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Top 10 Sydney small bars

Have you ever been accused of over sharing?

I've decided that visiting six bars in one busy Sydney night should be a badge of honour rather than one for over sharing which is what I received from Foursquare (a location-based social networking website for smart phones).

I was touring the bars with Richard Roberts, the City of Sydney's Business Development Manager, discovering the best new hidden spaces which are hidden away in the most unlikely places. More than 50 of these small bars have opened in the past three years. Richard is the guy who holds the hands of those walking through the maze of regulations and requirements to set up a small bar.

Here's my list of the top 10 best bars to visit in Sydney.  If you manage to get through all of them in one night you'll definitely deserve a badge of honour - and maybe that will help with the hangover.

First on our list was Stitch Bar, 61 York Street, Sydney.  This was down a steep flight of stairs into a sultry basement behind a dressmaker's shopfront. Try a Mood Indigo, a long pour of tequila on the rocks civilised with a generous splash of Amaro Montenego.  Their classics list leans towards the well-made Sazerac/Old-Fashioned/Manhattan end of the spectrum. Throw hot dogs and curly fries into the mix and you're there.

The Grasshopper, quirkily located in Temperance Lane,  is a individual, humorous space outfitted with secondhand furniture and  focusing on whole and organic foods and wines.  Hidden in a side alleyway neatly sandwiched between the Hilton Hotel and the Strand Arcade, it is a little CBD haven with a great Sydney drinking vibe. It's been voted Best Small Bar of the Year by Australian Bartender Magazine and awarded both Small Bar of the Year and Small Business of the Year at the City of Sydney Small Business Awards.There's a restaurant upstairs which is where you'll also find the gnomes.

Since I left You, at 338 Kent Street Sydney, is a small bar in one of those old converted warehouse buildings with the arches. You enter the bar through a carriageway into  a narrow space with a 1920s New York/art nouveau feel. The bar counter and the ceilings are both made with silver pressed metal, there’s a back-lit wall behind the bar, glass coffee tables, a long leather banquette down one wall. Cosy inside, candlelit outside, Since I Left You has a smart, playful wine list, a smooth selection of spirits, and a range of  fresh-fruit cocktails and classics – including Since I Left You Signatures. Dine from their range of  locally-sourced and international gourmet cheeses, charcuterie selections and antipasti –  the toasties of some of Sydney's best.

Shady Pines Salon required a taxi trip from the city to Darlinghurst where several small bars in the area make for convenient hopping.

Getting through the door at Shady Pines is something of an achievement because of the queues, but well worth the effort.  The queue runs refreshingly on who arrived first rather than what you are wearing or who you are with. Step through the anonymous door and down the stairs into a world of country music, extreme taxidermy decoration, peanuts in the shell and cocktail-fuelled good times.  It's a celebrity magnet but also a favourite with locals, and the welcome is warm to all. You can drink anything from a can of Coopers Ale to a an Old Pal (it's like the offspring of an Americano and a Manhattan).

Pocket Bar was one of the first small bars in Sydney. This cosy hole in the wall at 13 Burton Street downtown Darlinghurst has been nominated for a whole bunch of ‘award stuff’ and is the proud winner of the Time Out Peoples Choice Award. Expect quirky crepes and cocktails and if you take in your parking fine, toll notice or any other stupid fine (not speeding/drink driving tickets) within a week of getting it, Pocket will give you 20 per cent of the bill.  Check the website for full details.

The Commons Local Eating House over the road at 32 Burton Street has a great bar down in the bowels of the building.  Keep walking through the dining crowd and you'll find it.

That's the end of my 'one night' list and here's some others that I like.

My cousin, who now has a small baby and only dreams of the days when she used to bar hop, first introduced me to The Wine Library at 18 Oxford Street, Woollahra.  As befits its name, this joint has a serious wine list that includes some good drops but also includes a photo of Ron Burgundy, protagonist from Will Ferrell's Anchorman, to lead off its pinot noir section. There's an emphasis on biodynamic and 'natural' wines and some interesting food. Try the tomino cheese baked in parchment,  sample something from the impressive charcuterie, or be tempted by aromas from the spit grill in the courtyard.

Love, Tilly Devine at 91 Crown Street is a tiny bar (maximum 40 people), named for the neighbourhood's most notorious female gangster.  It's a back alley setting with an ambitious food and drink offering. Menus are planned on the best daily finds from the market and eaten to the sounds of a swinging vinyl soundtrack.

Darlie Laundromatic, 304 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst is located is a not particularly reconstructed former laundry. There's music, art, simple cheap eats (steak sandwiches, mini dogs, ploughman's lunch) and some cheap beverages to consume amongst the hanging washing.

The New York-inspired Blu Bar on 36 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney offers panoramic views and exudes urban sophistication. Sorta makes you feel like you're living the 'Sex and the City' lifestyle with views of Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Blu Bar was awarded "Bar of the Year", Australian Hotels Association (NSW) Awards for Excellence, 2010. Make sure you get here early to ensure a seat for the spectacular sunsets. Opens at 5pm. That's me talking to Crystal below.

Find more info on visiting Sydney here


  1. Good job on the bar crawl! A couple of drinks at each venue and I'm not sure I would have made it up to Blu Bar! ;)

  2. Got to admit it - Blue Bar was a different night. :)

  3. I've been asked for some Bondi small bar tips, so here's a list of places to check out - Flying Squirrel, Stuffed Beaver, Bondi Hardware, Corner House, Rum Diaries, Buckleys Canteen, Bondi FM, Bar O'Brien, Through the GrapeVine. Enjoy.

    1. And another suggestion - The Speakeasy - tiny but cool.

  4. Wow, Kerry. I live in Sydney and have not been to 10 of the its small bars! You put me to shame. Badge of honour, for you, indeed!

    1. It was fun - and I did have a guide.


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