Sydney doesn't have a huge number of rooftop bars, but the ones we do have are something to be glad about. The days have been getting hotter, as have the nights, so a hard-earned thirst is best quenched in the great outdoors, preferably on a roof, pretending that commuters on the streets below are tiny ants.
This list is a collection of bars and pubs that have put their rooftop real estate to good use. There are old faces, newcomers and places that we might have forgotten. So dust off your aviators and your pilot wings, Maverick, because we're taking to the sky.
The Glenmore is hardly new, but it certainly has a new lease of life. The much loved local's-style pub remains on ground level, but as you head up the stairs towards the first level and rooftop terrace, you can see just how much this oldie has been spruced up. It has one of the best views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and the retractable roof is a great addition, along with the rustic style wooden benches and red industrial chairs, to go with the new kitchen. You have to try the Rocks favourite, corn on the cob with chilli lime butter and a sprinkling of cheese ($8), and BBQ-style lamb and chorizo skewers, with a topping of corn and tomato salsa ($16).
With a perimeter balcony overlooking spectacular beachside views, the rooftop addition to the Coogee Pavilion marks a new height in sophistication from the Merivale clan. No expense was spared in this elaborate reinvention of the former Beach Palace Hotel site. For the design concept, Justin Hemmes and his team drew inspiration from a fictional character they created, an eccentric botanist called 'Wylie' who entertained on his private rooftop conservatory. The story is brought to life with lush overflowing greenery, sketches of exotic birds and indoor greenhouse structures.
The newest rooftop to be added to the Sydney's skyline is at the refurbished East Village Hotel. The Terrace is where you want to be on a warm night — surrounded by a veritable cornucopia of ferns and flowers, and simple, white furniture smattered around the place helps to instil the feeling of watching the sun set from a beachfront bar on the Mediterranean coast, or escaping to Mexico for a few moments. It's bright, breezy and welcoming — perfect for any upcoming summer shindigs.
This is Newtown's best kept secret. The aptly named small bar is brimming with more than its fair share of goodness. Surprisingly, it's not just one busy room, but is cleverly composed of an assortment of nooks: a private table at the front, stools clustered under the stairs, the upstairs 'lounge' room or the upstairs courtyard — take your pick. It's a fairly small wooden rooftop deck, but it's so worth it for the cocktails, the live jazz (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and the unpretentious local crowd.
Sweethearts Rooftop Barbeque is the Cross's open-air diamond in the rough. After you've caught your breath after a heavy-going four or five flights of stairs, kick back at one of Sweethearts' long bench tables, in amongst a mountain of trees, beneath some kitsch but redeeming pastel-coloured fairy lights. Reward yourself with a glass of King Valley Prosecco ($10). And don't be alarmed to see the charismatic barman pulling it as he would a coldie; the wines are on tap here. The food menu, meanwhile, is all about skewers, with a range of meat, fish and vegetable on sticks ready to inhale.
The people of Sydney love a tight rooftop, and Woollahra's Light Brigade Hotel is the latest place to jump on the bandwagon. It's one of many recent changes for Woollahra's beloved Oxford Street hotel. In November 2016, they reopened after an extensive renovation and came out the other side a whole lot fancier. And they've since added a rooftop as part of the four-storey hangout, offering pub-goers a lush space above Oxford Street. The rooftop functions as a combination space for drinking and dining, and is designed to feel "as casual as a neighbour's terrace". It has a circular bar that fans around the terrace, a wood-fired pizza oven and views of the Paddington rooftops and Sydney harbour skyline.
They've had a major refurb, and if you were a local here before, you won't recognise it. Come here to escape the usual Surry Hills crowd and eat an awesome vegetarian pizza and a cider on the large wooden deck. Old songs playing on the TV screens will have you reminiscing if conversation dries out.
Located at the intersection of South Dowling and Flinders Streets in Darlinghurst, the Local Taphouse can go slightly unnoticed. With 1920s-inspired decor and a garden-like roof, the Local is anyone's wonderland. The beer haven is the brainchild of Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone, two beer enthusiasts who conceived the inspired idea of opening a taphouse for all those budding beer buffs. Providing more than 20 beers on tap and an extensive range of bottled ales, stouts, pilsners, and ciders of local and international origin, they don't make your decision too easy. They do, however, offer beer pairings for their exceptional food options, most of which incorporate beer in the cooking process. Start with the smoked ale meatballs ($13) to nibble on.
Reopened to pubgoers a couple of summers back, the Royal rooftop's slick makeover is something to behold. After a decent trek up a few flights of stairs, juggling coldies, you're rewarded with an outstanding view of the city, the bays and the harbour — an amazing setting to watch the dusk wash over Sydney. The menu at the pub is extensive, comprised of traditional pub food at a decent price ($26 steak, or eight share dishes for $50). But get in there early, because the rooftop ain't too big, and it's bound to fill up quick on the upcoming summer sun downs.
The rooftop at Darlo has high walls, but the quirky astro turf and pink flamingos make it more than bearable. Always an interesting mix of people here, and a stone's throw away from Oxford Street if you want to party on.
The Republic Hotel has gone next level with its lush new rooftop bar, Taylor's, located en route from the city to Circular Quay. An otherwise smart-casual bar space is made remarkable by an epic green wall which creates a mesmerising tableau of lush greenery that just feels right against a starry sky. The food menu is mostly non-serious party food, which although not very fancy, doesn't disappoint, with affordable, generous and satisfying snacks. Accompany them with an unpasteurised Carlton ($7.20) — Taylor's is the only CBD bar to offer it.
White wood, lobster pots, old-school tennis rackets, fairy lights, a boat dangling above the stairwell, decorative chunks of knotted rope and a whole lot of plants. The new-look Ivanhoe Hotel is very modern, very slick, and very fitting to its beachside location. Paul Kelly designed the bottom levels, Sibella Court the upper, and you can see the ten years of planning that's gone into the fit-out. The outdoor spaces are really something special, including the little touches like tiles and clever lighting on the outdoor rooftops.