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Cocktails at PS40
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Sydney bar and pub reviews

Looking for somewhere great to drink in Sydney? Check out the latest reviews from our bar and pub critics

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Woolloomooloo
  • price 2 of 4
There’s no need to look at the Old Fitz all that closely to notice there have been some changes. Nothing major from the outside – fresh signage, more outdoor seating and some striped umbrellas better suited, perhaps, to a St Tropez beach club than a 160-year-old pub. Inside, the state of affairs is much the same, from the crimson carpet and pressed tin ceilings to the cranking fireplace. The theatre remains, too, out the back and down the stairs. And that’s a good thing, because the diehard local regulars and their dogs would likely stage a riot otherwise. Peer into the kitchen, though, and you’ll find somebody new in charge. Her name is Anna Ugarte-Carral, and with her comes a wealth of experience in some of Sydney’s most demanding kitchens, including Hubert, Firedoor and, most recently, Momofuku Seiobo. At just 27 years of age, she took out the 2020 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award, an accolade that has catapulted the careers of big names like Mark Best, Dan Hong and Sixpenny’s Dan Puskas. And while some chefs with similar credentials might aim to pull no punches, she’s taking a refreshingly, decidedly unshowy approach to her first head chef role.  Her compact menu owes as much to the classic French bistro as it does a modest Tuscan osteria. Steak frites (sliced bavette with sturdy, skin-on chips and a splotch of herb butter) and pan-fried market fish (maybe Spanish mackerel, a nod to Ugarte-Carral’s Spanish background) jostle with the likes of ‘minestrone pa
Archie Rose
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Rosebery
  • price 2 of 4
Ever since they pulled the dust cloths off the shining copper stills in the distillery back in March of 2014 and started pumping out gin, vodka, rum and white rye we’ve been singing the praises of this impressive operation located on Rosebery’s most innovative block. Not only is it one of Sydney's most beautiful bars, the local edge and carefully crafted spirits do nothing but add to the romance. Under the watchful eye of head of hospitality, Harriet Leigh (ex Hazy Rose and Henrietta Supper Club) you can be sure they're stirring up a five-star house gin Martini with a precise brine balance. You are in very good hands here. A gutsy cocktail list is ever evolving and playful, with tipples like the Papaya Don't Preach; a concoction of Archie Rose Native Botanical Vodka, blood orange, lime, papaya, peach, pineapple and chili salt; The Pear Necessities that combines Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin, bergamot, lavender, lemon, pear and sparkling wine; or the Baby Got Mac – Archie Rose White Rye, citrus, coconut, wattleseed, macadamia and mango. As well as investing in the use of native botanicals, the crew at Archie Rose don't shy away from a dizzying number of collabs with other local legends. A glance at the cocktail list boasts input from the Sydney Opera House, Blasphemy Coffee and even the Sydney Cricket Ground. The room is the last word in industrial elegance. It’s separated from the distillery by a heavy-duty metal grille and a wall of spirit barrels. On the bar side, th
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Prince of York
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
Are you one of those folk who let the dust settle on their dancing shoes? Maybe the only time you’ve cut the rug since 2014 was when you were a little loose at a wedding reception, or in your mate’s lounge room to the beat of a blaring UE Boom. We’re not here to admonish you, but instead introduce you to the perfect party-transition bar to warm you up. Enter the Prince of York, in all its dancing glory. Calling it nothing more than a ‘party bar’ would be to overlook the slick plates they’re slinging, the extensive natural wine list, the solid service and the talented team behind it all: Paul Schulte (former Keystone Group creative director), Ed Loveday and Andy Emerson (of ACME and Bar Brosé) and chef James Elliott among them. Get past the headset-sporting hostess at the door, and you’ll find yourself in a sprawling, low-lit warehouse of a space with metres of exposed brick and geometric prints that at first might seem a little disorienting. Take a lap, and you’ll figure out that upstairs is geared for eating and drinking, while the downstairs cellar and Pamela’s (more on that later) are engineered for late-night hijinks. One look at the inclusive mod oz menu lets you know this isn’t simply bar food. Start with a precursor for the long haul and order the Vanella Dairy burrata, where the perfectly gooey soft cheese is juxtaposed with fresh fig and black pepper.  While there’s lots of serviceable charcuterie, cheese and snackable seafood as well, we’re here for the spaghetti in
Manly Wharf Bar
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Manly
  • price 2 of 4
It’s not hard to see why the Manly Wharf Bar (formerly Manly Wharf Hotel) is obscenely popular. There’s just something about drinking with harbour views that makes everything seem a little brighter. This expansive hotel is set right down on the ferry wharf and takes full advantage of its location. Glass windows look out onto the big blue and when the weather permits they open up a satellite bar out on the wharf itself so you can get the sea breeze in your lungs while you put lager in your belly. They keep the gambling facilities and a nicer-than-average sports bar up the back and it gets pretty busy given you’re in the heart of Sea Eagles territory. The main bar is essentially a festoon-lit, coastal-themed, fully licensed community centre. Everyone seems to know each other and there’s a consensus on the appeal of tanned skin, white teeth and light fabrics – there’s not a band shirt or flanno in sight. The beauty of a waterfront bar is that it’s an appealing spot to kick back, rain, hail or shine. They have Endeavour growers bright ale or the James Squire family all present and accounted for, or you can just down a Fourex, no judgement here. Manly Wharf is an upbeat pub and the only place where you can drink over the water in a suburb dedicated to the coastal life. No wonder locals love it.    
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Kittyhawk
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
Together with the Swillhouse Group’s French bistro, Hubert, a '40s themed French-American bar is positioning Bligh Street in the financial district of the CBD as an after-hours destination. Jared Merlino and Dre Walters of Lobo fame have taken over the corner of Bent and Phillip Streets with Kittyhawk, a slick, vintage-styled operation boasting an impressive collection of American spirits.  The bar is on the former site of the old Bull and Bear, which was channelling serious Wall Street vibes, but Kittyhawk is from another time and place entirely. Broadly speaking, the design is inspired by Liberation Day in Paris (August 25, 1944), and, more specifically, by the Rum and Rye Old Fashioneds, of which they have many, all of which which infuse different varieties of each spirit, along with angostura bitters, orange bitters, brown gomme and a boxy ice cube. We let the bartenders choose our spirit mix and are presented with a cocktail that tastes of soft caramel with a whisper of orange. It’s boozy as hell but you’d hardly notice over the smooth, dried fruit flavours. If you’re more a fan of something chic and citrusy, you want the Tigermoth, with grapefruit, fresh orange juice, fino and vanilla Bacardi.   It's got that old-world luxury vibe that means you feel right at home in your tailored work wear, and clearly the nearby firms have already gotten the memo – from 5.30 to 7.30 pm the place is rammed. We reckon a space at the bar with no seating might make ordering easier durin
The Marlborough Hotel
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Newtown
  • price 1 of 4
The Marly seems to have finally settled into its groove as the monster pub at the Newtown crossroads with a little something for everyone after hours. Hike up the stairs and you will find Cuckoo, a hyper-stylised retro chalet decked out with cuckoo clocks where the eats and drinks are every bit what you’d expect from a kooky year-round winter wonderland. Downstairs, Tokyo Sing Song is pulling punters like its free ice cream day at the fair, and in between beats the heart of an old school pub. Get in early on a Wednesday to have any chance of securing a table for the extremely popular trivia night, and on a balmy evening space in the jazzed up beer garden is equally scarce. There are live gigs Thursdays through Saturdays and Tuesday is the day for cheap schnitzels. Young Henrys and Cricketers Arms is about as crafty as your tap offerings get and on a weekend commit early or face the queues that form around midnight.    
