Sydney’s nightlife has changed quite a bit since we moved here. There are many more small cocktail bars and neighbourhood water holes than before. The competition to be the next cool bar has increased raising the standard considerably. You will now find bars to suit your every mood, from casual Friday night drinks to cozy high end romantic spots.
The our Bar Guide focuses on four main areas of Sydney: Downtown (CBD), Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Surry Hills. These areas are easy to get to by train or on foot and, if needed, an inexpensive taxi ride back to your hotel. Pick an area and try bar hopping or mix it up and discover your own favorite watering hole not listed here. Sydney always has a new hot spot opening so it is very likely that you will find a place that we have yet to hear of. If it’s noteworthy drop us a line and we will added to list.
Sydney Small Bar Revolution
Many of the new small bars can be hard to find mostly because they are tucked away down an alley with no sign marking the entrance. Most you can find by spotting the bouncer outside checking IDs or by a group of people waiting to get in. It all feels very LA to me but the cocktails are usually worth trying though expect to pay for anything special.
If you’re looking for a wine bar is Sydney look no further. Ash St Cellar has been voted the Best Wine Bar in Sydney in both Time Out Sydney and Australian Gourmet Traveller. One thing to note is that it can be hard to find as it is down a small alleyway and then around the corner, so be sure to make the map above as large as possible to get your bearings. Though Ash St Cellar might seem a bit intimidating it’s a great place to learn more about Australian wines as they are very knowledgeable and, depending on how busy it is, can be very helpful. If you need something to snack on while your there consider the spec and mushrooms on toast with a side of French fries. 1 Ash Street, Sydney 2000 (02) 9240 3000
The Club Bar is hidden away inside the Park Hyatt on Sydney Cove. Most Sydneysiders don’t even know it’s there, which mean you can easily find an open table on a Saturday night. It feel a bit like an old school men’s only club with large upholstered chairs, log fires and jazz playing soft in the background. It’s that perfect mix of low key yet high class that most cigar and scotch bar strive for yet never achieve. If you like whiskey and jazz you’ll definitely want to become a member of The Club Bar. 7 Hickson Road, The Rocks 2000 (02) 9256 1877
Located in an old underground taverna in Sydney’s Spanish Quarter, Good God Small Club has completely embraced the heritage of the area with kitschy old Spanish decor and cocktails that are served by the jug, including a Mint Julep.and Sangria. Most cocktails here are around $12 and not very popular. Most of the cool kids here grab a cheap beer or split a bottle of wine and just simply hang out. As far as food goes, well there’s not much of it but your in luck as Miro’s Tapas is close by, see Sydney’s Cheap Eats. 55 Liverpool St. Chinatown 2000 [email protected]
The Grasshopper is yet another small bar hidden down an alleyway. Most describe it has funky, friendly and trendy but all are surprise to mention the fancy expensive food and great atmosphere. Cocktails here are served in jars and identified by numbers instead of names. For example the no. 3 is made with gin, vermouth, orange, Campari and raspberry syrup. If you have trouble finding it just walk all the way to the back to Temperance Lane and turn right, you’ll usually see a group smoking near the entrance. 1 Temperance Lane Sydney 2000 (02) 9947 9025
Yes, this is the same Marble Bar that is probably in that Sydney guidebook you bought. Well known for being one of the best decorated bars in Sydney, the Marble Bar will take your breath away when you enter. The management calls the bar a “superb work of art since 1893”. It’s actually kind of fun to watch people entering and see all the different reactions. This is not where the cool hipster kids hang out but instead you’ll find the afterwork crowd, tourists and business men in Sydney for the latest conference. This is a well established drinking hole where the only food available is chips and nuts. You might be luck enough to come on a night when one of the cheesy cover bands is playing. If that’s the case then get ready for dancing and often a sing along. Located in the basement of the Hilton Hotel, 259 Pitt St Sydney 2000 (02) 9266 2000
Located under the Sydney Opera House right on the water with one of the best views of Circular Quay. When you visit the Opera House, a stop by the Opera Bar is a must. Looking for something to eat too, then look no forth than the Opera Kitchen. Get a nice chilled bottle of white wine and sit out in the sun and soak up the Sydney Harbour Views. This might be a tourist spot that doesn’t stop the locals from hanging out here also. Truly is an icon in Sydney. Lower Concourse Level Sydney Opera House Sydney 2000 (02) 9247 1666
