Review: Marti’s shaking up Manuka

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MARTI McGregor, head bartender at Polit Bar, says, in a sexy Scottish accent, that every stranger is a friend you’ve yet to meet, and he says it while mixing, shaking and pouring a divine assortment of hand-crafted cocktails at Manuka’s newest bar and lounge.

Marti comes to Canberra from Velluto, a bespoke cocktail, wine and champagne establishment in Sydney, and he has won an Australian Hospitality Award for Excellence (NSW) – Bartender of the Year. So he knows his stuff… so much so that he is now holding cocktail-making classes on Wednesdays, 6pm-7pm ($30). He makes. You watch. You make. You taste. You smile.

Polit Bar (Dining Review) 015
Bartender Marti McGregor at Polit Bar. Photo by Brent McDonald
Polit is not just a bar for pollies any more than a sports bar is just for sports nuts. Having said that, the political theme is pronounced.

When you visit take a good look around. The aim when decorating was to have fun. Check out the shimmering gold, rope-fringed wall, glittering chandeliers, Art Nouveau lamp, intricate, gold sofa, and antique typewriters. The book collection is worth exploring and behind the bar are two Absinthe Fountains and a line-up of wicked alcohol. If you prefer, select a non-alcoholic wellbeing drink, such as the Acai Action or Maximol Mineral Solution shots. We didn’t go there.

Polit Bar recently had its soft opening, code for “we’re open but things might not be perfect”. Hospitality is a manic industry and a million things can go wrong at any time. I feel for Polit Bar ‘cause the top-notch chef they had lined up could not join the team at the eleventh hour due to unforeseen circumstances. Determined to carry on, like the politicians of the day, Polit Bar went to Plan B and swung the doors open to welcome guests.

Its line-up of edibles is small, starting with dishes to share such as Sicillian olives and excellent salami ($8) and creamy zucchini fritters with yoghurt and a touch of paprika ($10). The braised pork belly ($13) was cold, which did not enhance the flavour, although I like how it is served with shaved fennel and spicy kimchi, Korea’s national dish. The beetroot and hummus dips ($9), which came with raw veggie sticks, including carrot and celery, were not the best. I prefer my hummus with more intense flavours and a more agreeable consistency.

On “Fabulous Fridays” bubbles, beer and wine is $5 (4pm-7pm). On Sundays, a Cosmos and charcuterie plate is $40 (for two), and French bubbles and a cheese plate $60 (for two).

Cocktails range from $16 to $20 and whiskey lovers will drool at the extensive selection. Same with gin, vodka, rum and tequila lovers. Wines are from $9 to $13, with many sitting at $11.

Polit Bar, Franklin Street, Manuka. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 4pm. Call 0410 931008.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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