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The Baxter Inn
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
When Shady Pines Saloon opened in 2010, we thought we’d met the bar we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in. Then we met its little brother, the Baxter Inn, and there was a serious challenger for our eternal affections. Of course, we weren’t the only ones enamoured with the backlit wall of whisky, accessible only by scrolling library ladders or by having your well-coiffed bartender climb along the counters like some sort of arborial gentleman. The lines of admirers stretched from outside the tatty door in an old loading dock in the city and almost back out onto Clarence Street. This is the kind of whisky collection that would make a strong man weak at the knees. The menu board starts at the ceiling and the three-column list eventually sneaks down under the counter and out of sight. Every Islay, Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands and Campbelltown distillery you can’t pronounce – and the small collection you’re confident with – is there, including rare bottlings and unusual releases. What room is left goes to Japanese and Australian spirits, and blends. The liquid assets in this bar could probably buy you property in Sydney. It’s easy to go amber blind in here and forget that you are sitting in front of some of the best bartenders in the city – but not ordering a cocktail is a squandered opportunity. They have confidence and swagger behind the bar, but it’s been hard earned. They’ve mastered the classics for people who know what they like (Old Pals and Trinidad Sours all round!)
The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Millers Point
Being the oldest continuously licensed pub and the longest-standing pub brewery in the city, the Lord Nelson has had a long time to perfect its beer game. Sure, there’s a beef between it and Fortune of War Hotel about who exactly is the elder, but there was that whole getting-closed-down-and-demolished-due-to-the-plague thing so the Nelson has the longest, unbroken run, if you want to split hairs. Those interested in the legacies and characters of the old neighbourhood should make sure to take a poke around the picture and plaque laden sandstone walls.  While history’s a nice bonus, we know what you’re really here for is beer. The Lord Nelson team brew their own in the back, and a fresher pint in Sydney is a tall order. There are six mainstay brews: the summery Quayle ale; the Trafalgar pale ale; the full-flavoured, spicy Victory Ale; the Nelson’s Blood for the Guinness fans; and the complex Old Admiral. And the house favourite? The Three Sheets, a bright, golden brew, named by public vote after the sailor’s terminology of being ‘three sheets to the wind’, meaning, of course, being pissed. Good thing that they didn’t end up with Beery McBeer Face instead.   As for what to order when you’re feeling a little peckish, the classics are the go-to. The Nelson's meat pie comes atop a mashed-potato raft in a sea of gravy with verdant, mushy peas spooned over it. The battered fish and thick cut chips is also a popular option, and if you’re left with decision anxiety, why not combine t
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The Imperial Hotel
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Erskineville
  • price 1 of 4
The Imperial was first ordained a safe space for the LGBTQIA community when Dawn O’Donnell, the mother of gay Sydney, bought it in the '80s. It has opened and shut with many different faces in the years since then, but at its heart it has always been a place for queer identities to thrive on the sticky carpet of the much loved pub. So it follows that punters who have been sashaying into the Imperial since 1983 might be a little shell shocked at the latest edition: the pool table in the front bar is gone, the gilded Venus statue has been moved to the roof and downstairs is clean as a whistle. But unlike so many refurbished institutions, the team here obviously care for the building’s storied history. The first level is like walking into Liberace’s first bachelor pad out of home – it’s opulent, but with an accessible warmth and some comforting rough edges. The front bar gleams with posh touches but any night of the week you’re likely to find a drag queen sassing into a mic, with stilettos stomping among the schooners of New. Head through to the back and you’ll find Priscilla’s, a pub bistro with a veggie-heavy menu – there’s vegan ceviche made from coconut and cauliflower and broccoli "wings" with ranch dressing – though steaks and roast pork also feature. Drag ‘n’ Dine happens every week from Wednesday to Sunday, so your zucchini noodles will be accompanied by one of Sydney’s star drag kings and queens: on Thursdays your dinner comes with a side of the Aussie Pole Boys, Sydne
Ragazzi
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
Take some of the biggest trends of the past five years or so: natural wines; a nascent obsession with amaro; an interest in lesser-seen pasta shapes; the resurgence of fat; strong, graphic branding; a preference for snacking; Spritzes; Negronis; cacio e pepe; anchovies; butter. Ragazzi, the third venture from the people behind Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Éloise, ties them all together. For the cynical, it might look like trend-servicing. For the rest, it just looks like a good time.  Step into the squeezy space on Angel Place and the bar’s full, the banquettes are jammed, and there’s a buzz amplified by the close quarters. At one table, a couple preface a show at City Recital Hall next door with vermouth on ice and pasta fritta. At another, twentysomethings snap flat-lays of pasta complemented by coasters shouting CIAO and RAGAZZI in bold red typeface. Lights are low, a mirror is backlit, the room dressed, like so many models in this year’s fall catalogues, in shades of caramel, coffee and camel.  When chef and co-owner Scott Williams cooked around the corner at Bacco Osteria, his snacks and pasta were always highlights. At Ragazzi, they’re almost the whole menu. It’s a concept as easy to get behind as a plate of al dente spaghetti tossed in a sauce of pecorino and pepper bound with pasta water and butter. It’s a cacio e pepe with good levels of warmth and sharpness, plus some sweet heat from Espelette pepper. A glorious goat rotolo, meanwhile, sees the braised meat ro
Absinthe Salon
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Surry Hills
  • price 1 of 4
