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Employees Only burlesque dancers
Photograph: Stephen Wong

At this underground Sydney speakeasy, dinner comes with a side of burlesque

Watch a short and sweet show while you sip on top notch cocktails

Written by
Divya Venkataraman

If you're in the mood for dinner and a show, but don't have the longest of attention spans to devote to the 'show' part of the evening – look no further. At CBD bar Employees Only, the bedazzling burlesque dancers atop the bar on Friday and Saturday nights might be the most glittering attraction, but a night spent down below Barrack Street holds many charms. 

Before you even enter the main bar, a velvet side curtain hides a tarot card reader willing to read you your hand for a cool $50. If you'd rather accept an uncertain future, push past into the velvet couch-lined, cavernous bar space. Employees Only is an international name, having first opened up in New York in 2004 – and it's got the charisma to show for it. With its cravat-wearing cocktail waiters and gold-trimmed décor, this bar is all about handsome, old-world charm. 

Settle in with an order from the cocktail menu which features drinks like the Silk Road, a rose-fragranced blend of saffron gin, rhubarb bitters and sake, or the sweeter and fruitier Fraise Sauvage, which blends strawberries and sparkling wine for the perfect drink to sip while leaning into the teal couches. A compact but diverse wine list also has you sorted for later in the evening. If you're staying for dinner – which you'll want to, especially if the burlesque performers haven't made an appearance yet – the 24 carat gold-topped New York strip steak is the order on everyone's lips, but the light, crisp-skinned Barramundi fillet is an underrated star, while the scallops pack a zingy punch. A passionfruit creme brulée heads up the dessert menu, which also features a devilishly chocolatey tart topped with salted caramel ice cream as well as a cheese platter perfect for picking over at the wind-down of an evening.

At two points in the evening, the lights will dim and everyone's attention will spotlight on the bar, atop of which a phenomenally outfitted burlesque dancer will perform in all her bejewelled glory. The acts are coordinated by Sydney's reigning queen of burlesque, Porcelain Alice, and you'll often spot her twirling her tassels on the bar along with the local cream of the crop. Enjoy the show, because it's over as quick as it began – but it sure adds to the charm of the place. 

Employees Only is taking dinner bookings only from 5pm to 10pm, Wednesday to Saturday. Reserve online now

Want more? Here are the best places to see drag, comedy and cabaret right now

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