The Playmaker
Let's play
  • It's Friday
    What day is it?
  • Now
    What time is it?
  • Anywhere in Sydney
    Where are you?
  • What do you feel like?
    What do you feel like?
  • And what else?
    And what else?
By Concrete Playground
April 17, 2019

Sydney's Best New Bars of 2019

The city's very best boozy additions of the year (so far).
By Concrete Playground
April 17, 2019


The city's very best boozy additions of the year (so far).

While it feels like it was only yesterday that we were eating boozy Christmas pud with nan, it's somehow already April — which means, yes, one third of 2019 has already past. And Sydney's bar scene has continued to grow at an impressive (alarming?) rate. Not only have new drinking holes popped up across the city — opening everywhere from a butcher in Dulwich Hill to a tiny CBD parking lot — these libation stations are multi-faceted, doubling as record stores, jazz lounges and vegan eateries. So, here are our favourite nine bars to throw open their doors in 2019 thus far. Add them to your list. Tick them off. (Just as Santa did, seemingly yesterday.)

  • 9

    Leichhardt’s quiet Norton Street is now home to a small bar and restaurant heroing Aussie ingredients thanks to The Little Guy owner Dynn Smulewicz and its longtime bartender Daniel McBride. They’ve joined forces to bring a much needed new player to the suburb. At first glance, the bar has bit of a Little Guy vibe — the two-storey terrace is squeezed into a commercial strip, the narrow ground level has a long bar to one side and the large bi-fold window overlooking the street is lined with stools. But, as McBride assured us, the Gully is no Little Guy 2.0. The two-storey, 100-seat venue is decked out with tropical green walls and brass accents throughout — and it has a completely vegetarian menu. The bar runs on a ‘something for everyone’ mentality, and the team takes this mantra seriously with a rather extensive drinks list to choose from ex- Alibi chef Emma Evans. Favourite menu items include the almond-based ricotta gnocchi with crispy oyster mushrooms and wattleseed in a wild mushroom broth; tea and pepperberry-smoked potatoes with chives and parsley aioli; and roasted pumpkin wedges, dusted with a native dukkah spice mixture and doused in herb cucumber yoghurt.

    Images: Trent van der Jagt. 

  • 8
    Rosenbaum & Fuller

    Rosenbaum and Fuller is a casual eatery and bar from bar legend Lee Potter Cavanagh, just a few minutes’ walk from Bondi Beach. A pastel purple shop front gives way to a light, airy space, splashed with light timbers, teardrop pendant lights and leather. Stained glass and hanging bunches of dried flowers add quirky touches — as do bottles of spirits, suspended from the ceiling by twine. Drop by at midday for an Edition coffee and a leek terrine with cashew butter and toasted sourdough, and at nightfall for a feast of share plates and Australian wines. With experienced chef Rob Rietveld in the kitchen, the menu is mainly plant-based and driven by local, seasonal produce. Among Rietveld’s summer dishes are tofu fingers with Tassie miso, broccoli and poppy; fried baby artichoke with olive and capsicum sauce; and king oyster mushroom with shiitake ‘bacon’. The wine list is 90 percent Australian, with an emphasis on small producers, boutique drops and minimal intervention. Plus, there’s a tempting selection of signature cocktails, peppered with Australian spirits and native ingredients. For a fittingly beachy beverage, try the Ocean Gin with dry vermouth, wakame salt and parsley.

  • 7
    Bar Clementine

    Bar Clementine has opened next door to Clementine’s cafe and it’s slinging funky drops, aperitif-style cocktails and European share plates. Owner and sommelier Eric Mendoza really knows his grapes, having previously curated the award-winning wine lists at lauded Sydney venues Bloodwood and The Baxter Inn. Mendoza has also clocked in time at Rockpool and Melbourne’s MoVida. Oh, and did we mention that he makes his own vermouth? Plenty of experimental labels from around the country and the world are on display at Bar Clementine, though more accessible drops have a place here as well. For eats, Mendoza has partnered with chef Craig Gray (Neighbourhood Wine, Taxi Dining) who has created a menu of modern European fare. The food is, of course, tailored to be paired with a glass of wine (or two). Expect a rather elevated version of the classic wine bar trio of cheese, charcuterie and share plates. Though a small space, it benefits from a large, street facing bay window, which allows for heaps of natural light. Pull up a stool at the marble-topped bar — which extends all the way to the window — and get stuck in.

  • 6

    Butchers Brew is an intimate, 50-seat venue owned by local and self-confessed live music junkie Caroline Buckingham, who’s lived in the area for 20 years. It’s housed in a former butchery (hence the name), and the ‘retro-butcher’ vibe has been maintained in the fit-out — the old butcher hooks have been repurposed into a ledge, and turquoise and gold tiles have been spruced up. To increase the jazz lounge feels, velvet curtains and vintage red spotlights were added, brick walls have been exposed and local artist Fernando Mosca was commissioned to paint a mural of Aretha Franklin. Music is the main offering here, with a focus on jazz and funk — bands take the stage every Tuesday through Sunday night, with Mondays reserved for stand-up comedy by Happy Endings Comedy Club. The entertainment cover charge ranges from $10–20 — with all profits going to the band, and sometimes includes the first drink. At the bar, expect Sydney locals Young Henrys and Batch on tap ($10–12) and classic cocktails for $20, along with a compact, but carefully selected wine list ($9–15 by the glass). For hard booze, Marrickville’s Poor Toms and Grose Vale’s Karu Distillery are supplying the gin, while Sydney’s Silver Moon Distillery is covering the vodka.

