In Travel

Dramatic Views & Decadent Cocktails: Inside Perth’s Latest Rooftop Bar And Lounge

‘Five-star Australiana’ is an oxymoron of epic proportions. But, that’s exactly the box that Songbird, the Ritz-Carlton‘s new rooftop bar, fits into. Perched high above Elizabeth Quay in Perth, Songbird forgoes the kitschy corrugated iron and Akubras for more sophisticated, but undeniably Australian, nuances.

Under the guidance of bars manager and passionate West Australian Eoin Kenny, Songbird opened its doors to guests, and to unparalleled views of Kings Park, Elizabeth Quay and the Swan River, in late November.

“The Ritz Carlton is all about a sense of place and, when I was having my interviews, I was asked to come up with drinks that really showcased the essence of Western Australia,” said Kenny.

“I’ve always been a really passionate West Australian, and I just wanted to bring something back.” A quick glance at the two cocktail menus – one listing the signature tipples, the other aperitivo cocktails – and that home town pride couldn’t be more apparent.

While it’s impossible to find a West Australian-made Campari, Kenny has done well to source almost everything else from within the state, if not, within Australia. That was no mean feat. “We’ve even found an amazing Australian Amaro, from the Adelaide hills, which we use quite a lot,” said Kenny. But, for the most part, the menu is a true reflection of the west.

The signature ‘The West’ cocktail is West Australian not only by name, but in makeup too. Combining a WA gin by The West Winds, chardonnay verjus, strawberry, Regal Rogue Wild Rose, and jarrah honey, it was the cocktail that secured Kenny his role at The Ritz. “I put together a mood board of all these different images that to me, said ‘Western Australia’, and that formed the drink,” he explained.

The rest of the cocktail menu takes your palette on a journey through the varied West Australian landscapes, without ever having to leave the comfort of the sleek, glass-clad lounge area.

You can lick, chew, and sip your way through a cocktail aptly named ‘Desert’ – an interesting combination of mezcal, saltbush, Adelaide Hills dry vermouth, desert lime, and wild fennel. Or, choose to transport yourself to the coast, to the bush that’s bursting with bottlebrush, or to some of the local orchards.

Perhaps the cocktail most evocative of the West Australian landscape is the Eucalyptus. “Eucalypt lollies were my favourite as a kid, and that’s kind of where I wanted to go with that one,” explained Kenny. It’s a twist on the classic El Presidente, only it’s aromatised with a eucalypt tincture, made from the very trees that populate the rooftop terrace.

Open aired venues are king in Perth and, with seemingly endless sunshine, there are no surprises as to why. While Songbird’s main bar is indoors to maintain an evergreen status, the outdoor terrace is the favoured spot to sit, sip, and lap up the rays.

Lined with large sandstone bricks quarried from the Kimberley, and peppered with hardy natives, the terrace is a sleek, modern expression of Australiana. Settle yourself around Songbird’s elegant interpretation of a ‘campfire’, and watch the sky light up as the sun sets over Kings Park and the quay.

Come sunset, the west-facing bar is bathed in golden light, and the theatrics are laid on. “The best thing in Western Australia is our sunset, and we wanted to create a celebration of that transition between day and night,” said Kenny. “The last hour of the day has become a very big focus point for us here at the Ritz Carlton. It’s become what we call one of our ‘Ritz Carlton memories’.”

One hour before sundown each day, a large ice block, filled with floating 23-carat gold leaf, is carried through the bar in procession. A bespoke creation for Songbird, the ice – said to symbolise the golden hour – sits on the bar as the sun dips below the horizon. During the hour that the sun sets, the ice is carved and served in select drinks from the menu, including what Kenny dubs the ‘gateway negroni’, which highlights the sweetness of the Davidson plum.

Though impressive, the star of the sunset hour isn’t the gold leaf ice. It’s the bar’s namesake cocktail, the Songbird. Available only during this one hour window – the hour in which all the songbirds sing – the cocktail is said to be inspired by the blue wren.

“The blue wren is a favourite bird of mine, and it’s sort of became the symbol of Songbird on all our menus,” says Kenny. A moreish concoction of West Winds Sabre gin, a fruit tea made of dried West Australian fruits and botanicals, and butterfly pea syrup, the cocktail holds more significance than it initially lets on.

Served in a stunning hand-blown bird shaped glass, the Songbird ties together many of the most loved things about Western Australia. “To me, it’s about storytelling. Storytelling, relaxing, drinking, light, bright, fresh. All of these things come together in a cocktail – what more could you want really?”

(All images: Ritz-Carlton Perth / supplied)

Published 23 December, 2019