The latest contributor to Fort Street's recent revival, Rich Heart, is a city centre gem that will impress even the most experienced of cocktail quaffers. That's thanks to proprietor, Sai Hamsala, a man that knows his way around a cocktail shaker. Last year he entered into the Diplomatico global cocktail competition held in Venezuela and won first place with his signature cocktail Rich Heart. He then travelled the world as the Diplomatico global ambassador before returning to Auckland to create his passion project, named after his winning concoction.
He obviously knows his way around a bit of interior design as well because the place looks phenomenal. As you enter there's a floor to ceiling graffiti wall reminiscent of a New York back alley on your left and a long dimly lit room in front of you. In here you'll find a white brick wall adorned with antiquarian knick knacks, plush leather booths, a taxidermied goat and several bartenders dressed as dapper as can be. You're likely to meet Sai if you visit as he seems to always be here mixing with guests whipping masterpieces up behind the bar.
When it comes time to order a drink there's beers, wines and straights at the bar - but cocktails are what you're really here for. My favourite was the bar's namesake - the Rich Heart. This rum and Xmole beauty is a rich amber colour, served in a 1950s style crystal cocktail glass. Every sip reveals a new flavour, from a faint gin-like bitterness, to an earthy chocolate flavour to the deep richness of the rum and an orange zest. Beautiful.
Other highlights include the Lost in Translation: a spiced rum cocktail featuring chocolate and caramel foam. It tastes almost exactly like eating banoffee pie and ranks as my favourite liquid dessert.
If you fancy a vape, some alone time or perhaps just a bit of fresh air, there's a secret passage to fairy light filled alleyway with bare brick walls and hanging plants (the perfect spot for a Tinder date or a couple late night puffs) hidden somewhere inside the bar.
Sai has done a beautiful job here. His passion and skills shine through in his cocktails, and he's created a hell of a place to go and drink. It's still early days but I reckon Rich Heart has to be one of the best cocktail bars in Auckland already. Go try it for yourself.