Varnish outshines the rest

Varnish on King owner Andy Freeman. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Perth's Varnish on King has seen off 4000 bars and pubs to be named Australia's best small bar in Bartender Magazine's prestigious Small Bar of the Year awards.

The fashionable, laid-back bar has built its success on US whisky and rye, innovative food and bacon.

Owner Andy Freeman says the victory "is extra sweet" given the competition. "We were just flattered to be in the company of so many great bars from Sydney and Melbourne," he said.

Varnish on King, a subterranean, timber-clad, intimate space on lower King Street, makes classic brown spirit and barrel-aged cocktails but Freeman says its success is as much about food and wine as about spirits.

"We take our food seriously," he said. "We've got 100 wines on our list and then, of course, there are our bacon flights, which have become a signature of Varnish."

This dish entails rashers from five different bacons, three cured in-house, on a board and teamed with five whiskies.

Freeman says WA no longer plays second fiddle to the bar scenes of Melbourne and Sydney.

"We've developed a unique bar culture here and it's being noticed around the country," he said.

Varnish's win is the first time the small bar award has come to WA.

In a big week for WA liquor, West Winds Gin won a Double Gold Medal at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition for its Broadside gin which, say its makers, has a unique flavour of Margaret River aromatics and herbs.