SYDNEY'S BEST NEW BARS OF 2020
The city's very best boozy additions of the year.
While unscrewing the cap on a bottled cocktail was the closest many of us got to a bar for a large chunk of 2020, some clever Sydneysiders actually opened a bar. And they're an impressive bunch, too. Our fair city is now home to a gin distillery in Surry Hills, a retrofuturistic bar on the 83rd level of Sydney Tower and lower north shore spot dedicated to cognac and jaffles. That's just the start. As the storm clouds start to clear and we reach the end of a weird (and sometimes horrific) 12 months, we're taking a moment to celebrate the good that's come from 2020 by rounding up the best new bars to open their doors this year.
On September 25, 1981, Sydneysiders got their first look at the revolving restaurants inside Sydney Tower. Exactly 39 years later, the restaurants have reopened after a $12-million renovation, with new looks, A-plus cocktails and a star cast of Sydney hospitality elite. The tower’s dining precinct is split into three levels: 70s-inspired Bar 83, opulent fine-diner Infinity and casual buffet restaurant Sky Feast. Part-retro, part-futuristic with circular red and white lounges, gold lights and striking mirrors, Bar 83 is officially Sydney’s highest bar. While there’s no denying the bar’s main drawcard is the views, the cocktails are equally impressive. Award-winning bartender Jenna Hemsworth (Restaurant Hubert, The Baxter Inn) has stepped in as venue manager, and is stirring up outstanding cocktails including Pain Pleasure Principle (with cognac, cacao and lemon myrtle) and the Ignore All Rules (tequila, sherry, tomato and basil). Snacks don’t push the boundaries too much (oysters, bread and olives, roasted nuts) but you’re not here for the food — that’s all happening on the levels below. That said, it’d be remiss not to order at least one of the lamb and harissa sausage rolls while you’re there.
Image: Robert Walsh
At home on the middle floor of Coogee Pavilion, Una Más is the lively, playful sibling to fine diner Mimi’s. While the latter pairs crisp white linen with bumps of caviar and frozen vodka, the former is a wine and tapas bar — that welcomes you, a little sandy, straight off the beach. Fresh, fun and vibing off its coastal location, Una Más offers a menu of snacks spiked with both Spanish and Australian flavours by Executive Chef Jordan Toft (Bert’s, Bar Topa). Start with anchovies, charcuterie, pork collar with smoked polenta and chorizo with bullhorn peppers — then end with with a slice of Basque cheesecake. To drink, there are classic cocktails, sherries and amaro on offer, as well as a wine list that’s both fun and affordable (with many bottles under $80). You can share a bottle of pét-nat from WA or a chilled red from Das Juice in McClaren Vale.
Image: Steven Woodburn
Gin lovers rejoice — Four Pillars has opened its Surry Hills digs. Since launching in 2013, Four Pillars has given Aussie gin lovers plenty to drink. Now, Sydneysiders can sip the world’s best gin straight from the source. Part distillery, part small bar and part retail space, The Four Pillars Gin Lab is located inside a 1930s warehouse on Crown Street. The space is the new home for Eileen: the distillery’s 70-litre still. This means small batches of gin are made on site — and you can get in on the action, too, with The Lab hosting masterclasses, tastings and gin gatherings in the space. Step through a discreet door on the corner of Fitzroy and Crown Streets, ascend the stairwell and you’ll find Eileen’s Bar: the on-site speakeasy. Expect plenty of G&Ts, martinis and negronis, plus a selection of beer, cider and wine. There is also a limited food menu — think jaffles and crinkle-cut crisps — put together by chef Matt Wilkinson. If all of that isn’t enough to excite you, you can also pick up all of Four Pillars’ made-from-gin products (we’re talking marmalade, Gin Pig salami and Hunted & Gathered chocolate), merchandise, books, bar kits and, of course, gins from the adjoining Gin Shop.
Image: Anson Smart
Set in an old yoghurt factory opposite Wicks Park, Philter Brewing is very well placed — it’s just down the block from Batch and close walking distance to Sauce, Wildflower, Grifter and Willie The Boatman. Yeah, it has turned into one massive brewery crawl indeed. The brewpub pays homage to the building’s 1960s heritage, as well as the 1980s Australiana vibe of Philter’s can design. Expect ‘suburban pub nostalgia’ aplenty, like hanging Tiffany lamps, hand-painted signage and a handmade tile bar with a bar top that’s been rescued from a local pub. Plus a black chesterfield sofa and simple round tables and chairs. The somewhat kitschy, old school fit-out certainly suits the brand well. The public bar overlooks a brand new brewery and boasts a viewing deck with bar stools, so punters can watch the brewers in action while they sip fresh-as drops. It’ll produce over one-million litres of beer per year, heaps of which will end up on the bar’s taps.
