The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes
The Nixon Room, ESSA's concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes

The Nixon Room, ESSA’s concealed 70s-inspired laneway bar, is serving snacks, martinis and intimate vibes

Low lights, luxurious 70s-inspired decor and a libation list that hits the sweet spot between classic and creative – The Nixon Room is one heck of a bar. ESSA’s cocktail bar sibling is an understated and elegant addition to the James Street area, channelling the restaurant’s detail-oriented approach to dining into a sophisticated sip and snack lounge with style to spare. Have a look inside …

ESSA was undoubtedly one of 2021’s most high-profile openings. The forward-thinking fine diner, operated by owner Angela Sclavos and owner-chef Phil Marchant, has garnered plenty of outward praise for showcasing micro-seasonal produce in creative and technically impressive ways, immediately establishing itself as one of Brisbane’s most in-demand dinner bookings. Where ESSA’s arrival was heralded and celebrated, the launch of its laneway bar sibling The Nixon Room has been considerably low key in comparison. Secreted down a vine-covered walkway behind Libertine Parfumerie and opposite Living Edge, The Nixon Room (accessed by an unadorned brass door next to a wide glass vitrine), is the kind of place you have to discover – there are no neon signs or sounds of revelry to guide the way. According to team, this is all by design. The Nixon Room is a speakeasy, of sorts – or rather its an evocation of the secretive parlours of the 1970s, where celebrities rubbed shoulders and power brokers wheeled and dealed. The heady days of the early 70s are a core inspiration of The Nixon Room, but don’t let the name imply that the bar is a safe haven for shady dealings. “It’s a bar based around an era, more so than being an American bar themed around the president,” explains Phil. “Between 1969 and 1975 a lot of cool things happened,” Angela elaborates. “It was the beginning of disco anthems, The Godfather and Star Wars, and Muhammad Ali. It’s a snippet in time that really resonates with us and a lot of people.” These cultural touchstones, coupled with an appreciation for mid-century architecture, are what really informs The Nixon Room’s personality and underpin its chic and intimate aesthetic.

Angela and Phil have worked once again with the team behind ESSA’s look and layout, with Craig Channon of UME Architecture leading the design alongside creative brand direction from Borhan Ghofrani. When given the inspirational prompts, Borhan fashioned an identity from the era’s core stylistic foundations. “Like with mid-century architecture, it was the removal of the unnecessary and leaving things rich and bare,” says Borhan, pointing out the American walnut panelling as a starting point for the 25-seater’s pared-back but luxurious interior. “The walnut is rich, it’s bold, it’s quite confident and I think those qualities are what led us to the type of drinks that we create and type of food that we have here.” Matching the warmth of the wood is an opulent material palette of leather, marble and plush carpet, with a low level of illumination from table lamps, under-seat lights and the back-lit bar cloaking much of The Nixon Room’s windowless interior in shadow. This, coupled with the venue’s cosy footprint, conjures an intimate closeness for guests seated in the cloistered curved banquettes. “The space is small, which naturally creates a sense of community and socialising,” says Borhan. “When you are sat next to someone you can’t help but to start a conversation. It’s very grown up, it is very serious and it’s very decadent, but there’s a level of familiarity to it.”

The Nixon Room’s menu is a continuation of Phil’s signature contemporary cuisine fashioned using exceptional produce, just on a smaller scale. But where ESSA’s gastronomic offering offers meal-sized portions, The Nixon Room serves a selection of elevated bite-sized snacks. “We wanted a space that served things, not whole dishes,” explains Phil. “When a conversation’s going, you don’t want to be interrupted. You’re going to be sitting here mid-conversation, having a drink, and then something appears next to you.” Much like at ESSA, Phil’s menu will reflect what’s currently at its seasonal best, with by-products of ingredients used at the restaurant also given a chance to shine at The Nixon Room. “There’s the chance to play on some of the foods from that era, so there was a bit of research into what they had in the 60s and 70s,” says Phil. “There’s a fish finger sandwich on the menu, for example, that uses coral trout heads and the collars to make like a little fish terrine that’s crumbed and deep fried.” The rest of the menu features the likes of caviar with fried potato scallops, cultured cream and cured egg yolk, fried chicken wings, tuna tartare on wakame crisps with seaweed and cucumber emulsion, and Appellation oysters served with tomato granita, shio koji hot sauce and celery mignonette. The Nixon Room’s beverage program is led by a six-strong cocktail menu crafted by June Sok, who is matching Phil’s culinary approach with a range of signatures that use ingredients from small-scale farmers and distillers, while also showcasing a mix of techniques. “I’ve really aligned it with the ethos of ESSA,” says June. “[The list is] concise, intentional and small because every cocktail has so much love and thought put into it. The process is very extensive.” Concoctions like the God Complex (Talisker ten-year, Luxardo Amaretto, roasted banana, parsnip and hazelnut) and the Pure Velour (chrysanthemum-infused La Gritona reposado, winter melon and osmanthus) share menu space with a clutch of martinis and a tight selection of wines picked by ESSA’s sommelier Eliott Boucard. The Nixon Room is open for walk-ins, and is ideal as the pre-dinner meeting point or a spot for afters – all you have to do is find the place.

The Nixon Room is open now – head to the Stumble Guide for operating hours and other important details.

The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.

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