There is a demonic gargoyle on the bar at the Absinthe Salon, a poster of Marilyn Manson on the wall and our waitress is wearing a tight, leather corset. The bar itself, just beyond the bottle shop you pass through upon entering, is aiming for La Belle Époque – French-style café seating, a green fairy splashed across one wall – but the overall feel is a little more Rob Zombie than Moulin Rouge. And we can get down with that. Especially when a pre-dinner drink at the Absinthe Salon is so much fun. Once you're seated, one of the waitresses working the floor will float over and explain what absinthe is (anise-flavoured spirit, highly alcoholic, made more complex with different herbs); what absinthe isn't ("it is not a hallucinogenic, but it will make you feel amazing"); and how to drink it. Here, she will demonstrate: ice is placed in the lamp-like absinthe fountain on your table, along with water; a cube of sugar is sat on an absinthe spoon above your glass; and a faucet on the fountain is turned so that water drips onto the cube, slowly dissolving the sugar as it trickles down into your glass of absinthe below. The green liquid grows cloudy and you begin to smell the herbs. It's an elaborate process, so reserve time if you're popping in. And do take their advice: while the more potent absinthe varieties here are more interesting and complex (up to 75 per cent proof), start with something milder (like the Francois Guy, from Pontarlier, 45 per cent proof) if, like us, you're a
Angel Hotel
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Sydney
The Angel Hotel in the CBD is a time capsule for old-school inner-city drinking. Don’t get us wrong. Come 5pm our city’s workforce still hit the bars with undiminished ferocity, but with the influx of small bars, cocktail caves, craft beer barns and high-end establishments, the old-fashioned boozer slinging pints and pies is a dying breed. They like the old ways at the Angel so we get called sweetie when we order a frosty schooner of Coopers, but we’re not sweet enough to get access to the 100 Pints Club. The engraved glasses hung above the low wooden bar are all that remains of this defunct, and no doubt merry, club. The bar is laid with beautiful, ornate tiles and the windows out onto Angel Place are the kind of rippled stained glass that wouldn’t look out of place in a Victorian manor. There’s a dedicated sandwich menu at lunchtime; after work you can get a pie or sausage roll from the warmer behind the bar; or there’s always a bag of crisps. They keep things similarly stripped back on the taps. There’s Coopers Green, Heineken, Super Dry, New, James Squires Pale Ale and a cider. It’s not a huge range but they are cold, clean and properly poured. Below ground is where they keep the gaming lounge and upstairs is a worn-in lounge bar with red velvet chairs, chesterfields and ornate lampshades that look like they were borrowed from a Parisian cat-house. Never change, old friend.
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Arcadia Liquors
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Redfern
  • price 2 of 4
One of Redfern’s original small bars is still as loud, fairy-lit and friendly as ever. And cheap. Where else can you get a eminently drinkable semillon sauvignon for six bucks and a grilled ham cheese and tomato sandwich for a fiver, other than student housing? There is a wonderful reliability to any visit to Arcadia. It’s always full but somehow you can manage to rustle up a bar stool or one of those vintage metal chairs, or find a spot out in the brick courtyard featuring many hanging plants and all the nautical paintings available at Vinnies. Since the smoking laws changed the back is saved for the smokers – if you’re hanging out for a chicken or ham and salami sarnie off the fancy toastie menu, stick to indoor seats. They haven’t changed much since first opening – if it ain’t broke and all that – which means there’s still three beer taps featuring something German and two local brews – Tooheys was not invited to this party. You can also still get a $14 Negroni or Manhattan, because apparently bar owners Dave Jank and Brett Pritchard refuse to be hostages to inflation. Or maybe they’re just really busy over at their second venue just across the road, a Euro-style trattoria called Redfern Continental with another cracking little bar out the back. Early Rolling Stones are on the stereo, but they’re almost drowned out by the hubbub of animated chat ricocheting off the exposed brick walls – this is not the place for a quiet catch-up, it’s where you add a little sparkle to your
Archie Rose
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Rosebery
  • price 2 of 4
Ever since they pulled the dust cloths off the shining copper stills in the distillery back in March of 2014 and started pumping out gin, vodka, rum and white rye we’ve been singing the praises of this impressive operation located on Rosebery’s most innovative block. Not only is it one of Sydney's most beautiful bars, the local edge and carefully crafted spirits do nothing but add to the romance. Under the watchful eye of head of hospitality, Harriet Leigh (ex Hazy Rose and Henrietta Supper Club) you can be sure they're stirring up a five-star house gin Martini with a precise brine balance. You are in very good hands here. A gutsy cocktail list is ever evolving and playful, with tipples like the Papaya Don't Preach; a concoction of Archie Rose Native Botanical Vodka, blood orange, lime, papaya, peach, pineapple and chili salt; The Pear Necessities that combines Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin, bergamot, lavender, lemon, pear and sparkling wine; or the Baby Got Mac – Archie Rose White Rye, citrus, coconut, wattleseed, macadamia and mango. As well as investing in the use of native botanicals, the crew at Archie Rose don't shy away from a dizzying number of collabs with other local legends. A glance at the cocktail list boasts input from the Sydney Opera House, Blasphemy Coffee and even the Sydney Cricket Ground. The room is the last word in industrial elegance. It’s separated from the distillery by a heavy-duty metal grille and a wall of spirit barrels. On the bar side, th
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Arts Bar
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Paddington
Officially, this little pub on Oxford Street is called the Arts Bar. However locals and old timers will often refer to it as the Rose Shamrock and Thistle, or even the Three Weeds: it depends on who you’re talking to. Arts Bar makes sense, given its proximity to the College of Fine Arts. Though it’s housed in a beautiful Art Deco Building there’s nothing hifalutin about this public house. It’s got the cream mottled tiles and multiple doorways opening out onto the street of your classic corner boozer and the floor inside is a mix of concrete and tiles – you could easily hose the whole place out if needed. Inside it’s all green and yellow tiles, glowing orange and yellow light boxes, tall stools, swivel chairs and old orange vinyl chairs. They pull a pretty mixed crowd, with young and elastic students talking earnestly about their ‘practice’ and making plans for surfing adventures while retirees sit opposite and share a little late night ice cream out of a curled glass bowl. The variety might be due to the very friendly staff who adopt a more-the-merrier approach, or perhaps it’s the Tuesday special of slow-cooked lamb that’s pulling people through the doors. They pour a decent Kilkenny if you like Irish cream ale, but for our money we’ll take a pint of Young Henrys, Stone and Wood or Murray’s Angry Man instead. They tick the boxes on all the pub food staples, and also do bananas in rum and a chocolate pudding that comes highly recommended by our smiling barman. The Arts Bar is