    Images: Katje Ford. 

  • 5
    Reign at the QVB

    Sydney’s 120-year-old Queen Victoria Building has long been a haven of decadence, but it has taken things up a notch with the launch of its luxurious new bar. A vision of marble, brass and musk pink, Reign is a regal sort of spot, taking over the space once home to the level one ABC store. It pours a sprawling selection of over 150 Champagnes and sparkling wines, with plenty of bubbly tasting flights on offer, alongside signature cocktails. The snack menu is very broad and covers all bases, from the refined (plates of oysters, duck liver mousse and steak tartare) to the two-handed (meatball and cheese sliders and an okonomiyaki burger) to the straight-up late-night eat variety (dumplings and pork fried rice). Reign opens from 11am each day, surely to cater to post-shopping snacks and business lunches. Best of all, it still kicks on late, open for eats and drinks right up until 2am Thursday through Sunday.

    Images: Damian Flanagan.

  • 4

    Enmore Road is home to heaps of bars and vintage shops, but none of them have combined booze and retail into a single venue. Until now. Hidden behind black speakeasy-style curtains, Cottonmouth Records is a vinyl store, craft beer haven and whisky bar all neatly wrapped into one. The duo behind the venue is locals Erica McLoughlin and Zach Williams — the latter of which is putting his varied varied personal collection of jazz, soul and funk up for sale. But, unlike other record stores around town, this ones allows you to booze while you browse. Eight regularly changing taps are pouring the likes of Alexandria’s Yulli’s Brews, Canberra’s Capital Brewing and New Zealand’s Yeastie Boys and, behind the bar, is a collection of tinnies and 80 bottles of whisky. For eats, the new Enmore Road outpost of Epic Pizza is delivering 12-inch pies for $18.50 a pop, and patrons are also encouraged to BYO any food they fancy. Plus, the venue’s love for music extends to a weekly DJ offering on Thursday through Sunday nights, and monthly live acoustic gigs on Saturdays.

    Images: Kitti Gould. 

  • 3
    Scout Sydney

    After opening in early 2017, London cocktail bar Scout quickly made the World’s 50 Best Bars list for being hyperlocal and closed-loop. Now, Scout founder Matt Whiley has set up a Sydney outpost of Scout in a disused section of The Dolphin‘s top floor. And it has many similarities to the original. Which means you can now drink highly unusual cocktails, made with native ingredients and local flavours, in a space that’s part science laboratory, part bar. In the purpose-built ‘lab’, the Scout Sydney team is whipping up an ever-changing Aussie-focused drinks list. You’ll find new takes on trusty classics, such as a vodka soda made with strawberry gum and PS40 green ant soda and an espresso martini with clarified banana and coffee from nearby cafe and roaster Artificer. Scout Sydney is also serving snacks, with Monty Koludrovic cooking up a range inspired by Whiley’s beverages. Like the cocktails, the food menu changes frequently, but expect to find dished like ‘nduja and egg yolk topped toasts, padron peppers with kombu and lime and salmon atop garlic lavosh.

  • 2

    An old garage down a service laneway doesn’t sound like an ideal spot for a bar, but that’s exactly where Cantina OK! has taken up residence. The 20-seat mezcal bar is rocking bright pink and purple walls, Mexican vibes and no seating whatsoever. It’s run by the trio behind Sydney’s favourite tequila joint, Tio’s Cerveceria — the three took one helluva road trip around Mexico and returned to Sydney with a whopping 140 bottles that now sit behind the minuscule bar. There are mezcals from regions all across Oaxaca, Michoacán and Jalisco, as well as drops of tequila, raicilla (an agave distilled spirit from Jalisco) and sotol (non-agave distilled spirit from northern Mexico). Some of the more interesting drops include mezcals that have been distilled with likes of rattlesnake and a whole coyote. If all that sounds a bit intimating, turn to the well-trained staff, who are eager to get into the “nitty gritty” of mezcal drinking with you. But you don’t have to go high brow — the place still has the casual, laid-back Tio’s vibe where you can just pop-in for a damn good margarita, too. As well as all that, expect a bright combination of tyrian purple, watermelon pink and safety yellow — Gilmore’s words, not ours — plus plenty of timber. Just not a lot of space.

    Images: Kimberley Low. 

  • 1
    Maybe Sammy

    Surry Hills’ Maybe Frank has gained quite a following for its pizza and cocktails — the restaurant’s leading barman Andrea Gualdi most recently won the Australian Bartender of the Year at the 2017 Diageo World Class Competition. So we were pleased to hear the Gualdi has joined forces with owners Stefano Catino and Vince Lombardo to launch a new CBD venue, Maybe Sammy. This venture — named after jazz era icon, Sammy Davis Jr. — is all about the cocktails, which are theatrical, creative and entertaining. For example, the Circus Circus, made with rye, vermouth, mint and poblano and presented with a magic trick; the vodka- and passionfruit-infused Lady Luck, is served with house-made hand cream (to use, not drink). Designed by Sydney’s LD Studio, the space is opulent, with pink velvet banquettes, gold lamps, brass fittings, marble tiles and lots of indoor plants. And if you’re trying to pick which day of the week to stop by, maybe give Sundays a whirl — from open until close, Sammy is slinging Sydney rock oysters for $2 each.

    Images: DS Oficina.


Top image: Cantina OK! by Kimberley Low. 

  •   shares
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x