Visit NYC's world-class cocktail bar's first late-night Australian outpost for cocktails and cabaret.
December 05, 2018
UPDATE: JUNE, 2020 — Employees Only has reopened and is offering a new format on Friday and Saturday nights: dinner and cabaret, followed by DJ performances. Its a la carte winter menu will be available, featuring dishes such as its signature steak tartare, prawn and crab linguine and barbecued spatchcock. Bookings are essential and can be made via the website, with two-hour sittings available.
The Sydney CBD has added a highly lauded New York City import into its ranks with Employees Only opening on Barrack Street. The US venue was an architect of the modern speakeasy movement in New York and now it hopes to make a similar impact on Sydney, bringing its late-night vibes and world-class cocktails Down Under.
Follow the neon psychic sign through the curtain and into its heritage-listed basement haunt. Once through the curtains, you'll see the bar offering both signature EO drinks and Sydney-exclusive drops. Classics include the Amelia (Wyborowa vodka and elderflower liqueur shaken with fresh lemon and puréed blackberries) and the Ginger Smash (rum and Barbadian sweet syrup Falernum shaken with muddled ginger and ripe mango, then topped with maraschino cherries and fresh lime).
Brand new drinks created by the Sydney team include The Down Payment, a complex combination of Barsol Pisco, Italian herbal liqueur and French bitters shaken with avocado, fresh lime and aquafaba (a replacement for egg white). This level of creativity is no surprise, considering the bar is lead by 12-year EO alumni Robert Krueger and award-winning head bartender Dula Lorenzohewa.
Alongside the drinks is an all-night bar menu that is available until 2.30am. Think Berkshire pork cottaletta (Italian schnitzel) with Tuscan cabbage slaw, and a monterey jack cheeseburger with pancetta, jalapeño, bois boudran sauce and relish. On the high-end, there's a decadent, three-option caviar service, all served with chive crème fraîche, grated egg and buckwheat blinis.
In the kitchen are French head chefs Aurelien Girault and Leo Garnier, who have created a bistro menu reminiscent of New York but using native Australian ingredients and locally sourced seafood. The full dinner menu is served from 5–11pm and includes heartier dishes like charred calamari risotto, whole fish for two and chargrilled ribeye with red wine, watercress and horseradish. Signature NYC EO menu items are also on offer, including hand-cut filet mignon tartare, bone marrow poppers in a pastry shell and house-made cavatelli with pork sausage, rocket and parmesan.
As part of the brand's tradition, special staff meals will be on offer for patrons each day at a discounted price — meaning you eat what the staff eats. Think cacio e pepe with grilled sardines, or gnocchi with gorgonzola. Another brand tradition is the chicken soup meal, which comes from a 15-year-old family recipe and will be a complimentary offering at 3am each night as the bar closes up.
Designed by Tim Leveson (The Sandwich Shop, Pane e Cipolla), the space takes notes from the New York original while embracing the Sydney heritage location — including the antique main doors, industrial chandelier and large-scale, hand-painted wall murals. The curved brass-topped bar is the hero of the space and you can expect some serious mood lighting, too.
Dark timber with brass finishes and green velvet banquette seating is found in the dining room, with a private room also on offer. Plus brass-embellished, vintage lockers allow customers to keep their belongings safe and come complete with interior charging stations.
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