Some nights you just want to go somewhere cool or cozy, where you can hang out with your friends without battling a crowd of people trying to do the same.
Our list of Sydney’s best small bars is full of places to go, have fun, eat and drink without having to compete with 50 other people for the bartender’s attention (or affection).
Centrally located in the CBD, Stitch Bar is the perfect place to escape the madness of the city and slip into a comfortable small bar that will look out for your best interests (food and drinks, of course). Fill your stomach with burgers, hotdogs or tacos while getting down to business with the cocktail list, which is as delicious as it is long. On offer are also wines, beers and a ‘hard liquor’ menu for those who need something with a bit more kick. Whatever you’re after, Stitch Bar has that lovely small bar atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re just hanging at a friend’s place. Perfect.
Pocket Bar is the epitome of cool and laid back which is basically everything you want in a small bar. Nestled in Darlinghurst, they offer a street food inspired bar menu so you can nosh away at the po’boy’s or tamales while you enjoy a few bevvies; cocktails, wine, beer – they’ve got them all covered. The best part about this small bar, beyond the delicious food and the large amount of alcohol they have ready for you to consume, are the prices, which are also cool and laid back. Be sure to check out their different specials and deals throughout the week; three plates for $30 on a Monday night or a Sunday session with $5 steamed buns and $6 tiger beers, makes both our stomachs, and our wallets, very happy.
The Lock In
If you’re after a private event space to celebrate a special occasion or just want to have an uninterrupted catch-up with your pals, The Lock In is where you need to be. Part of The Grounds Of Alexandria and The Potting Shed family compound, you can find The Lock In at the back of The Potting Shed. You’ll find heavy wooden doors opening up to a cave of old brick archways and glass lockers as you arrive to this mysterious venue. Your 40 standing or 20 seated guests will be left in peace with staff serving you food through a wrought-iron trapdoor. And the option of pre-ordered drinks being stored in the glass lockers that surround the room give you the ultimate haven of uninterrupted privacy. The Lock In is a cool space that allows you to create whatever kind of event you want, whether that’s a variety of shared plates and charcuterie, or a feast of a grazing menu, perfect for people that just want to have a good time at an intimate and cool place.
We’re a big fan of choice, especially in the cocktail game, and Button Bar is never going to let you go thirsty with their extensive cocktail menu. They offer up your classics, like mulled wine, Singapore slings and pina coladas (perfect if you were caught in the rain on the way there… And like getting songs stuck in your head.) If you like to live on the wild side and try something new, they have something for every taste. The ‘Pleasure Vessel’ is sweetly tart and is a sure fire way to start your night, or maybe start with a ‘Smoking Gun’ to warm you up with Glenmorangie blended with subtle flavours – it’s a perfect introduction to the vast world of scotch drinking. Whatever delicious liquid morsel you choose, there are plenty to keep you going all night long. Bliss.
The Rum Diaries
Home to Sydney’s most extensive rum list, it seems sensible to get yourself a table at this Bondi hotspot and prepare for a night full of delicious food with rum and cocktails to match. Michelin trained Head Chef Sebastian Curd has compiled a menu that he describes as ‘local, fusion and seasonal’ which are all words we love to hear, especially if it’s in relation to food. Caramelised bacon popcorn, wild forest mushroom tartlet and Southern rock lobster are among the mouth-watering offerings that keep us coming back for more. The cocktail list, unsurprisingly, has a strong rum focus with a collection of varied Old Fashioneds as well as the classics and some more fruity numbers. But for those here for the main game, the rum list is long and descriptive, perfect for both amateur and experienced rum drinkers.
DJs dropping beats, bartenders making deliciously fresh cocktails and a kitchen pumping out fresh pizza all night long, Honey Rider in Neutral Bay has got it going on! Their cocktail list is perfect for summer drinks with the gang – the Johnny Utah is refreshing and zesty and the Apparent Sour is a bold mix of Aperol, fresh pressed citrus, St Germain Elderflower liqueur and a spritz of lemon oil for a zingy tipple to welcome the weekend. This is one lively local joint on the north shore well worth crossing the bridge for.
Mojo Record Bar
Mojo Record Bar is the mullet of Sydney small bars: all business in the front and party out the back. Record Store by day, cool small bar by night, Mojo is the perfect place to show off your music wisdom with a drink in hand. Rough and ready, the food and drink on offer hold nothing back. The hotdogs and sandwiches are all named after music greats like The Lou Reed which is white bread sandwiching classic New York deli salt beef, pickled cabbage and long island mustard. To wash it all down, there is an impressive and large list of Australian beers and cider available, both on tap and bottled which they change regularly, so be sure to ask one of the bartenders what they have on offer on the night.
The Print Room
The Print Room is a slice of Old Hollywood charm in Paddington, think old Chesterfield lounges and thick crystal glasses. This cocktail and wine bar is classy and sophisticated, which is reflected throughout their cocktail list and menu. Short but creative, the cocktail list offers interesting ingredients like caramelised pistachio, rooibos liqueur and homemade chamomile nutmeg tea syrup, beautiful sophisticated flavours for a perfect date night or catch-up with the girls. Food-wise, they’ve got any appetite covered, from charcuterie, cheese boards and empanadas to scotch fillet steak and crispy duck confit. A trip to The Print Room will leave you feeling satisfied and oh-so fancy.
The Barber Shop
Step into this barbershop in the day and you will see master barbers using vintage tools to groom handsome hipsters and modern gentlemen, offering hot towel shaves and beard trimming. Come back a little later at night and The Barber Shop is transformed into a dimly lit parlour, reminiscent of a small, classic European cocktail bar that extends a nod to a vintage British history. The cocktail bar showcases an extensive range of gin and jenever as well as boutique-bottled beers, artisanal spirits and an international wine list to ensure you have a great night in this relaxed and sophisticated space.
The Foxtrot Inn
Crows Nest is a growing hub of small bar activity, but The Foxtrot is one of the latest additions that’s bringing some inner-city cool to the north shore. Your first task is to find the entrance which is only marked by a small sign as you walk down Falcon Street. Your next task is to decide what drink to choose. Will you start with something from their ‘Bang For A Buck’ menu, a collection of $10 cocktails to satisfy your thirst, or perhaps one of their ‘Jam Jars’ like the vanilla berry julep? So many drinking options! Your last task is to choose what food to get. Tacos and sliders are worthy contenders, though we can’t go past the pork belly bites baked with sage and garlic served with a caramel and lime sauce and the fried Swiss cheese balls deep fried then served with a homemade tomato chutney. If you bring a group, this last task isn’t a challenge at all, just order the lot! It’s worth it.
Image credit: The Barber Shop