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Apollonia

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  • Circular Quay
  1. A bartender is building a cocktail into a tall glass on a tiled bar
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  2. A cube of ice with an imprint of an A pressed into the top
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  3. Candlelit sandstone walls with armchairs and round marble tables
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  4. On a marble table sits a piece of bread topped with proscuitto, a negroni on the left
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  5. Candlit marble walls with red leather banquette seating, two men sit drinking cocktails
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  6. A marble table, a bowl of pasta being eaten and a glass of red wine
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
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Time Out Says

A moody and romantic Sicilian-inspired cocktail bar in a heritage-listed basement is an offer you can't refuse

In the basement of a heritage warehouse in Sydney’s CBD you’ll find a Sicilian-inspired cocktail bar named for the ill-fated wife of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mobster masterpiece, The Godfather. But don’t let that put you off. For those of us who have been lying about having seen The Godfather their whole lives, good news. Every page of the drinks menu will run you through the storyline (spoilers lie within, but it’s literally been 50 years) so you can impress your date with cinematic knowledge while sipping on a Letter Never Sent, a standout concoction of wheat vodka, honey liquor, pineapple, clove, housemade almond syrup and fresh nutmeg, shaken and served over ice.

Dimly lit and dramatic as the movie itself, Apollonia is, by sheer geography alone, a triumph. Carved into the sandstone bedrock of Customs House, the hand-chipped, 150-year-old walls have been ambitiously transported to the 21st century, with accents of marble bars, deeply stained wooden finishes, mismatched tiles and red leather banquette seating.

The vibe is sophisticated and plush, a naturally cosy cave with dark carpeted flooring that we suspect this will be a top after-work date bar for years to come. With gold and velvet finishings and abundant in (oh, so flattering) candlelight, Apollonia is a little bit fancy with an effortlessly cool and approachable atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve been let in on a secret. From the friendly hostess greeting you behind velvet curtains at the bottom of a blackened staircase, to the prime people-watching seating on the raised platform, this could well be a contender for Sydney’s coolest bar. And with 23 cocktails on the list, including a signature Pineapple Negroni on tap, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.

Apollonia is part of a four-level acquisition by Singapore-based bar group House Made Hospitality, and is part of the company’s first Australian venture, Hinchcliff House. The four-level, multi-faceted venue has a 200-person function space on the roof; an art deco bar and restaurant, Lana, with a blushing pink marble bar; and a bright and airy café and restaurant on the ground level called Grana, where flour for bread, pasta and pastries are milled on-site and coffee is served from 6am. Then there's the star of the show: basement bar, Apollonia. 

If cocktails ain’t your thing, a comprehensive wine list of local and Italian drops will keep you going until 3am, after the midnight toasting ritual, of course. A tidy but considered snack list can soak up all those vinos. Start with a garlic crostino or two, a super light and fluffy yet still crunchy crouton with pickles and prosciutto, or perhaps a shared board of local cheeses and charcuterie with pickles and sourdough. A pasta dish of cappelini, broccoli, lemon, chilli and pangrattato is possibly best avoided, with the flavour of the ingredients showing up on paper but not on the plate. A pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and even the slightest heat of the so-called chilli is sorely needed, but it’s nothing a bowl of Sicilian spiced waffle fries can’t make up for.

Elizabeth McDonald
Written by
Elizabeth McDonald

Details

Address:
5-7
Young St
Sydney
2000
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat 4pm-3am
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