Ash St Cellar
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
You may well be able to lob a tennis ball from George Street to this quiet pedestrian alley but you wouldn’t know it from the relaxed pace of the punters stopping in for a glass of wine at this little bistro. Decompress out in the breezy laneway or up at the bar where French house featuring atmospheric horns keeps the vibe on a low simmer and devote all your remaining energies to the wine menu. They have an internationally diverse, by-the-glass list that lets you sample the wines of Austria, Romania, South Africa, Greece, Argentina, Germany, the US, Chile and Slovenia, in addition to Italy, France, Australia and New Zealand. And the best part is they offer tasting glasses for half the price of a full pour so you take a little tour without breaking the bank. Depending on the weather and the day you’ve had they might steer you towards a bright, fruity Domaine de Beavernay gamay from Beaujolais, or possibly a ribolla gialla from Friuli. There’s not much to the operation here. The open-plan space spills out into the lane and the wine is stored up high in black timber racks. The kitchen can sort out a serious hunger with lamb cutlets or grilled spitchcock, but a rich, golden toastie with jamon and truffled gruyere will also stop hunger in its tracks.  Time Out Awards 2010Best Wine Bar View this year's Time Out Bar Award winners  
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Assembly
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Sydney
In case of fire, assemble at the designated meeting spot. In case of thirst, go get cocktails at Assembly. You might not expect an ace bar to be hiding down on the lower ground floor of what is ostensibly a hub of Asian cheap eats, but the buzzy precinct behind the KFC on the corner of George and Bathurst Streets has many secrets. Not only can you get a kooky soft-serve in a halo of fairy floss from Aqua S; a fragrant char kway teo from Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam; and a king’s ransom in rice paper rolls from Miss Chu – there’s booze too. This must be what heaven is like. When something gets an award everyone wants to get involved – especially if it’s delicious. Sullivans Cove French oak barrel-aged single malt sold out after they won a world whisky award in 2014, and people are still queuing for a taste of the mandorla affogato gelato from Cow and the Moon. And at Assembly you can order a stack of award-winning cocktails. The Linda Russian, crowned by a 2014 Stoli comp, proves you don’t need an ingredient list a mile long to make a good drink. Almond syrup is an excellent foil to the zingy punch of fresh pineapple juice – and with a glug of vodka in the mix you’ve got a summer refresher that demands an encore. The up’n’go qualities of a Vodka Espresso are perfect fuel before a gig over at the Metro, but these guys have chucked out the vodka and are shaking up rum, Frangelico, Kahlua and cold drip coffee, and the results are excellent. There are a ridiculous number of dining opt
Australian Hotel and Brewery
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Western Sydney
  • price 1 of 4
There’s something to be said for setting up your brewery and pub in the North West of Sydney – there’s a lot of space out this way. The Australian Hotel and Brewery (conveniently located next door to Bunnings, FYI) is set on a massive block just off Old Winsor Road. From the outside it looks like a warehouse with an enormous parking lot. But inside it’s a pub-lovers Disneyland. It’s been kitted out in good Australian fashion with exposed brick, warm lighting, raw timber and rusty iron decorations. In addition to housing the brewery itself they’ve got a spacious bistro, sports bar, pokies lounge and games room, plus an enormous bar operating at the centre of everything. Love watching sport but hate sitting on a bar stool? They’ve got cushy leather recliners lined up like a mini sports cinema. Brought your ankle biters with you? Here they have a dedicated kids club with a jungle gym and a super-soft play area for really tiny humans. They even host kids birthday parties. When you have the same amount of space as a standard Chippendale block you can do whatever you damn well please. They keep a collection of standard lagers on tap but the interesting stuff here is the brews they make on site. Their Mexican lager served with fresh lime is a light, summery glass of refreshment, but if you aren’t afraid of some forceful flavours go the extra hoppy ale – a coppery amber ale with a fresh, bitter finish. They also make a pilsner, pale ale, strong Belgium golden ale, steam ale, amber la
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Bacco Wine Bar and Pasticceria - QVB
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
At Bacco, you can eat, drink or simply get some pastries to go. But we like to drink. The cocktail list will be right up your alley if you like floral, fruity drinks but you can totally ignore the list if your tastes run to straighter stuff - the bar staff are incredibly accomplished and can make anything you hit them with. If you do order off the list, try the Caesar's Cup - served long, it's a mix of gin, red wine and house-made mint lemonade, garnished with a wedge of grapefruit and a wedge of cucumber. The Giorgio il Bello involves a glass rolled in rhubarb sugar and filled with a mix of Aperol, St Germain elderflower liqueur and pinot grigio, topped with more of that house-made lemonade. Sweet? Yes. Deadly? Most certainly. The L'Arrogante is the winner off the list: tequila, house-made sweet vermouth and fresh squeezed grapefruit served short. If cocktails and spirits aren't your thing, Delicado's Ben Moechtar has put together the wine list. They also give you little snacks (spuntini) through the night. They're gratis, and delicious. The space, designed by Michael McCann, is all warm wood, low, long booths and tinkling, grape-shaped purple lights. Sit up at the bar, admire the huge booze selection, marvel at the cold larder filled with cured meats and raise a glass to Bacchus - the guy that loved a drink.
