Above Board founder Hayden Lambert is living the bartender’s dream, running his own bar, his own way, and scooping up a host of awards and prizes in the process. Today we talked to Hayden Lambert about what makes Above Board so different, made him blush when he mentions all the awards his bar has won, and ask him to share his recipe for his signature cocktail at the Best Cocktail Bar in Victoria, 2023.
How did Above Board come about?
“I worked in a pub, I worked in cocktail bars, and then when I came out to Australia I was like, wow, I could own my own Bar, so Above Board came about as a dream of being an independent kind of person.”
What kind of people like to drink at your bar?
“Well, I think it’s a really good mixture. It reflects the neighborhood, which is Collingwood. The greatest thing about this neighborhood is that it changes, it ebbs and flows like the river. I remember my first customers were baristas, young bartenders. We get young professionals, like architects, we get designers, somewhat artsy professionals, people who live a very different lifestyle than the nine to five.”
What’s so unique or different about Above Board?
“Number one, our limited size. It’s intimate, service, intimate space, two bartenders talking, you’re shoulder to shoulder with everybody in that area.”
At Above Board the bar is a giant piece of glossy walnut with only 16 seats and no standing permitted. Above Board does not take any bookings and large groups are not recommended.
“Number two, it’s hard to find, so it’s discrete, like everything in Collingwood. Everything in Melbourne is a little bit harder to find. The fact that it’s down like a driveway means you can’t label it on Google Maps. A lot of people think we’re in an alleyway. Plus, I couldn’t afford a sign when I first opened.”
But the one thing that makes Above Board so different is the complete absence of a back bar – no mass of glistening bottles to draw your attention.
“We don’t openly brand products, we’re more than happy to talk about the products and explain stuff, but we don’t openly brand a lot of the drinks.”