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Canberra welcomes another player into the landscape of chic bars that are rapidly transforming the nations capital into the epicenter of cool, with Joe’s Bar opening at East Hotel.

Joe’s Bar is the brainchild of siblings Dan and Dion Bisa, who set out to create a space that resonated with their own Italian roots and love of modern design, as well as complementing East Hotel, owned and operated by family business Bisa Hotels.

From the outset, the Bisa’s wanted to create a place that they would actually want to sink into with their friends – rather than just simply a concept bar attached to the very sleek hotel. Indeed, the bar is named for their father, Joe Bisa, a first-generation Italian-Australian. As such a personal project, it was clear from the outset that the design of the bar would have to be both intimate and evocative.

Dion and Dan Bisa
Dion and Dan Bisa

“We wanted to take all the inspiration we have gathered from the glamour and sophistication of the truly stunning bars we have enjoyed in Italy and create something that melds these qualities with the vibrant energy of the bar and restaurant scene in Australia,” said Dan Bisa, Director of Bisa Property.

“From the beginning it was about the detail, from the artisans that Kelly Ross engaged to create the elements of the interior, to each and every wine that we have included on the menu and the curated Italian cuisine.

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“We are promoting a style of dining that is sociable and inclusive, whether its a local dropping in, a visitor to Canberra for business or leisure or a guest at East.

“Joe’s is part of the vision we have dreamt of for East, creating a genuine hospitality precinct.”

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Designed by Kelly Ross, creative director of the highly-lauded design collective The Gentry, the space sings with her signature bravery; big, bold statement details that draw the eye, creating a sense of time and place that is akin to architectural storytelling. A concrete curtain seems perfectly at home in the intimate space, the juxtaposition of its severity a surprisingly good fit within a room that took its original inspiration from the Bisa family’s northern Italian heritage.

“From the very first conversation I had with Dan and Dion, I just knew that a concrete curtain was going to be woven into the details. I saw it so clearly: a heavy, grounded element that cleverly imitated something which is usually so light and ephemeral,” said Ross.

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“Getting it made was a convoluted process though… not simple at all. I was very lucky to have a brilliant props maker, Alex Rosemount, who is also a master problem solver. In fact, our entire team of craftsmen and artisans are all insanely gifted in very unique ways. Ruth Allen, who is a glass sculptor based right here in Canberra, is another stand-out local talent who has brought something special into the finished result with her work.”

Venetian cultural and aesthetic cues are constantly interwoven into the design of the space with the metaphorical characteristics of elements such as fine Murano glass weaving their way through the visual narrative, with results that are simultaneously raw and refined. Joe’s Bar is an immersive experience that creates curiosity; a desire to sit, order a drink and explore the details. A quirky rope installation, an unforgettable bright pinot-hued pink wall and low hanging lights make you look twice, reveling in the constant contradictions between soft and hard, old and new. The rich colour palette for the bar was brought to life by seeing it in terms of wine terminology, drawing on qualities of clarity, brilliance, tone and depth. The candy-toned pink wall is underpinned by deeper slate and mineral neutrals, adding depth that gives the subdued lighting a spectrum.

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“To be honest… the pink for that wall chose me,” laughs Ross. “I don’t usually gravitate towards pink. I carried that swatch around for a month, to see if I still liked it. It really is like swishing around in a jewel-coloured glass of pinot.”

The bar itself, an enormous monolith of leather-finished granite, anchors what is a relatively tiny hideaway-type space of just 110 square meters. The honest feel of natural, oiled timbers offer warmth alongside the cool finish of polished stone.

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“Dan is the one with the design vision, who saw this project as an opportunity to create a superb and beautiful space and I am the link to the hotel, extending the hotels hospitality to our guests alongside our General Manager, Todd Handy,” said Dion Bisa, Assistant General Manager of East Hotel.

“We make a great team – a brother and sister that actually get along, like each other and create cool stuff together! Joe’s Bar is the culmination of many people’s dreams and hard work and we are enormously proud of what we have created. ”

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The wine list at Joe’s is a veritable who’s who of the very finest Italian wines from Piedmont to Tuscany alongside some of the best wines from the Canberra district. The list is the culmination of an exhaustive selection process that has brought together a peerless selection with some true classics.

“It was important for us to have representation on our wine list from not only some of the classic Italian wine producing districts, but from the Canberra region as well,” said Dan Bisa.

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“We feel that the combination of the fantastic product we now see coming out of the local region and amazing Italian imports gives our guests a selection that really wants for nothing. My vision was to have the best wines possible available to enjoy in an inspirational and stunning space – a multisensory experience.”

The beverage selection also includes an enviable cocktail list, coupling Joe’s take on the standards with a unique selection of Italian classics. A wide range of imported and local beer is also available.

Joes Bar Hotel East Canberra Salumi-olives

An important feature of Joe’s Bar is it’s authentic Italian dining options. At Joe’s the underlying principle is that produce is best served in season and as fresh as possible. The menu, designed by Italian-born chef, Francesco Balestrieri, has been specifically created to share and to complement the amazing wine selection with family and friends with offerings ranging from a stunning range of Antipasto options through to more substantial dishes like 48 hour slow cooked Sous Vide Wagyu Beef Brisket with charred polenta and porcini butter. Those with a sweeter inclination have not been ignored with specialties such as Tramezzino al Gelato – house-made For di Latte (vanilla cream) gelato sandwiched between Sicilian pistachio cookies. A customised version of the menu is available for in-room dining at East, redefining the concept of room service. The food at Joe’s Bar is made in-house, by hand, using nothing but the best and freshest ingredients. The mandate at Joe’s is to buy local and cook with an Italian heart.

Joes Bar Hotel East Canberra Cocktail

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management