Barbara: new Valley venue to take care of you
Georgia Condon | On 25, Nov 2015
With the season for celebration upon us, it’s time to start settling into afternoons spent over a few cold ones- and fresh Fortitude Valley venue Barbara can provide all throughout the week, with the apt and charming tagline “she will take care of you”.
Owned by The Calypso Boys, a conglomerate of five including James Gunston, Jaxon King, Mitch Reyes, and brothers Matt and Michael Thompson, Barbara brings a clean-cut, modern and simple bar to a formerly unremarkable space on Fortitude Valley’s Warner Street.
In a curious location, previously unoccupied and somewhat distanced from the centre of The Valley’s action, Barbara is its own drawcard- “It’s everything that we found was missing in the places that we love” said Mitch. Intriguing in its simplicity of design and concept, Barbara was born of the boys’ desire to create a space they’d be regulars at.
“We all love going out for dinner and whatnot, so we wanted to offer something that we thought was cool. We’ve always had a passion for food, whether it be going out to restaurants or cooking for groups at home,” said James.
Jaxon continued: “It all began when we (The Calypso Boys) ran a popup restaurant- we started thinking that we wanted something a bit more official. We didn’t know if it was food or booze, but we thought it might be more fun to do a bar,” explained Jaxon. Ultimately, it was the group’s experience running their popup venue, combined with a long-running friendship that enabled the ideation and creation of Barbara as a venue.
But the strength of Barbara’s appeal runs deeper than The Calypso Boys’ past experience- with a beautifully designed space, well-curated offerings, and a distinctly defined casual atmosphere, we were curious as to how five heads combined to create such a cohesive space. Mitch explained that “in the process of getting together and talking about the space we found our dynamic, and found that it was viable- that so many boys could actually collaborate efficiently.”
That being said, does tension ever arise when it comes to business decisions? “Oh shit yeah,” said Jaxon, adding that “If we didn’t have five heads we definitely wouldn’t have ended up with the product that we have.”
“We just freestyled- that was the five brains coming together because we’re all creative in our own ways. We all have our own style and we made a conscious effort to design something beautiful,” added Mitch.
Barbara’s design is striking- minimal but with a fine attention to detail that speaks of good taste in more than just food and drinks. In the current climate, when new bars are going above and beyond in terms of concept and theme, Barbara is refreshing in her simplicity. “Initially,” said Jaxon, “it was difficult for us to tell people “there is no theme… It’s just a great bar.””
But beyond her good looks, Barbara has great offerings- with an intentionally neatly curated drinks offering that harks back to the boys’ goals of creating their ideal space: “What we have on offer is what we want to drink- the sort of things you might have to go to a few bars to try. We’re passionate about the whole spectrum of things that come with a bar,” said Mitch.
As for the house beer, affectionately named “Babs”, by White Lies Brewing? Exclusively available on Warner Street and always on tap, James explained the process of devising a house branded bev: “We spent a lot of time coming up with an easy, drinkable beer- it’s a nice Australian lager. White Lies is a one-man band operation out at Pullenvale, just a small-time dude but we were blown away by his beer… We sold out of the first batch within our first three days.”
For those less hops-happy, Barbara’s bar list includes six seasonal cocktails, as well as six perfectly-executed classics, with a strong focus on “after work drinks, and pre- and post-dinner,” explained Jaxon. In terms of food, menu offerings are still pending, but Barbara offers a unique BYO option that enables guests to utilise the tasty fare on offer from nearby venues such as Ben’s Burgers and Lucky Egg, as well as the wealth of options in nearby Chinatown.
“We’re going to introduce bar-style food shortly, but we want people to have the option of bringing whatever they want,” said James. Mitch continued, saying “we don’t have a whole lot of room when it comes to food so we just want to keep it simple”. Cheese boards will be available from local provider The Cheese Pleaser, and bar snacks will be sourced from nearby venues, including pork crackling from a Chinese grocer in the valley’s Chinatown precinct.
Trading seven days a week from 3pm, comfort and convenience are definitely big features of Barbara’s appeal. “One of the biggest things we want to impart on people is the idea that maybe they come in here at six or eight o’clock, and before you know it it’s one AM and they’re having a dance,” said Jaxon.
With such a flexible and inviting space, as well as thoughtfully and genuinely devised offerings, Barbara is set to become a Fortitude Valley fixture for week-long, year-round hospitality.
Images courtesy of The Calypso Boys