If your a beer drinking with a passion for micro brews this is your new favourite hang out in Sydney. Try one of the taster trays that pairs up different beers with cheese, yep cheese. On a Friday night it can get pretty busy with the after work crowd so best to avoid or just go straight to dinner. The food at Redoak is nice and the prices are reasonable. 201 Clarence Street Sydney 2000 (02) 9262 3303
The interior of Rockpool Bar & Grill is classic Sydney Art Deco at it’s best. You’ll feel transported back in time. To get to the bar use the main entrance of the restaurant. It is the perfect place for a drink with a friend or a casual bite to eat, on the pricey side of things but the wagyu burger is very good. Try to pick an off night as it tends to get pretty crowded. Also open around lunchtime at Noon until 3pm. Rockpool Bar has a no bookings policy, a fantastic bar menu and a cocktail and wine list second to none. 66 Hunter St Sydney 2000 (02) 8078 1900
Grandma’s is so hip they don’t even have a sign to clue you into the fact that there really is a bar underneath the guitar shop. Keep up with Sydney’s small bar standards, Grandma’s has locked on to their niche as they describe as “retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour”. Just follow the astro turfed stairs down to the basement to find a small selection of beers and wine, simply labeled “French” “Red” and “White”. Cocktails is really where it’s at here. Be sure to start with at least one, perhaps the Ron Zacapa Treacle cocktail ($21) or the Raspberry Moscow Mule ($16). Basement 275 Clarence Street Sydney 2000 (02) 9264 3004
Yes, Stitch is another small basement bar in Sydney. Keeping in theme, you’ll enter through a shop front filled with sewing machines, balls of yarn and clothes hanging on a rod, head down the stairs to the cocktail bar. Stitch has a nice wine selection, good atmosphere and the service is very friendly. 61 York St, Sydney 2000 (02) 9299 2719
This is absolutely my new favourite small bar in the city. It has great art deco decor, cocktails made to perfection, yummy quick snacks, good wine and beer selection, plus, the biggest bonus of them all, friendly service. There is a good size outdoor area. The only draw back is getting there before the crowd does. The best time is either early after work or later when the after work crowd has gone home. I would recommend later has things seem more relaxed around that time but great place to hang out any time of day. 338 Kent Street, between King and Market, (02) 9262 4986
Ching-a-lings might be hard to find and you can’t call for directions as they don’t have a phone. It’s located a few doors up from the Columbian Hotel on Oxford Street. Just look for the bouncer out front of the Soleil tanning salon. Ching-a-lings is no nonsense drinking, meaning no cocktails just simple mixed drinks, wine served in tumblers and longnecks of Coopers. Having to keep up with noise ordinance, Ching-a-lings DJ plays very chill hip-hop, funk and electronica. It a good place to hid from the mayhem of Oxford Street. 133 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9360 3333
The Commons is a restaurant and bar (downstairs level) with good food, friendly service and a good neighbourhood vibe. If you’re in Darlinghurst looking for a place to share a bottle of red and get something to snack on this is it. 32 Burton Street, Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9358 1487
Eau-de-Vie is all about the cocktails just check out their Facebook Page or their website where they regularly post videos on how to make some of their own creations at home. Eau-de-Vie is hidden in the back of the Kirketon and has some of the friendliest bar staff in Sydney that are more than eager to make you one of their dynamite cocktails. 229 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst 2010 (04) 2226 3226
Hunky Dory Social ClubThis venue closed on 28 Mar 2012. A “New York” style bar complete with rooftop deck that opens at noon so you can sneak in early head up to the rooftop and pretty much have the place to yourself. A great place to take a break from sightseeing in Sydney or escape the craziness of Oxford Street. Bruno’s is on the lower level and serves up simple Italian if you decide to go for lunch or dinner before joining the crowd at Hunky Dory Social Club. 215 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9331 0442
Love Tilly Devine