Bald Rock Hotel
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Rozelle
  • price 1 of 4
There are plenty of pubs in Sydney that had their character forcibly removed sometime in the 90s when sports bars were in vogue, and there’s a few more than that didn’t have much to begin with. In those cases it’s not about reviving the hotel; you’re starting from scratch with the same liquor license. But when it comes to the excellent collection of historic boozers that populate the back streets in the older areas of our city, we want to fix what’s broken, boring or sub-par and leave everything else right where it is. Which is precisely the approach taken at the Bald Rock Hotel. This compact pub harks back to the working days of White Bay when wharvies and power station staff needed an after work drink. The main bar is constructed from the kind of heavy sandstone blocks that would be comforting in an apocalyptic siege; there’s a beer garden to one side, and between them is a dining enclave with proper table settings. Not a sniff of a theme to be had here – vintage booze advertisements are still the major decorative feature. On tap you’ve got Reschs, Bulmers, New, Guinness, Carlton, Fat Yak, Peroni and Pure Blonde, with Balmain Brewing Company’s golden ale the sole nod to craft brews. It’s a compact list but it covers the bases. The big changes here are in the kitchen and the attitude. What used to be a bit of a blokey spot has expanded their welcome. In addition to the footy, they host trivia on Thursdays and live tunes on a Saturday night – plus they’re dog friendly. The me
Dead Ringer
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4
One of our favourite Sydney activities is heading down to Circular Quay and ignoring the majesty of Sydney Harbour in favour of spending all our money on cocktails at Bulletin Place and fobbing off dinner completely. It’s a great time. But after three years kicking it in a cheeky booze garret, the Bulletin team’s second outing is all kinds of debonair, and a crack shot in the kitchen too. It’s no surprise that we’re expecting great things from Tim Philips, David Hobbs and Rob Sloan. When it comes to shit hot bar skills, these guys set the benchmark uncomfortably high and they’ve got plenty of awards from Time Out to prove it. But can the second album ever really beat the first? Put away your Bulletin mould because Dead Ringer isn’t going to fit it. The nice thing about experience is you know a lot more the second time around, and style evolves. This time around it’s all about class. What was once a scuzzy tapas bar has been transformed into a sleek lodge that could have slid straight off a Nordic mountain to land in the heart of Surry Hills. We’re talking clean surfaces, raw timber and a few potted ferns, and surprisingly the result is cosy and welcoming, not stark and austere. Well played. What we are loving about this place is that it’s pitch perfect for midweek drinking. We’re as keen on a glass of the Saint Clair Grüner Veltliner on a Tuesday as a Friday, and this is where we’ll be drinking it. The line between restaurant and bar here isn’t so much blurry as it is indist
The Baxter Inn
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
When Shady Pines Saloon opened in 2010, we thought we’d met the bar we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in. Then we met its little brother, the Baxter Inn, and there was a serious challenger for our eternal affections. Of course, we weren’t the only ones enamoured with the backlit wall of whisky, accessible only by scrolling library ladders or by having your well-coiffed bartender climb along the counters like some sort of arborial gentleman. The lines of admirers stretched from outside the tatty door in an old loading dock in the city and almost back out onto Clarence Street. This is the kind of whisky collection that would make a strong man weak at the knees. The menu board starts at the ceiling and the three-column list eventually sneaks down under the counter and out of sight. Every Islay, Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands and Campbelltown distillery you can’t pronounce – and the small collection you’re confident with – is there, including rare bottlings and unusual releases. What room is left goes to Japanese and Australian spirits, and blends. The liquid assets in this bar could probably buy you property in Sydney. It’s easy to go amber blind in here and forget that you are sitting in front of some of the best bartenders in the city – but not ordering a cocktail is a squandered opportunity. They have confidence and swagger behind the bar, but it’s been hard earned. They’ve mastered the classics for people who know what they like (Old Pals and Trinidad Sours all round!)
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Cantina OK
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
At the end of a service alley, a step back from the CBD bustle, gold light spills out onto the asphalt. There’s a scent of lime in the air, the sound of Boston shakers, and somewhere behind it, just a hint of danger. This is Cantina OK, the standing-room-only bar that since February of 2019 has plied Sydney with good, clean, sort-of illicit fun fuelled by mezcal and backed up by one of the sharpest bar teams in the city. Pick a day – any day – and the Cantina will be rocking it, two or three tenders ably servicing the 20 or so drinkers who cram in at any one time from when the roller door opens till close at 2am. In times where so many venues can stock their backbars with rare and obscure spirits, Cantina makes a niche out mezcal, a spirit for which the phrase ‘rare and obscure’ could have been invented. Cantina OK is owners Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore and group operations manager Alex “Happy” Gilmour’s follow-up to Tio’s Cerveceria. Here, the focus – and dimensions – are tighter, and Gilmour has licence to sate his insatiable thirst for agave-based liquor with frequent buying trips to the far reaches of Mexico. This is a bar that takes you straight to the grindstones and the pit ovens, in everything from the striking travel-book-style menu to staff who’ve been schooled by Gilmour then consolidated the knowledge by going straight to the source. There’s no preaching, but if you ask, the team will run you through the multifarious species of agave, like papalome or vicuishe,
Old Mate's Place
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
One hundred and two steps. Rooftop bars are not for the faint of quad. But all that thigh-burning just primes you for the reveal: swing open the door at the top and there you are, in a lushly planted oasis in the Sydney skyline. A smiling bartender hands you a VB throwdown while you flip through the menu. A bowtie is slung around their neck unknotted, Rat Pack-style. It might only be a quarter past six down on street level, but up here, it’s always time to take it easy.  Flip through the list: there’s smarts enough behind the smiles to handle whatever classics you might fancy. And where bars on rooftops in other parts of the world might call to mind sun-bleached bottles of Bombora and lychee liqueur, the back bar at Old Mate’s is quite a different matter – the arrangement of malts, Caribbean rums and fine tequilas is nearly as luxuriant as what’s in the planter boxes. Don’t let the VB palate-cleanser fool you: while this is a place where a person can drink a beer in peace (or indeed a glass of wine), Old Mate is all about the cocktails.  Dre Walters (an alumnus of Kittyhawk and Lobo Plantation) and Daniel “Noble” Noble (a friendly face to anyone who has clocked flying hours at Ramblin’ Rascal) have put together a list that marches to the beat of its own drummer, throwing curveballs of toasted poppyseed (the Predecessor), pistachio (the Pistacia) and dehydrated basil (the Retox). They roast peaches to enliven the gin Sour they call Corky’s Lady Killer #2, and do a Strawberry B
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The Imperial Hotel
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Erskineville
  • price 1 of 4
The Imperial was first ordained a safe space for the LGBTQIA community when Dawn O’Donnell, the mother of gay Sydney, bought it in the '80s. It has opened and shut with many different faces in the years since then, but at its heart it has always been a place for queer identities to thrive on the sticky carpet of the much loved pub. So it follows that punters who have been sashaying into the Imperial since 1983 might be a little shell shocked at the latest edition: the pool table in the front bar is gone, the gilded Venus statue has been moved to the roof and downstairs is clean as a whistle. But unlike so many refurbished institutions, the team here obviously care for the building’s storied history. The first level is like walking into Liberace’s first bachelor pad out of home – it’s opulent, but with an accessible warmth and some comforting rough edges. The front bar gleams with posh touches but any night of the week you’re likely to find a drag queen sassing into a mic, with stilettos stomping among the schooners of New. Head through to the back and you’ll find Priscilla’s, a pub bistro with a veggie-heavy menu – there’s vegan ceviche made from coconut and cauliflower and broccoli "wings" with ranch dressing – though steaks and roast pork also feature. Drag ‘n’ Dine happens every week from Wednesday to Sunday, so your zucchini noodles will be accompanied by one of Sydney’s star drag kings and queens: on Thursdays your dinner comes with a side of the Aussie Pole Boys, Sydne
