Surry Hills bars for your hit list
Don’t kid yourself, just because it’s calling itself a bar doesn’t mean you’re not going to drop a chunk of cash grazing your way through the snacks menu at Poly. It’s less a slippery slope and more a delicious slide that starts off with a discus of bread puffed up like a soufflé pancake on the grill so that top and tail are charred. It's fated to be the bronzed chariot for the creamy salt cod dip that accompanies it.
You know what a guaranteed fun time used to be? Smashing wines and Italian snacks at 121 BC. You what’s still fun? Smashing a slightly more international wine list and snacks at Wyno, the same-same-but-different wine bar where 121BC used to be. The Porteno crew, whose Argentinean restaurant is on the adjoining street, took over the beloved wine bar and honestly, the only change is that there’s less Italian stuff on the menu.
What we are loving about this place is that it’s pitch perfect for midweek drinking. The line between restaurant and bar here isn’t so much blurry as it is indistinguishable, which is a smart way to play things in the lockout zone. A T’Angelo Spritz is the kind of persuasive primer that takes a quick drink and turns it into dinner and nightcap before you realise where your night went.
They’ve taken the idea of 'humble pub as a blank canvas' very literally at the new look Dolphin on Crown Street. The old corner boozer has had an extreme makeover, and it’s fairy god-parents are an impressive rollcall of Sydney hospo identities. Not only does the transformed Dolphin boast a buzzy public bar, dining room and open air terrace, it also has a wine room and salumeria.
Wild Rover is the bar from the Grandma’s crew (that tiny tiki bar on Clarence Street in the CBD) and you’ll find it just across from Bar H and a few doors down from Tio’s. But here the star of the show is whiskey. These guys slay a Penicillin, and if you get in early there's one-dollar oysters to start things off on a high.
Yes, there’s another American-ish bar bathed in the glow of red neon at the old Sticky Bar site. But what’s good about this bar isn’t the vintage booze advertising, hobby paraphernalia and charity shop art that cover the exposed brick walls, or the fact that they’ve got Coors and PBRs to accompany your barbecue platter and chilli cheese fries. It’s that there's Clamato juice in the fridge – Bloody Caesars for all.
Some of the best booze action in Surry Hills is the hardest to find. The Wild Rover keeps a very low profile and 121 BC blends in amongst the neighbouring garages like some sort of urban chameleon. And the new Japanese whisky bar tucked off Commonwealth Street on Belmore Lane is certainly not going out of its way to draw attention to itself.
What do you get when you cross a couple of Shady Pines barkeeps with a metric eff load of tequila and a whole lot of owls? You get Tio’s, a Mexican party shack where the holiday vibes are on overdrive and even your can of beer comes with a salt rim and lime.
It was a mammoth job transforming the old Tailors on Central into a Japanese booze and snack palace. But they've successfully banished the last vestiges of that dreary tavern and now Goros stands as a low-lit bar decked out in splashes of rainbow neon, figurines, lanterns, bamboo and three kickass-looking karaoke booths.
Star Sydney bartender Max Greco (Eau de Vie) ripped off the shirt-stays and suspenders and traded them in for cut-off denim, trucker hats and a hefty fistful of rock’n’roll. Now he is the boss of his own Italian cocktail bar where the aperitifs are bitter, the music is loud and the pasta tastes just like mama's used to.
Dreaming of rum cocktails and jerk chicken but can’t quite muster the scratch for a Jamaican getaway? On Crown Street there is a brightly coloured restaurant and bar that is bringing island vibes to Surry Hills to save you a trip, with soft shell crab burgers, dirty rice and a whole lot of excellent rum.
You know what happiness is? It's sitting down to a Gruyère, pastrami, sauerkraut and pickle toastie, with a maple pecan Old Fashioned on the side in the Golden Age Cinema’s subterranean bar. You don't even need to be there for a film, the Art Deco vibes are drawcard enough for a night out.
There’s something pretty wonderful about a bar stripped back to the bare essentials. Turns out that if you can get your hands on a cold room, kegs, basic furniture, glasses, beef jerky and a string of fairy lights, you’ve got the key ingredients to make a small bar in Sydney, as proven by this tiny craft beer attic sitting up above Oxford Street.
From the guys that brought you Pocket and Stitch comes Button (hang on – is that… a theme?). You’ll find Christophe Lehoux and Karl Schlothauer’s nautical-themed bar on Foveaux Street, just a short hop from Central. Roll on in, claim a timber barrel as a beer rest and pretend you're setting sail for distant shores, not setting up meetings.