We weren’t necessarily fooled when Employees Only opened up in the CBD back in November, with nothing more than a neon ‘Psychic’ sign to mark the entrance. Still, it’s safe to say Sydneysiders are suckers for the speakeasy concept. Now, a new hidden bar in Manly is looking to take it one step further with an unmarked 1920s fridge door that serves as the portal to an underground cocktail den by way of a spiral staircase.
The Cumberland is set to switch on the lights in mid-August in a yet-to-be-named location, taking cues from the Prohibition era and taking advantage of the hand-carved sandstone blocks and original convict brickwork in the secret subterranean space. Details are all very hush-hush for now (of course), but it looks like whisky will be the calling card at the intimate 70-seater, which is set to feature a selection of over 250 whiskies from around the world. A list of small-batch and organic Australian wines, local and imported craft beers and cocktails spotlighting native botanicals will also be poured, shaken and stirred. As for snacks, they’re keeping it European with the likes of Spanish cured meats, pork rillettes, baked Camembert and raclette.
The venue’s name is a reference to the original county name of the current Northern Beaches council area, and the interiors will nod to the Old World, too, with vintage furniture, reclaimed timber, antique copper accents and a set of brass beer taps that date back to 1902. It’s the third outing from the MJC Group, which also operates Manly mainstays Donny’s and In Situ, and they have Merivale veteran Pete Ehemann (ex-Ivy, Hemmesphere and Coogee Pavilion) to man the ship. The question is, how long will they be able to keep it a real secret?
Looking for more action below the surface? Check out Sydney's best underground bars.