Nick Miles is an accomplished bartender and award-winning brand ambassador based in Brisbane. In this inside baseball interview he talks to one of that city’s finest, Tim Speechly.
Living in Brisbane and drinking in my favourite watering holes, I always make time to pop into Savile Row to get a drink from Tim Speechly. Why? I enjoy his random talks about the NBA, NFL, hip-hop and Call of Duty. But Tim is one of those bar managers with whom you can chat to like you’ve known him for years. To see the energy and encouragement that he gives to his team is world class. You might say he’s the hype man of the bar.
I have had the pleasure of working beside Tim for a rockstar shift at Savile Row and it’s a lot of fun. The man knows his shit and this is why I’m interviewing him and seeing the world from his shoes. If you’re in Brisbane, pop by and say hello — and yell at him: “Up the ladder, down the ladder.”
Trust me, he will get it.
How has the bar scene been going since the Premier eased up on the pandemic restrictions?
To be honest it has been extremely disheartening to watch a stadium pack out with 49,000 people to watch football, but yet our guests can’t dance or we can’t fill our venue with more than 50 percent capacity; [the easing of restictions] definitely couldn’t have come soon enough. It has been like trying to run a race with your feet tied, but after the first week I feel our team are already hitting our strides and remembering what it’s like to have the venue in full swing again.
How did your team find the venue restrictions? And how did guests respond to the restrictions?
It was definitely an interesting transition, coming back we had as all Queensland venues did a very serious set of restrictions but for us it was just good to get back behind the bar. We basically came back from Covid with a brand new team, which was a nice fresh start and since that we have built a team that Jacob Cohen [Savile Row’s venue manager) and myself are extremely proud of. The chemistry amongst the team is really awesome and I think this is definitely my favourite — and also the best — bar team I have been apart of so far. I think that you can expect to see a lot in the near future from this group of legends that we have put together.
How goes the new cocktail list? How much did your team have input in the new list?
We have had fantastic reviews all round so far, but although we all did have a lot of input on this one the brains for this comes straight from the fantastic minds of Jacob and Maddie Sim, who is our ex-bar manager and now a part of the fantastic Duo at Joy Restaurant. I really think they have smashed this one out of the park. Using some simple summer flavours with complex techniques, they have created a super approachable menu for guests to enjoy.
I think when it comes to writing menus sometimes bartenders get a bit too excited using and combining weird flavours and can tend to scare people off when reading their menu. Although for us creative progression and experimentation is essential, the key is finding balance. A friend of mine who is a DJ once told me that when they come to picking music they have to find a balance between what the DJ wants to listen to, what guests want to listen to and finally what the DJ thinks the guests should listen to. I think when it comes to writing cocktail menus it comes to finding that exact balance.
Have people changed what they’re drinking since Covid?
I think drinking trends have changed massively during Brisbane’s Covid shutdown, coming out of it there is a definite trend that people are binge drinking a lot more. Which is extremely alarming with rates of depression and mental illness rising at a huge rate for obvious reasons. This is clearly not a healthy coping mechanism, but it’s a coping mechanism nonetheless. Because of this it has never been a more crucial time for bartenders to seriously watch who they are serving the how each guests is going as they are enjoying their night in your bar. Obviously, there are certain venues that are larger and where this becomes difficult but now is not the time to be complacent with your RSA.
With this has come what I can see as a large decline in low and no ABV drinking trends. It was a massive thing previously that all bartenders and operators were getting behind, as a trend of people checking their wellbeing and healthy lifestyle choices that began to sweep through hospitality. Unfortunately, I feel that this has been cast aside as a dark veil of mental health questions started to be asked in all of us — I can’t remember a time where it’s more important to reach out to friends and ask each other how are all tracking in this new Covid hospitality scene.
When your customers have had enough of your service (and shit chat), which three bars do you recommend them to check out nearby?
Number one for me has to be my local, Commercial Road Public Bar. Not only does Kyle Weir, a good friend of my own and operate it but for me it is just the quintessential no pretence bar. He just wanted to serve great wine with yummy pizza and that’s exactly what he’s done and he’s killing it.
Number two would be Suzie Wong’s, sitting on the location of my old stomping ground, The Bowery. The team there set a wild environment for you to forget about all your stresses and drama to sit in a bar and get buck wild, it’s awesome.
Alba Bar & Deli is definitely at the top of my list. This venue has everything I want: great drinks with a large assortment of sherry and wine, fantastic food on an ever changing menu that always pleases your palate and the pinnacle of everything, always slapping hip-hop and grime carefully curated by the always handsome owner Jamie Fleming.