Love Tilly Devine is the quintessential wine bar at it’s very best. Named after Tilly Devine the madam of several brothels in Darlinghurst back in the Razorhurst days of the roaring ’20s. At LTD you’ll find the perfect balance between wine, food, and the good conversation. If you’re looking for a wild night out this is NOT the place to go. In fact it’s just the opposite. It is the place to go with a good friend to catch up with over an excellent bottle of red. 91 Crown Lane, Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9326 9297
As you may have guess from the name, this is a small bar. Pocket Bar is located on the corner of Burton and Crown. They offer your usually beer, wine, well drinks plus cocktails as well as some pretty good eats. Try the Watermelon Martini or, if your need to take a break from drinking, the Pineapple Mint Frappe is excellent. If your in the mood for something to eat, try one of the crepes. They are surprisingly good. 13 Burton Street, Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9380 7002
Shady Pine Saloon is a self claimed American Bar complete with alleyway entrance off Crown that can be hard to find. During the weekends you’ll see a line outside or smokers loitering but during the week look for a doorway with a key pad. Being an “American Bar” the focus is more on mixed drinks some from a forgotten era, like the Old Fashioned or Old Pal, equal parts whiskey, sweet vermouth and Campari. The decor is full on kitsch embracing it’s American theme. I have heard stories of tour big name bands stopping by for a drink or two just to wet the whistle but have yet to see anyone myself. Shop 4, 256 Crown Street Darlinghurst 2010
Excellent wine bar even better food, like way better food. Look for the sign then head up the stairs to a quite French restaurant. The wine bar is in the back and often empty as it has yet to be discovered. If you’re in Darlinghurst looking for a place to sit down relax and have a good conversation over a bottle this is the place. They have an excellent selection of French wines and wonderful service. 294/292 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9356 3429
It seems like everyone is talking about Heavy Feather, another small bar on Oxford Street. Heavy Feather is just a few doors down from Ching-a-Lings but it’s a world apart. This is the quintessential Darlinghurst neighbourhood bar, full of a colourful mix of people from drag queens to the Martin Place after work crowd. Everyone at Heavy Feather just wants to relax, have a drink and a friendly chat. There are two bonuses at Heavy Feather. 1. The food is good, try the buffalo wings and a cheese plate. 2. The terrace out back is a definite asset especially during the summer months, if you can find a seat. 137 Oxford Street (02) 93311229
GardenThe Gazebo has been one of the most popular bars in Sydney for years and you understand why once you see the 50 wines offered by the glass and the impressive cocktail list. The decor is quite girlie with odd fabric flowers scattered through out. It’s often been described as a cross between Fantastic Mr Fox and Alice in Wonderland. The food is your usually Australian affair, not special or outstanding. Instead of dinner, start your evening out at Gazebo then head off to dinner at one of the better dining option at Potts Point or finish your night at the Gazebo with one of their fabulous espresso cocktails. 2 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay 2011 (02) 9357 5333
If your planning on getting a drink at Jimmy Liks try to get there early. The bar is small and you have full access to the dinner menu if you feel like getting something to eat. This along makes Jimmy Liks one of the most popular bars in the city. Located away from the mayhem of Kings Cross, Jimmy Liks is an oasis. Try one of the Lemongrass Martinis or the Mekong Mary. 186 – 188 Victoria Street, Potts Point 2011 (02) 8354 1400
When I think of LL Wine and Dine only one thing comes to mind, Chili Coconut Martini. You must try the Chili Coconut Martini at LL. LL Wine and Dine is part of the re-gentrification of Kings Cross, or an attempt anyway. The shop itself has had an interesting history, brothel, adult bookstore, and speakeasy to name a few. It is now one of the best cocktail bars at Kings Cross. But if you come just for drinks you’ll be missing out on the best part, the food. The chili and garlic soft shell crab with wasabi mayo is excellent. Llankelly Place, Kings Cross 2011 (02) 9356 8393
MSG or Ms. G’s has been getting a lot of press of late for having one of the city’s best burgers. The bar is upstairs where they have some more interesting cocktails such as the Blue Bottle (Plymouth gin, pineapple, Aeroplane jelly and lemonade) but also offer standard favourites such as dirty martinis where are excellent. If you feel the need to get some food be sure to try the pork buns, they are not your usual pork buns. These are crunchy and delicious. 155 Victoria St, Kings Cross 2011 (02) 8313 1000
Time to Vino