PS40
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
  In the middle of 2019, PS40 co-owners Michael Chiem and Thor Bergquist nixed their cocktail list and formulated an entirely new menu inspired by their favourite festivals around the world. They even gave that menu a name: Festivus. If that sounds a little silly to you, remember that no bar commits to reinvention with more conviction than PS40, and that any idea or theme is just an excuse to let these gifted imaginations run totally free. Thanksgiving isn’t even a festival, it’s a holiday. It’s also what they’ve called their delicious riff on a Rye Whisky Sour, spiked with sweet potato and sage, because why the hell not? Hanami, named after Japan’s cherry blossom festival, takes a slightly more literal approach by drawing deep red colour and ripe perfume from clarified beetroot juice before layering it with dark rum, vermouth and orange bitters. It’s a winner. The ride only gets wilder from there. Order the Harvest, and you’ll get a pearly solution of fermented rice served in a metal pan with a chunk of honeycomb, aromatised with peaches and Manzanilla sherry so it takes on the distinct dairy-sweet tang of a cloudy sake. A similarly dizzying degree of complexity unravels in a Lunar New Year, where red beans and pandan leaf lead whisky and Cognac down a path of nutty twists and turns. Creativity has been the watchword here since they switched on the lights in 2016, but that’s always had as much to do with the soft drinks as the hard ones. This also happens to be a soda facto
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Bentley Restaurant and Bar
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Sydney
  • price 3 of 4
It must be very tempting as a restaurateur to put your original venue on standby mode so that you can focus on a hot new concept. It must be especially enticing when your flagship restaurant has been around for 13 years. But that’s what makes Bentley Restaurant and Bar so exceptional – it’s remained a truly great destination for its full term on the dining scene.  Of course, change has come over time. Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt moved the restaurant from Surry Hills to the CBD, and then reworked it yet again in its primo corner inside the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel on O’Connell Street. And they might just be doing their best work yet.  You can approach the venue in full fine-dining glory and get the $180 tasting menu, and it’s an especially good call if the company card will be taking the hit for both the food and the high-cost-but-high-return wine list. Hildebrandt has one of the best cellars in the city, so there’ll be no attempts to sell you the wine equivalent of nosebleed section seats for top dollar. You’re getting the really good stuff here – exciting locals, elegant Europeans and tasting notes that read like love letters to the vineyard.  But the highest value proposition here is the lunch menu. Two courses will cost you $65 and three is a mere nudge higher at $75 – it’s got to be one of the city’s best fine dining hacks, along with Momofuku’s bar menu.  We’re sure the oysters are best in their field, but potatoes on a fine dining menu is a baller move that challe
The Lobo
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
This underground rum bar below Clarence Street is named after Cuban sugar baron Julio Lobo. A cluttered but cohesive mix of flamingo tiles, rattan chairs, banana palms and crumbling patina surfaces provide weathered Cuban charm. But the real visual focus is the bartenders. They create with precision. And fire, if you order the Old Grogram. Slip into the Chesterfield booth seating and prepare for a fabulous tiki mini-break for your mouth (the kitsch cocktail illustrations on the menu will help you decide on a destination). The White Negroni Daiquiri is tart, puckered perfection, made with white rum, Lillet Blanc, Suze (a herbal, bitter spirit from France that’s gaining popularity in Sydney bars), lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Coco’s Old Fashioned is a creamy pick for rum heads with a sweet tooth, as is the Rum and Rye Old Fashioned, especially if you choose the Fiji-spiced rum as the starring booze. And the Bajan Julep – a Bramble-Mojito lovechild with practically a whole mint tree pressed in – is very refreshing. The bar snacks are hella good, too. The empanadas are spicy little pillows of deliciousness and the three-cheese papas rellenas are smoky and soft. If you need something big and filling, order the house take on a Cuban sandwich that is packed with ham and pulled pork, cheese, mustard and pickles. There’s a whole lot of talent behind the bar here, and they take pride in a job well done. The bottom line? Make tracks to this plantation paradise, stat.  Time Ou
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Shady Pines Saloon
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Darlinghurst
  • price 2 of 4
The party never stops at Shady Pines. Open the unmarked door off a dark lane in Darlinghurst. Open the second door (sound proofing proved necessary once it became clear just how popular this bar was going to remain) and descend into a sunken saloon where at any moment you could find yourself in the middle of a wobbly sing-a-long to American Pie cranked right up – and that’s on a Wednesday.   This is the place where Sydney got its taste for booze and fresh apple juice. You somehow never feel like you’re really hitting the sauce if your drink is this fresh and foamy. Surely it’s repairing whatever damage you might be doing as you go along? Other thing to love about this place, and the list is extensive, is that if you squeeze up to the jam packed bar and order a beer and a shot they won’t ask any questions, just line up a nip of George Dickel Old No. 8 Tennessee whiskey and a tinnie of Coopers lager and send you on your way to join the impromptu dance circle that’s formed in front of the door to the bathrooms. Mostly this is a quick fire bar, but being the original Swillhouse venue, you might recognise staff from the Pine’s whisky-soaked little brother, the Baxter Inn. This means you can exchange your hard earned for a five star cocktail. Seems fair. They haven’t changed much over the last five years – they didn’t need to. This was a thoroughly realised bar from day dot and the taxidermy, mounted fish heads and novelty beer trays (they did it first) are all exactly where you le
Earl's Juke Joint
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Newtown
  • price 2 of 4
Bartending is in many ways the study of party alchemy – mixing drinks to lift you up, cool you out and caress your soul if it’s in need of a little TLC. A well-made Singapore Sling can send your tongue on an exotic getaway, even if the rest of you has to stay right here and pay the bills; a Daiquiri has the power to convince your hips you’ve got the rhythm in you; and an Old Pal can be your best friend after a long day in the salt mines. And there’s nowhere we prefer to pull up a stool and bend the elbow in the Inner West than at the long, sturdy, timber bar at Earl’s Juke Joint. Before your dreams of playlist domination get out of hand, we should tell you there are no jukeboxes here. But you don’t need one when owner Pasan Wijesena has programmed a specialty mix of ’90s hip hop, swampy rock and blues for your listening pleasure. The bar team here is one of the best. You’ve got veterans of the trade passing on their skills to a clutch of up-and-comers who’ve earned their stripes over long, hard shifts at one of Newtown’s favourite cocktail haunts. There is no rockstar shift – your drinks are in safe hands on a Tuesday or a Friday. This is a bar you want to be a regular at – they even have merch so you can declare your allegiance to the world – but be warned if you’re hungry that nuts are all they’ve got. Given you won’t want to relinquish that big table up the back, or the coveted window seat, cocktails can often become dinner here. We’re OK with it. Our livers maybe not so m
Young Henrys
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Newtown
  • price 1 of 4
A bar that closes by dinnertime? It’s an idea just crazy enough to work, especially when you let people bring their dachshund, their kids and their old man, so long as he’s a craft beer fan. Young Henrys is all about the inclusive afternoon sessions and on a weekend you’ll want to shake a leg in order to secure one of the prized high tables at the brewery cellar door. Drink like a local with a frosty Newtowner, down a Real Ale for a proper, English-style bitter or secure serious summer refreshment with the perennially popular cloudy cider. They’re even taking the craft one step further and distilling their very own gin, called Noble Cut. Enmore Road is a stone’s throw away but these guys bring the snacks to you by getting food trucks to pull up to the brewery door and sort out those beer munchies. Young Henrys are part of the Bottled Lightning Co. craft beer collective.    
