Winner of Bar Of The Year in both the National and State categories, Varnish On King is an homage to American Whiskey. General Manager, Lachlan Howarth, takes us inside.
What’s the Varnish On King Story? Give us a bit of a potted history of the venue.
Varnish on King opened back in July, 2013, it was a business that was two years from concept to delivery. The dream was simple: all we do all day is source the best food, the best wine and the best whiskey to share with our friends. We have an extensive collection of bourbons and whiskeys that rivals what anyone else in the city has done previously. Bottle upon bottle of Kentucky bourbons and American whiskeys line the shelves behind the bar, making up Perth’s most extensive range of bourbons, whiskeys, ryes and other spirits.
The venue also boasts 100-odd wines on the wine list, a list that is largely instinctive and changes frequently on a whim. We don’t play by the rules, and offer a number of innovative perks for their customers, such as the Whiskey Passport, where customers can work their way through an extensive list of the venue’s whiskeys, or the option to purchase their own bottles and keep them behind the bar.
We also offer innovative food from Head Chef David Allison, the ex-chef at Vue du Monde in Melbourne and Rockpool Bar & Grill, with a fusion of American classics with an Australian twist; from fried chicken wings with popcorn and buttermilk dressing, to venison loin with picked beets and smoked mayo. The venue’s interior pays its respect to the nouveau dive bars of the States, but throws a sly nod to Perth’s own history with sepia-toned images of the neighbourhood’s yesteryear lining the walls.
What makes Varnish stand out in the competitive small bar scene?
We continually find new things for the market, from our signature ribs to the Bacon Flight to our booze-fuelled milkshakes. We keep finding something new while maintaining the elements people love about our venue.
What are the signature items on your menu/drinks list?
Take your pick: we have our famous pickle backs and boilermakers, the best whiskey sour in Perth, over 100 wines and the ribs. Chef made the perfect short ribs which to this day are still our number one seller, and our Bacon Flights have been a huge hit since introducing them to our menu six months ago. There’s four different styles of bacon, fried up behind the bar, paired with four different styles of American whiskey.
You scooped up Bar Of The Year in both the National and State categories – how does that feel?
When you look at the other venues in each category, we were proud to be nominated and sitting amongst them. So to come home with two awards, we are honoured. Perth is really doing some great things in the bar scene and it is great to be amongst it.
What does the future hold?
We are heading to Gourmet Escape and showing some of the best in the world what we do with American whiskey. Can’t reveal too much, but we will be the one stand you won’t want to miss.