Named after the notorious Rocks Push, a ruffian gang during turn-of-the-century Sydney, The Push (formerly the Russell Hotel) is a handsome little place. Push open the heavy door that evokes that of a speakeasy — the weightiness representing the significance of the spot, the thud of the door behind sealing you in from the outside world — and step into this Art Deco incarnation of the gang of yore. Think slick styling, black timber panelling, leather banquettes and rose gold finishes.
Bootleggers (read: slightly cranky bartenders) aside, there is nary a bandit in sight; most of the patrons are merely shaking off the shackles of the working day. The drinks list features local and NZ wines, plus craft and boutique beers, but you shouldn't stop there. A place this attractive calls for cocktails, and The Push offers up a full list of cocktails starring the Lady Macquarie ($18) with gin, creme de cassis, lemon, sugar and egg white and the Bushrangers Mule ($17) with vodka, cloudy apple cider, lime, ginger beer, apple and cinnamon, plus cocktails of the month at a fair $15.
The bar suits trysts of all types, with its soft lighting, mellow playlist and cuddly corners encouraging weary urbanites to linger over drinks. The counter snacks serve this purpose with spicy barbecue chicken wings ($10) and squid with Chinese five spice ($16). For the hungrier among us, expect a run-of-the-mill bistro menu: burgers, fish and chips and schnitzels are all duly represented. The rump steak ($26.90) is fine and unfussy and the shepherd's pie ($23) is a comfort-food number, but The Push comes into its larrikin-like own as a cocktail bar.
Sharp, dark and somewhat rascally, this bar is a pleasing addition to the oft-lacking George Street strip. A night there brings to mind the Henry Lawson poem, which immortalised The Push's namesake gang with the words, "How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the Push!"