The Baxter Inn
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
When Shady Pines Saloon opened in 2010, we thought we’d met the bar we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in. Then we met its little brother, the Baxter Inn, and there was a serious challenger for our eternal affections. Of course, we weren’t the only ones enamoured with the backlit wall of whisky, accessible only by scrolling library ladders or by having your well-coiffed bartender climb along the counters like some sort of arborial gentleman. The lines of admirers stretched from outside the tatty door in an old loading dock in the city and almost back out onto Clarence Street. This is the kind of whisky collection that would make a strong man weak at the knees. The menu board starts at the ceiling and the three-column list eventually sneaks down under the counter and out of sight. Every Islay, Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands and Campbelltown distillery you can’t pronounce – and the small collection you’re confident with – is there, including rare bottlings and unusual releases. What room is left goes to Japanese and Australian spirits, and blends. The liquid assets in this bar could probably buy you property in Sydney. It’s easy to go amber blind in here and forget that you are sitting in front of some of the best bartenders in the city – but not ordering a cocktail is a squandered opportunity. They have confidence and swagger behind the bar, but it’s been hard earned. They’ve mastered the classics for people who know what they like (Old Pals and Trinidad Sours all round!)
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Cantina OK
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
At the end of a service alley, a step back from the CBD bustle, gold light spills out onto the asphalt. There’s a scent of lime in the air, the sound of Boston shakers, and somewhere behind it, just a hint of danger. This is Cantina OK, the standing-room-only bar that since February of 2019 has plied Sydney with good, clean, sort-of illicit fun fuelled by mezcal and backed up by one of the sharpest bar teams in the city. Pick a day – any day – and the Cantina will be rocking it, two or three tenders ably servicing the 20 or so drinkers who cram in at any one time from when the roller door opens till close at 2am. In times where so many venues can stock their backbars with rare and obscure spirits, Cantina makes a niche out mezcal, a spirit for which the phrase ‘rare and obscure’ could have been invented. Cantina OK is owners Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore and group operations manager Alex “Happy” Gilmour’s follow-up to Tio’s Cerveceria. Here, the focus – and dimensions – are tighter, and Gilmour has licence to sate his insatiable thirst for agave-based liquor with frequent buying trips to the far reaches of Mexico. This is a bar that takes you straight to the grindstones and the pit ovens, in everything from the striking travel-book-style menu to staff who’ve been schooled by Gilmour then consolidated the knowledge by going straight to the source. There’s no preaching, but if you ask, the team will run you through the multifarious species of agave, like papalome or vicuishe,
Old Mate's Place
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
One hundred and two steps. Rooftop bars are not for the faint of quad. But all that thigh-burning just primes you for the reveal: swing open the door at the top and there you are, in a lushly planted oasis in the Sydney skyline. A smiling bartender hands you a VB throwdown while you flip through the menu. A bowtie is slung around their neck unknotted, Rat Pack-style. It might only be a quarter past six down on street level, but up here, it’s always time to take it easy.  Flip through the list: there’s smarts enough behind the smiles to handle whatever classics you might fancy. And where bars on rooftops in other parts of the world might call to mind sun-bleached bottles of Bombora and lychee liqueur, the back bar at Old Mate’s is quite a different matter – the arrangement of malts, Caribbean rums and fine tequilas is nearly as luxuriant as what’s in the planter boxes. Don’t let the VB palate-cleanser fool you: while this is a place where a person can drink a beer in peace (or indeed a glass of wine), Old Mate is all about the cocktails.  Dre Walters (an alumnus of Kittyhawk and Lobo Plantation) and Daniel “Noble” Noble (a friendly face to anyone who has clocked flying hours at Ramblin’ Rascal) have put together a list that marches to the beat of its own drummer, throwing curveballs of toasted poppyseed (the Predecessor), pistachio (the Pistacia) and dehydrated basil (the Retox). They roast peaches to enliven the gin Sour they call Corky’s Lady Killer #2, and do a Strawberry B
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Icebergs Dining Room and Bar
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Bondi Beach
  • price 3 of 4
Dining fashions may come and go, but drinking Spritzes with ocean views and a corps of Sydney’s most beautiful people at neighbouring tables will never go out of style. And speaking of style, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar is also one of the few places in the city where you can wear a boxfresh white T-shirt and a broad-brimmed white hat to dinner in the middle of July and not look out of place – the Bondi dress code is trans-seasonal. So for that matter, is the appeal of classic Italian food, and even if the water is so cold you can’t feel your face, we still like to be near it, which is what makes Icebergs such a good-times triple threat. Head chef Monty Koludrovic walks the walk on the local produce front with a plate of tomato slices arranged into spirals of pantone reds and pinks, scantily dressed in olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh basil, served with an orb of buffalo burrata sporting more sweet little leaves than a country lane. A dish like this has nowhere to hide if those ripe fruit are sub par. They’re not, obviously, because Koludrovic goes to the Eveleigh Markets to select them weekly. It’s also where he is sourcing the umami-bomb potatoes that are grown wrapped in seaweed so that they absorb the savoury flavour of the sea vegetable as they grow. Those super-charged spuds are destined to accompany buttery soft grilled lamb loin, sticky braised lamb neck and blushed radishes in a ginger jus. If any dish was going to reconcile the city’s suspicions about risotto after
The Imperial Hotel
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Erskineville
  • price 1 of 4
The Imperial was first ordained a safe space for the LGBTQIA community when Dawn O’Donnell, the mother of gay Sydney, bought it in the '80s. It has opened and shut with many different faces in the years since then, but at its heart it has always been a place for queer identities to thrive on the sticky carpet of the much loved pub. So it follows that punters who have been sashaying into the Imperial since 1983 might be a little shell shocked at the latest edition: the pool table in the front bar is gone, the gilded Venus statue has been moved to the roof and downstairs is clean as a whistle. But unlike so many refurbished institutions, the team here obviously care for the building’s storied history. The first level is like walking into Liberace’s first bachelor pad out of home – it’s opulent, but with an accessible warmth and some comforting rough edges. The front bar gleams with posh touches but any night of the week you’re likely to find a drag queen sassing into a mic, with stilettos stomping among the schooners of New. Head through to the back and you’ll find Priscilla’s, a pub bistro with a veggie-heavy menu – there’s vegan ceviche made from coconut and cauliflower and broccoli "wings" with ranch dressing – though steaks and roast pork also feature. Drag ‘n’ Dine happens every week from Wednesday to Sunday, so your zucchini noodles will be accompanied by one of Sydney’s star drag kings and queens: on Thursdays your dinner comes with a side of the Aussie Pole Boys, Sydne
