Hippo is hard. Hippo is hard because when I first arrived circa six years ago the bar scene in capital city was, well, pretty grim. I guess there was Muddle and Kremlin, but I wouldn’t describe either as particularly enticing. Hippo however, with it’s cosy little enclave and unassuming (ever so slightly) lofty situ above Happy’s was a personal fave and a welcome respite from the hospitality moonscape that was CBR ‘12.
The space has always been one of my favourite features; it’s intimate, as all good bars need to be and offers a great vantage of Garema Place and all its comings, goings and UNHCR clipboards. It’s got a woody western vibe a la Shady Pines Sydney, but doesn’t lose itself in kitschy Americana. Whisky or whiskey, is the focus and it does this extremely well – too well for me to comment with any authority, but if a recent tasting session is any indication, the staff know what they’re talking about and will gladly spruik the attributes of this or that peaty delight.
Having said that, Hippo is most definitely a cocktail bar and has a curated array of original creations (Sheepshanks and Gangplanks) as well as thoughtful twists on established classics (Churrasco Daiquiri). A nice selection of Boilermakers and mostly Australian vino are available too. The bar food is minimal, but a meal is not why you’d visit and what they do have suffices for grazing whilst giving your delicious libation the attention it deserves. On that, a complementary cheese board is available Friday eves, if you needed another reason to wander in.
- Extensive curated selection of whiskeys (see the whisky menu in the photographs).
- Original and intimate. A true CBR classic that has stood the test of time.
- Knowledgeable and welcoming staff.
Not So Much…
- Real estate at a premium during peak times (it’s a small space).
- Not as sophisticated as some.
- The niche Hippo has carved is under constant threat from newer, shiner venues. It might need to reassert some point of difference to stay relevant as Canberra blossoms into the hidden hospitality gem I always knew it could be..