On Tuesday night hundreds of bar experts from around Australia gathered in Sydney for the annual Australian Bar Awards, presented by Australian Bartender Magazine. Whilst our locals bar and pubs were not nationally awarded, the state awards recognised the excellence of three Canberra establishments.
Taking out Pub of the Year for ACT was Bentspoke in Braddon, Molly was crowned Cocktail Bar of the Year for ACT, and Bar of the Year for ACT was taken out by none other than AKIBA. I sat down with part owner of Akiba, Michael Harrington, to find out what makes AKIBA so successful.
Having just opened in December last year, it’s a massive achievement to be nominated, let alone to win one of Australia’s most prestigious bar awards.
With AKIBA already recognised by the Good Food Guide as 2nd place for People’s Choice in all of ACT and NSW, Michael says most people tend to come in for the food, not realising that every Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night, the focus turns away from the kitchen and it becomes a roaring hotspot with DJ’s playing and shots aplenty.
Of course if that’s not your scene, it’s also the perfect spot to sit in their outdoor area (which is to feature an outdoor bar very soon) in the sun and wind down after a busy day. Michael says it’s great for the bar to receive the recognition it deserves.
Bar Manager, Mars Heleta, attributes the bars win to their great drinks, reasonable prices, buzzing atmosphere, and most importantly, a fantastic bar team. AKIBA puts a lot of time into training their bar staff not only to make the drinks but also to have fun with the customers, always encouraging a party atmosphere.
AKIBA’s ethos is to be a bar for the people, they believe it’s all about engaging with the customers and making it an enjoyable experience every time patrons visit and obviously this ethos has payed off. But of course you can’t have a great bar without a great drinks list, after all food and beverage go hand in hand.
AKIBA has a variety of drinks to appeal to just about every demographic, and showcases the high quality locally sourced ingredients the ACT has to offer. Wines are sourced directly from the wineries to ensure an obscure, eclectic collection of the best wines. The drinks list is always changing to keep it fresh and exciting.
AKIBA’s high energy atmosphere is a big contrast to the owner’s’ other restaurant, Sage Dining Rooms, which has been an institution for Contemporary European for almost 10 years. Michael and his brother recognise that what people want is forever changing.
With dining out becoming more a more frequent affair, people no longer want to sit down for a fine dining experience, they want a fun vibrant scene with amazing food at prices that you can afford to eat multiple times a week. This is exactly what AKIBA is offering.
With such coveted awards under their belt already, there’s no doubt there’s more great things to come for AKIBA and the Canberra culinary scene. Canberra’s favourite restaurant can now celebrate being home to Canberra’s favourite bar.