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Ragazzi
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
Take some of the biggest trends of the past five years or so: natural wines; a nascent obsession with amaro; an interest in lesser-seen pasta shapes; the resurgence of fat; strong, graphic branding; a preference for snacking; Spritzes; Negronis; cacio e pepe; anchovies; butter. Ragazzi, the third venture from the people behind Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Éloise, ties them all together. For the cynical, it might look like trend-servicing. For the rest, it just looks like a good time.  Step into the squeezy space on Angel Place and the bar’s full, the banquettes are jammed, and there’s a buzz amplified by the close quarters. At one table, a couple preface a show at City Recital Hall next door with vermouth on ice and pasta fritta. At another, twentysomethings snap flat-lays of pasta complemented by coasters shouting CIAO and RAGAZZI in bold red typeface. Lights are low, a mirror is backlit, the room dressed, like so many models in this year’s fall catalogues, in shades of caramel, coffee and camel.  When chef and co-owner Scott Williams cooked around the corner at Bacco Osteria, his snacks and pasta were always highlights. At Ragazzi, they’re almost the whole menu. It’s a concept as easy to get behind as a plate of al dente spaghetti tossed in a sauce of pecorino and pepper bound with pasta water and butter. It’s a cacio e pepe with good levels of warmth and sharpness, plus some sweet heat from Espelette pepper. A glorious goat rotolo, meanwhile, sees the braised meat ro
PS40
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4
  In the middle of 2019, PS40 co-owners Michael Chiem and Thor Bergquist nixed their cocktail list and formulated an entirely new menu inspired by their favourite festivals around the world. They even gave that menu a name: Festivus. If that sounds a little silly to you, remember that no bar commits to reinvention with more conviction than PS40, and that any idea or theme is just an excuse to let these gifted imaginations run totally free. Thanksgiving isn’t even a festival, it’s a holiday. It’s also what they’ve called their delicious riff on a Rye Whisky Sour, spiked with sweet potato and sage, because why the hell not? Hanami, named after Japan’s cherry blossom festival, takes a slightly more literal approach by drawing deep red colour and ripe perfume from clarified beetroot juice before layering it with dark rum, vermouth and orange bitters. It’s a winner. The ride only gets wilder from there. Order the Harvest, and you’ll get a pearly solution of fermented rice served in a metal pan with a chunk of honeycomb, aromatised with peaches and Manzanilla sherry so it takes on the distinct dairy-sweet tang of a cloudy sake. A similarly dizzying degree of complexity unravels in a Lunar New Year, where red beans and pandan leaf lead whisky and Cognac down a path of nutty twists and turns. Creativity has been the watchword here since they switched on the lights in 2016, but that’s always had as much to do with the soft drinks as the hard ones. This also happens to be a soda facto
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Bentley Restaurant and Bar
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Sydney
  • price 3 of 4
It must be very tempting as a restaurateur to put your original venue on standby mode so that you can focus on a hot new concept. It must be especially enticing when your flagship restaurant has been around for 13 years. But that’s what makes Bentley Restaurant and Bar so exceptional – it’s remained a truly great destination for its full term on the dining scene.  Of course, change has come over time. Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt moved the restaurant from Surry Hills to the CBD, and then reworked it yet again in its primo corner inside the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel on O’Connell Street. And they might just be doing their best work yet.  You can approach the venue in full fine-dining glory and get the $180 tasting menu, and it’s an especially good call if the company card will be taking the hit for both the food and the high-cost-but-high-return wine list. Hildebrandt has one of the best cellars in the city, so there’ll be no attempts to sell you the wine equivalent of nosebleed section seats for top dollar. You’re getting the really good stuff here – exciting locals, elegant Europeans and tasting notes that read like love letters to the vineyard.  But the highest value proposition here is the lunch menu. Two courses will cost you $65 and three is a mere nudge higher at $75 – it’s got to be one of the city’s best fine dining hacks, along with Momofuku’s bar menu.  We’re sure the oysters are best in their field, but potatoes on a fine dining menu is a baller move that challe
Maybe Sammy
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • The Rocks
  • price 2 of 4
More bartenders should sport double-breasted dinner jackets. More cocktail bars should play jazz hits and lounge covers at conversation-enhancing volume. And more hosts should welcome guests as eagerly as owner Stefano Catino does at Maybe Sammy. The first impressions come hard and fast at the latest outing from the team behind Maybe Frank, tucked away on the fringe of the Rocks. It’s a polished affair bathed in Golden Age glamour — blond wood, white marble, grey-green leather stools, plush rosy banquettes — but there’s plenty of substance to back up the style. Creative director Andrea Gualdi has assembled one of Sydney’s most pedigreed squads of shakers and stirrers, and their commitment to quality is apparent in almost every glass. Start with a Mini. At ten bucks, the pre-batched, half-sized cocktails are a clever primer. Opt for the Frank, a convincing riff on a Boulevardier that's bitter and subtly sweet, or a clean and classic Martini (either vodka or gin) that’s just the right level of wet.  Most of the crowd seems to spring for creations from the 'Signature Selection'. Named after bygone Vegas casinos, they’re a fruit-forward bunch of people-pleasers. The Bonanza delicately balances Bacardi 8 with peach wine, pear and yuzu, while green apple freshness emerges from the mix of tequila, mezcal and sherry in the New Frontier. From there, it’s anyone’s game: big-ticket bottles of Champagne kick off a concise and considered choice of wines; Brooklyn Lager comes from the tap;

Looking for the best of the best

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars

We scoured the city to find the best drinks, greatest chat, most perfectly crafted playlists, tastiest snacks and top vibes to be had in Sydney. We put our livers and our sleep patterns on the line to bring you, dear reader, a comprehensive guide to the best bars in town.

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