Time to Vino is located away from the craziness of Kings Cross and offers a quiet, friendly refuge where you can sample some wonderful wines. They also have food to snack on while you enjoy your glass of Margaret River Shiraz or Tuscan Chianti. 2-14 Kings Cross Road, Kings Cross 2011 (02) 9380 4252
Being from the States it is a novelty to see absinthe on a menu, since it is illegal in America. At the Absinthe Salon you can only have a max of three servings of the little green, or red, fairy but if you’re curious about absinthe this is the best place to go, if not just for the atmosphere. The Absinthe Salon offers 18 different absinthes from Switzerland, France, Germany and Spain and, as you will discover, each has it’s own particular flavour. The best idea is to ask for assistance before you order and be prepared for a wealth of knowledge. Please be aware that you need to book a table to drink here. 87 Albion Street, Surry Hills 2010 (02) 9211 6632
The Restaurant and Bar and completely separate, so if it’s food your after you can’t rock up to the bar and order something from the restaurant. Instead the bar is for drinking and the restaurant is for eating. That being said The Bentley has an excellent selection of wines and some basic snacks. It was renovated a few years ago and now has a more upmarket feel to it. It about drinking and chat as well as being seen and looking smart. 320 Crown Street, Surry Hills 2010 (02) 9332 2344
The Flinders Hotel has got one of the best happy hours in the city: $5 spirits and $5 wines Tuesday – Saturday 5-7pm. It’s the $5 spirits part that gets me excited as it’s have to get a mixed drink in Sydney for under $7 even at a cheap dangy pub. The Flinders has been “modelled on a classic American dive bar”. Their words not mine but I like it. Just straight up booze here, no fancy cocktails or silly martini glasses. 65 Flinders St., Darlinghurst 2010 (02) 9356 3622
It’s all about beer here at The Local. This is the Sydney location of the successful Melbourne beer hall. There are 20 beers on tap and the selection is in constant rotation, quite often you will find something new to try. A very popular option is the tasting paddle-five different beers for $13. Don’t worry, they keep a good selection of standard on tap here such as Coopers Sparkling and Little Creatures if you’re not feeling adventurous. 122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst (02)9360 0088
*I know the address says Darlinghurst but The Local Taphouse is closer to our Surry Hills selection of bars than the Darlinghurst ones.
Longrain cocktail bar is a bit too slick that it’s close to being pretentious in its desire to be a Manhattan-style bar with a “warehouse vibe”. But they are a damn fine cocktail bar with even better eats. The close to the weekend it is the more crowded Longrain becomes until you reach Friday and the party crowd is in the house ready to be seen in all their glory. If you want to skip the party atmosphere then try and make it on a Monday or Tuesday when, in my opinion, it’s just perfect. 85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills 2010 (02) 9280 2888
Tokonoma is the bar next to the very popular Toko Restaurant. It has a dark and sexy atmosphere that everyone just loves. Let’s face it, we all look a bit better in dark softly light bars. The service is fantastic and the food is from next door which is a huge score. Tokonoma is one day be a legendary Sydney Bar. 490 Crown Street, Surry Hills 2010 (02) 9357 6100
Owned by the same group that manages The Gazebo, The Winery is yet another garden party gone awry. Decorated with flowers everywhere, it’s as girlie as girlie can get. I wouldn’t suggest coming for dinner, instead join a group of friends and share a few bottles while sampling some of the bar snacks like the veal and chorizo sausage rolls wrapped in flaky pastry or the fried calamari served with a salad of cucumber and mint. Be sure to order a bowl of the shoestring chips to share. 285A Crown Street, Surry Hills 2010 (02) 9331 0833
The sommelier, yes sommelier, will help you choose the perfect bottle to share if your knowledge of Italian wine is slim. The bar food is not the best though it does try. The small squares of fried polenta with pancetta, onion and tomato sauce are good to start with and the cheese board is one of the best choices off the menu. Again this is Surry Hills so the main objective is to be seen and look smart while sipping on a glass of imported Italian red. Most at 121 BC have the routine down cold but don’t let it stop you from joining them at the long communal table if you can find a spot. Pretty soon the atmosphere and relaxed vibe will rub off and you will fit right in. Or maybe it’s that fourth glass of Sangiovese talking. 4/50 Holt Street, Surry Hills 2010 (02) 9699 1582
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