Hidden beneath Riley Street Garage, the dimly-lit Busby was initially conceived as a private room for VIPs and regulars, but has now opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Saturday (unless otherwise booked out). It's counted Axl Rose and Cate Blanchett amongst its guests, and the classy, sedate vibe definitely seems more suited to the latter.
The design is a nice example of Sydney's current boom in industrial chic, with vintage lamps, exposed pipes, a tiled bar and distressed walls as well as leather banquettes. Advertisements for classic cars can be found on the walls of the foyer, befitting the venue's previous life as a garage for the rich and famous.
Sharing a kitchen with its illustrious upstairs neighbour, the focus is on sharing plates and cocktails. The small snack menu includes oysters ($4 each), which come three ways: natural, mignonette and with soy truffle. More raw goodness comes in the form of a flavoursome beef carpaccio ($16) and a neatly presented sashimi plate ($18) with kingfish, salmon, tuna and a miniature bottle of soy sauce. For those with a sweet tooth, the liquid lemon cheesecake ($14) is an absolute must, with elements of crumble and citrus granita adding to the textural variety. And you certainly can't go wrong with a cheese board ($10 each), which might include a farmhouse cheddar or a creamy blue.
The cocktail list, however, is the real star here, with highlights including the Conference ($20), which seems to have enough ingredients for two drinks. With bourbon, rye whiskey, cognac, apple brandy, two types of bitters, it's complex but cohesive, with hints of cinnamon, baked apple and toffee amongst others. The Almond Brother ($22) is a fragrant delight with tequila and Amaretto, while the cognac-based Grape Method ($20) is what some might describe as 'masculine' and eminently drinkable. For a sweeter tipple, the Aphrodisiac ($20) blends 666 Vodka with a strawberry aperitif and comes with a shot of Laurent-Perrier Brut on the side, not to mention a cute garnish of miniature toasted marshmallows.
They can also whip up classic cocktails on request, and a sugar-rimmed Sidecar is hard to fault. The list of whiskies is particularly strong on Americans, as well as some of the heavy hitters in the Scotch world like Glenmorangie ten-year ($10). The wine list is also diverse, with Australian favourites and new world specialties like an Argentinian Mendoza malbec ($15 glass).
Overall, it's a winning touch of low-key glam, ideal for an early evening aperitif, an upmarket nightcap or even just a booze-soaked session of star-spotting.