Image: Liz Ham
The clever folks behind CBD pasta bar Ragazzi — Matthew Swieboda, Nathanial Hatwell (Love, Tilly Devine, Dear Sainte Éloise) and Scott McComas-Williams — have opened a new CBD venue. It’s a bar, yes, but it’s also a pasta shop, a bottle-o and a deli. The retail space sells fresh pasta by the gram, sauces and smallgoods to help Sydneysiders create the perfect Italian feast at home. Through a big glass window, you can watch the staff making pasta of all shapes and sizes, including rigatoni, egg farfalle, semolina pici and gluten free varieties. Bottles of mostly minimal-intervention Italian drops are also on offer — big bottles, too. If your home bar is missing a jeroboam (five litres) of orange wine from Campania or a giant bottle of Campari, Fabbrica is the place to visit. Those looking to dine in can grab a seat at one of four outdoor high tables and order the daily sandwich (prosciutto and Holy Goat La Luna cheese, perhaps), baked pasta option (maybe beef cheek and cavalo nero lasagne) or snacks such as arancini, chicken liver parfait, charcuterie and cheese. Wines by the glass, coffee and a couple of classic Italian cocktails are on offer, too.
A microbrewery has opened in Redfern thanks to WA beer brand Gage Roads Brewing Co. Punters can expect much more than just a brewpub, too — a Thai-inspired restaurant and an all-day co-working space are part of the space. At the bar, you’ll find Atomic Beer Project signatures — such as the pale ale, XPA and IPA — alongside seasonal and experimental releases, which already include a red ale and porter. Beer styles that haven’t been brewed previously under the Gage Roads banner are also up for grabs. The bar also offers wine and spirits by local producers including Brix Distillers, Poor Toms and Archie Rose. While the bar slings the booze, the kitchen serves up Southeast Asian share plates by Head Chef Jordan McLeod (Longrain Tokyo). The seasonal menu features the likes of porter-braised beef cheek stuffed in croissants, grilled tiger prawn skewers with green curry butter and barbecued Bannockburn chicken with soy mirin glaze. On the upper level is an open dining room that doubles as a co-working space with views to the brewhouse below. It boasts office amenities like unlimited wifi and bookable tables with USBs and power sockets — plus coffees from 7am daily, an all-day menu and beer on tap, of course.
Images: Steven Woodburn
A small bar has arrived in Crows Nest and it’s specialising in something a little different for the lower north shore: cognac. Hendriks has more than 30 cognacs from around the globe, as well as cognac-based cocktails and a 100 bottle-strong wine list. Those new to the French brandy can test the waters with one of the 24 cocktails, including three made with Hennessy: the Between The Sheets (rum, orange curaçao and lemon juice) and The Major (grapefruit and lemon juice, house-spiced honey syrup, basil and chipotle powder). The extensive wine menu also offers almost 30 by the glass. To pair with the wine, there are cheese and charcuterie boards, as well as small plates like mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes, cheeseburger spring rolls and chilli con carne empanadas. While the snacks are all good and well, the highlight is the giant jaffles, which are made using loaves from Crows Nest local St Malo Bakery. Choose from the four-chees, cognac mushrooms, pulled pork and slow-cooked lamb — all topped with brandy drizzle for good measure.
Images: Steven Woodburn
In late 2018, an Italian restaurant with olive trees, woodfired breads and next-level pasta opened inside Bondi pub The Royal. Called Totti’s, it was an instant hit in the eastern suburbs. And now, it’s arrived in the city. You’ll find Bar Totti’s inside Merivale’s CBD Ivy Precinct. Like its beachside sister, it has woodfired bread alongside an extended menu of antipasto plates and snacks — spanning twenty different plates, with sardines, scallop crudo, burrata, anchovies, ‘nduja, octopus and baked tomino cheese all on the list — but, unlike its sibling, it’s also promising high-energy party vibes. A horseshoe-shaped bar sits at the centre of the space, where the focus is on favourite Italian drops, including spritzes, digestifs and minimal-intervention wines. As well as the aforementioned antipasto, Totti’s Head Chef Mike Eggert together with Chef Jake Ahrens (Ash St Cellar, Uccello) are serving up grilled king prawns with chilli and fennel, beef tongue with garlic aioli and pistachio, and grilled fish. For dessert, expect Totti’s signature tiramisu and neapolitan ice-cream sandwiches.
Image: Nikki To
Top image: Four Pillars Laboratory by Anson Smart