Sydney wears the crown for Australian fine dining. Quay, Guillaume at Bennelong, Rockpool and Tetsuya’s are all well-known names with impressive menus, waiting lists and prices.
Which is possibly why, when friends presented me with lists of recommendations for Sydney, they skipped on the $$$ restaurants and went straight to the bars. Having failed to do any research of our own, let alone make a booking, we decided to spend Saturday night experiencing the sophisticated side of Sydney’s bar scene.
Our tour of inner-Sydney’s metropolitan hipster nightlife lasted 6 hours, from 5pm to 11pm. How on earth can a successful bar tour run from 5-11pm? I argue that there were some distinct advantages to starting out so early. Firstly, no queues to get in anywhere, whereas even by 9pm, the lines were forming out on the streets. Secondly, we could get a seat everywhere.; no waiting to be served, no standing in a corner, but everywhere still full enough for atmosphere.
So we had the best of everything for our big night out in Sydney.
Super-Kitsch with a capital K, a speak-easy style bar with a delicious cocktail list (we devoured a Little Miss Sunshine (him) and a classic martini (me)) with a nice menu of American / Mexican style food, not overly greasy. The two-person tables were old sewing tables complete with pedal and the bar was stacked on vintage Singer sewing machines. Kitsch.
One of the original alley-bars in Sydney, now it feels a little subsumed by the proliferation around it. We didn’t drink here as the bar was empty but the upstairs restaurant was reasonably busy.
Baxter’s Inn seems to be a bit of an institution in Sydney in that not only did we get several recommendations from friends but horrifyingly, it was listed in our tiny Lonely Planet. There is nothing like a listing in a holiday guide to scare off locals and ruin the atmosphere. However, early on in the evening at least Baxter’s was convivial, the seats full but not crowded and the endless bowls of pretzels most welcome.
Sharing an alley with Baxter’s Inn and therefore skimming off the patrons who couldn’t be bothered to wait in the queue. Barber’s is worth a visit for its own sake and has an impressive gin list. You can also get a handy trim or cut-throat shave with your whisky.
Down a cobbled driveway, this place looked promising but was closed for a private function. Disappointing but perhaps we’ll try it on another visit.
Tiny bar with a tiny sign, blink and you’ll miss it. But the whisky apple juice ($10) was delicious as it always is, made with juice made right there in front of us, and the bartenders very friendly and chatty so early on on the night. We would have gone back to Mojo Records to round-off the night except a booking of 50 crowded out the bar and we couldn’t get in. A shame as it would have been great to thank the bartender for his recommendation of Lobo Plantation.
Deep South meets Caribbean in a crowded but fun bar. Tasty whiskey and wine, a nice cocktail list and again, cheerful friendly bartenders. We ordered the tasting tapas plate to share ($33) and it was the perfect amount to fill you up but not send you to sleep.
For a couple who don’t drink a lot out and aren’t real night-birds, we did pretty well. We had a lot of fun trailing Sydney’s night life, met a few great and friendly bartenders and certainly visited one or two places we would return to next time we’re in town.