2013 Diageo Reserve World Class – Bartender of the Year

(Header Image: Winner – Luke Ashton)

Last week The Versatile Gent attended a fantastic night put on by Diageo World Class as part of the week long event to help crown Australian Best Bartender.

Black by Ezzard at The Star was the venue and head chef Teage Ezard curated a 6 course degustation to which the 10 Australian finalists w0uld match a unique cocktail to compliment their designated course.

Before we get into the food and drinks I have to make mention of the beautiful venue with which we found ourselves. Dimly lit booths and intimate table settings were positioned in such a way to amplify the incredible view back across Darling Harbour to the city. The space was immaculate and a perfect match for a world class cocktail experience.

With 6 courses and 5 cocktails to get through I won’t go into too much detail about everything we had the pleasure of trying, however there were some standouts.

The first cocktail off the rank was an interesting take on the Negroni by Andrew Bennett. Now, James and I love a Negroni at any time, with any meal, so it was always going to get our nod of approval, but Andrew’s interpretation added a level of intricacy that you don’t too often see in your average Negroni. When coupled with the mixed tomato and goats cheese entrée the flavours seemed to evolve ever so perfectly – a great start to the night.

Black’s signature dish came out third, a poached organic farm egg with potato cream, iberico jamon and herb salad. This dish showed why they deserve the Good Food Guide hat they received last year, the complexity of the dish combined with the bursts of flavour were amazing.

The final meal of the night was the 9-score wagyu beef fillet with pureed potato. Without doubt one of the best pieces of meat I’ve had the pleasure of eating, cooked to utter perfection. Coupled with this was Luke Ashton’s whisky based cocktail which drew on deep herbed flavours and finished with subtle vanilla kick. Together they were the standout of the night and a perfect way to cap off the competition. The voting at the end seemed slightly irrelevant as we reflected on the amazing experience we’d had, in saying that we made our choices and finished off the evening with a Talisker 10 Year Old.

Following a week of intense competition we are proud to announce that Luke Ashton of Vasco (Surry Hills) has beaten over 200 entries to be crowned Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year and will take home $100,000 to put towards opening his own bar.

TVG paid a visit to Vasco (on Cleveland St) recently to chat to Luke about the competition and his experiences behind the bar. Luke and owner Max, formerly at Eau de Vie have created a delicious and well balanced cocktail list all priced at a very reasonable $17.50. Luke’s passion for his craft is unquestionable and upon hearing the announcement of the win we can’t help but think it’s gone to the right person. We wish Luke all the best in his quest to take out the World Class Bartender of the Year at the Global finals in July this year when he will be travelling to the South of France.

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