Around our offices in Hyde Park are some wonderful small bars, often hidden away, but worth seeking out. Of course, being Sydney, the bar snacks are always good, too.
The festive season and Sydney’s balmy spring evenings are a great excuse to take a night off and unwind a little—here’s our pick of the best small bars in Sydney’s CBD, all within walking distance of our agency on Elizabeth Street.
This bar originated in New York City and now has outposts around the world. The Sydney venue is tucked away down a staircase in the CBD. Prices are on the high side, but it’s worth a visit on pay day for excellent cocktails, velvety interiors and a heady 1920s speakeasy vibe if you are after a special night out. The lush food choices include chicken liver brulee and steak tartare. There’s even a tarot card reader on hand to tell you your fortune, should you wish.
As with all Employees Only bars, chicken soup is served to anyone who makes it all the way through to the 3am closing time. Hidden behind a plain door, look out for the EO on the doorway and the tarot card symbols on the walls inside. Memorable.
9A Barrack Street, Sydney
Visit Employees Only website
Old Mate’s Place
This popular after-work venue offers a sweeping view of the CBD’s skyscrapers from its leafy rooftop alfresco area. Inside, the book-case lined bar, with its potted palms and leather booth seats, is intimate and comfortable. The cocktails are delicious and original, as is the hearty menu, which includes Philly cheese and steak rolls – not the most elegant dish, but perfect after climbing 102 steps to get here – or you can take the lift. And as the name suggests, the service is warm and friendly.
4/199 Clarence Street, Sydney
Visit Old Mate’s Place website
Also on Clarence Street, we like this underground rum bar, with atmospheric interiors of timber, hand-painted murals, cane seats and antique lamps. The bar is named after a Cuban sugar baron, Julio Lobo. The drink selection, as you would expect, features around 250 rums mixed into classic cocktails such as mint juleps and Old Fashioneds. The bar snack menu is Cuban-inspired, with spicy empanadas, hefty sandwiches and fries. A hidden gem in the heart of the city.
1/209 Clarence Street, Sydney
Love, Tilly Devine
East of Hyde Park in Darlinghurst, here’s another intimate small bar with a great selection of natural wines and an Italian-style bar menu. We love the rustic interiors with lots of timber and distressed brick, and the great bar menu with its fresh pasta and salads. The staff here are both knowledgeable and very passionate about natural wine, and are happy to help you find just the right one. Meanwhile, the cosy vibe makes it great for a date night or a quick drink.
91 Crown Lane, Darlinghurst
The Barber Shop
If gin is your drink of choice, you’ll love the Barber Shop. Like Employees Only, it’s a speakeasy-style venue hidden behind a working barber shop. Gin is enjoying a revival of late, and this bar embraces its new popularity with more than 700 labels, including some vintage drops as well as locally distilled gins. Olives are on offer to go with your drink and the small bar menu includes charcuterie, cheese boards and house-made duck sausage rolls with plum jam. Upbeat music and candle-lit interiors add to the atmosphere. The Barber Shop is definitely worth a visit after your next short-back-and-sides.
89 York Street, Sydney
Visit The Barber Shop website
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What fabulous inner-city small bars have we missed? Please tell us your favourite ones for a relaxed drop in the CBD in the comments. Cheers!