It sometimes feels like every bloke and his cousin’s mate’s Uber driver’s dog are opening an underground bar in Sydney these days. But you know what, there’s a reason why: they’re just awesome.
Word of warning though, if you’re trying to impress your new lady/manfriend with your knowledge of hidden Sydney, please get your Google on first—these places can be tricky to find.
Duck down past the dining room and the kitchen and you should find yourself in one of Sydney’s best kept secrets. If you haven’t, then you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and it’s definitely not our fault. Low ceilings, dim lighting, cosy vibes. A perfect date night venue, and even just a great place to get away from the world for a while.
A newcomer to the list, Oxford Street’s Big Poppa’s is… a bit of a slashy. It’s a wine/cheese/hip hop bar hiding underground in Darlinghurst. There’s a huge mural of Biggie downstairs, there’s great drinks, and (best of all,) a cheese fridge—something we wish we had in our homes. Oh, and the second best thing—with food being served late, lockout laws don’t apply which means you eat and drink until the wee hours!
A hidden York Street gem, Uncle Ming’s is an opium den-inspired cocktail bar that also does a nice little sideline in dumplings. Which is just about all we’re after these days. Unsurprisingly, the cocktails are pretty much all Asian inspired and pretty much all awesome. If cocktails aren’t really your thang, there’s a seriously deep list of Japanese whisky and a few decent beers to get amongst. Good people, good vibes. Go check it out.
The Baxter Inn
If you want to know how good The Baxter Inn is, just go check the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards. The 2015 edition has The Baxter slotting in at a casual sixth, which isn’t a bad effort in the scheme of things. It can be a bit tricky to find, but it’s so, so, worth it. If you’re about that whisk(e)y life, this is really the only place to be—they’ve got well over 600 labels sitting on the shelves.
Rum’s a criminally underrated spirit, and we really have no idea why. Whatever the reason, Lobo Plantation is bringing it into the spotlight. Head down the stairs, and step into an alt-universe Sydney. One where people enjoy themselves, and lockout laws haven’t ever been heard of. Start with a daiquiri. If your bartender can nail that you know they’re the business, and you’re in for a hell of a night.
Palmer & Co.
Palmer & Co. is a prohibition-era, speakeasy-style, place tucked away down Abercrombie Lane. It’s all very dapper and flapper, with seasonal ingredients and beautiful cocktails. While their signature cocktails are great, it’s a lot of fun diving into the ‘Lost & Forgotten’ list. If you were every wondering what they got into back in the day, now’s your chance.
Keep your eyes out for the three skulls on Elizabeth Street, just down by Park, because it’s pretty much the only way you’re going to find this bad boy. And man, this really is an awesome place. It’s super chill, they’re slinging great tunes, the bartenders are some of the most fun dudes around, and the drinks are great. Oh, and did we mention you can grab a burger from Mary’s while you’re there?
Tucked down Temperance Lane (seems like the right place to whack a cocktail bar) The Grasshopper really had a lot to do with pushing the small bar scene a few years back. The broadly Asian-influenced menu has a lot going for it, the red-braised pork sliders are something we’re always going to be about, the drinks are strong and, if you feel like rounding up a crew, the cocktail classes are a lot of fun.
Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice
You know Frankie’s don’t you? I’m pretty sure you know Frankie’s. You live in Sydney, and you’re reading this, so… But hey, look, if you’re new to town Frankie’s is a pretty sweet little dive bar that feels like it’s been around forever. Come here to get some tunes, some seriously decent pizza, and some very solid brews. Get in early if you want to sit down, because it gets absolutely packed.
Since it opened earlier this year Restaurant Hubert has been getting its fair share of hype and it’s actually deserved. Leaning heavily on classic French influences, Hubert delivers a luxuriant, intimate, experience that never feels opulent or overwhelming. It’s not the cheapest place going around, but this is Sydney after all, and you absolutely get what you pay for. If you’ve got a big date lined up, or just need to get away from the world for a while, it’s well worth checking out.
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Image Credit: Daryl Kong at Lobo Plantation