no drink is a gamble; all killer, no filler, if you will.
The backlit, mirrored cupboards give the place a futuristic atmosphere but there are some retro rippers on Hayden’s cocktail list. Celebrate the criminally underrated liqueur Midori in a Japanese Slipper with curaçao and just the right amount of lemon juice to balance the sweet melon flavour, or a Martini with just the added hint of orange bitters. The other half of the menu is dealer’s choice with Lambert’s own creations such as the Gentlemen Caller with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and gran classico, a rich and smoky number that is like a weathered leather briefcase in drink form. The Hot Minute riffs on a Margarita with tequila, lemon juice and bitters.
The end result of climbing the stairs to Above Board from the grafftitied Chopper Lane is you feel like you have dropped over to your mate’s place, if he was a cocktail prodigy with a penchant for Scandinavian design. Lambert is an attentive host whose bar skills are only rivalled by his dad jokes, the “bad banter” that is clearly telegraphed at the start of the menu, and there is little doubt he is the king here.