In the basement of Hinchcliff House—the four-storey Italian-inspired mega restaurant in Circular Quay—is Apollonia.
Built on a tale of love at first sight inspired by Mario Puzo's The Godfather, this moody underground bar is brimming with the sort of Sicilian misty-eyed romance we all seek on a first date. The story goes, Michael Corleone (the iconic novel's protagonist) was struck by "The Thunderbolt" (or, colpo di fulmine) the moment he laid eyes on Apollonia—and every night at midnight, the bar hosts a very special "thunderbolt ritual", toasting to love and life, by way of a strong and sweet Negroni.
Like a great romance novel, the cocktail menu is divided into chapters of Apollonia's story and signature concoctions have been given names like, "A Letter Never Sent" ( a mix of wheat vodka, Italian honey liqueur, pineapple, clove, almond, and fresh lemon) and "Wedding Procession" (dry gin, macadamia, amaro, bitters, and lemon).
You'll also find a nice edit of Italian and Australian Amari, bitters, whiskies, and gin. Adventurous cocktail drinkers can dip into a tiramisu milk punch with dark rum, cacao, coffee liqueur, and biscuit in the mix, and a pineapple Negroni with pineapple rum instead of dry gin.
Meanwhile, the neat wine list covers a lot of ground in Italy (Puglia, Tuscany, Sicily, Campania, Sardinia, and more), with a sprinkling of Aussie wines for good measure.
Hungry? Pair those drama-heavy Italo cocktails with charcuterie, or a daily pasta and salad special (imported from Grana upstairs). You'll also find a meatball sub and a fried eggplant sub, both served with a side of Sicilian spiced waffle fries. If that doesn't spell romance, we don't know what does.
Finally—romantic night owls will love the super sweet fact that Apollonia is open until 3am, six nights a week.
“Sydney city is a beautiful, romantic place. It’s so inspiring, but also filled with mystery," said Hinchcliffe House creative director Scott Brown. "Apollonia is the perfect reflection of our city and our people. We’re just a little bit mysterious, just a little dark but full of love."
Image credit: Jiwon Kim