Some of the best drinking dens in the city are clustered inside the 2010 postcode, which means a sip trip around Surry Hills bars involves a whole lot more excellent cocktails, biodynamic wines and craft brews with a whole lot less trekking between venues. If you like vinous adventures, there's ample opportunity to spend max cash on amazing, hard to find vintages at the suburb's killer wine bars; there's a rum distillery if you like a sugar cane spirit; and the snack action is nothing to sneeze at when you get hungry and need something to right your sails.
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The best bars in Surry Hills
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.
A good scout should always be prepared, and the same goes for a quality cocktail bar, especially when you’re getting all kinds of weird science in your high-end glassware. Time is needed to batch up cocktails and prepare the fruit wines, which they are fermenting in house. (No, it’s not some sort of monstrous wine cooler – come on people, we’re talking about the Antipodean wing of a very well respected London bar here.)
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.
The Dolphin Wine Room is a long, narrow slice of the venue and once you tuck yourself into one of the tables along the wall or up at the bar, prepare to go home with an empty wallet and full to bursting with vinous delights. This is the kind of place that can turn your whole understanding of wine upside down by pouring you a Chilean skin-contact muscat that’s as savoury as an antipasto board.
Wild Rover is the bar from the Grandma’s crew (that tiny tiki bar on Clarence Street in the CBD) where 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.
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.
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. Come for a drink, but we bet you stay for dinner.
This is the first distillery dedicated to rum on Sydney's streets in over 20 years. It's an all-in-one inner-city distillery, cellar door, bar and eatery looking to restore rum’s forgotten reputation. Perch at the handsome bar that forms the centrepiece of the vast and open space and choose from 120 bottles of rum from all over the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The whiskey room at the Clock Hotel is a warm, low-lit enclave shut off from the hubbub of the rest of the hotel by two swinging saloon doors. And once inside, the amber glow of a bar stocked with over 200 bottles of the demon drink draws you in like moths to a highly combustible flame.