Does a city regularly rated one of the best cities in the world to live rest on its laurels?
After all, it attractions millions of tourists each year, and thousands of new people move their to live + work, it could easily sit back + take in the adoration.
Melbourne prides itself on being Australia’s cultural and culinary capital, and there is something in the idea that in a great city people live up to the myth of the place they reside in.
So between my interest in cocktails and my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to been able to go deep and wide into Melbourne’s hospitality scene in terms of location, quality and price point.
In the past year I have visited something like 60 different cocktail bars, over 20 hotels, innumerable cafes and something like 30 quality restaurants, plus special events, gallery openings, polo tournaments and private catering along the way.
I’ve sought out gin joints ranging from Williamston to Daylesford, Carlton to the bottom of the Mornington Peninsula, Frankston to Brunswick, Brighton to well, you get the idea.
I have also been introduced by the locals to their favourites, keen to make me welcome to their city, and as a general impression I’ve never lived in a more positive large city, and I’ve worked in Montreal, Ottawa, London, Sydney and Canberra to name a few.
Here in Melbourne I found that the best places offer a total experience in decor, training, staffing, attitude, product, style, details.
I’m just not talking about elite, expensive venues, but hipster joints, or casual cafes come bars.
When rating a place I take each place on its merits, based on what they’re aiming for on their own terms, not preconceptions of my own.
The overall success of the hospitality industry here has a few things at play I think:
- There is supportive culture within the various categories of the industry
- There is a health movement of staff between places, especially at the top end in quality
- Positive competition: there is another cafe or bar literally round the corner to focus the mind + standards
- We’re living in a moment of a cocktail and spirit renaissance with a beautiful combination of willing market, great products and a commitment to the craft
- Collectively it takes the notion of being a great city seriously, they are creating the city t they want to live in and aspire to that level.
What is common, and most important of all, is that they aim at cultivating you as a regular.
Sometimes I was by myself, just some guy at the bar with a Martini asking too many questions.
I never experienced a brush off, but a welcome, some banter, always respectful and a check-in to see how my cocktail was after a few minutes.
Nine times out of ten, I have experienced service which was done with a smile, politely, efficiently.
Not a big ask, but the basics matter.
So this combination of getting the structure + training right, adding an attitude of genuine hospitality, along with a thoughtful concept, with an eye for the details for the bar all make for a first class experience.
After all, when it comes to a Martini, its not just the cocktail in the glass that matters, its the mix of who is making it, the ambiance, the crowd the bar attracts and more, that can make or break your cocktail.
So, as I head back to Canberra in June 2015 after 15 months in this great city, just let me say thank you for making feel right at home.