On Pitt Street near Hunter, when you wander down two flights of concrete stairs beside a coffee shop, you don’t find Wonderland or Narnia, but you will discover a cellar cocktail bar that's equal parts timber ship’s hold and fairy bower. Door Knock is the latest addition to the rogue's gallery of Sydney’s hidden bars, conjuring up the illusion that you are in on a secret.
Of course, while we all love a bit of ceremony, a bar that makes it too hard to get in can get tiresome, which is why the initial idea of unlocking the door for everyone who knocked the brass pineapple three times ended up getting traded in for an automatic system that keeps the door unlocked – but by all means, knock away.
Down here you feel utterly detached from the world above, and the room bears all the trappings of modern bar design: fairy lights, fake vines, hanging ropes, little hide rugs under the tables, rough-cut stonework for that rustic vibe, and lights that look like haute couture crab pots. It’s a little bit Song of the Sea, and a little bit timber speakeasy, and the overall effect is a nice, gently moody spot for an after-work drink.
And on that note, looks can be deceiving, so while the Puritan might appear pure and straight-laced, that clear mix over perfect hand-sawn ice is hiding a potent mix of gin, sherry infused with pineapple skins and Yellow Chartreuse, for a drink that’s equal parts rich, herbal and astringent. They’ve also got a rich and sturdy cocktail on tap made with Maker’s Mark, fruity oloroso, honey and fresh thyme. Efficient and delicious. Or just go for bottles of the Dub Style Tangerine No 1 viognier that has all the juicy uprightness you want for a smashable orange wine.
There’s a lot going on in the kitchen here, weaving Japanese elements into grown-up party snacks. We’ll skip the two-dimensional salmon ballotine in favour of the carnival kicks to be had in the corndog that comes adorned in Kewpie mayo, sweet soy sauce and a serious oceanic kick from bonito flakes. If you want to snack prettily on something, keep in mind that the mac’n’cheese croquettes are more like Rubik’s Cube-sized parcels of molten cheese and pasta. It’s not dinner, but it will definitely tide you over.
If you need to get away from it all without leaving the city limits, an underground bar hidden where you’d expect to find a building control room is a seriously quick fix.