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FOOD & DRINK

The Best Bars in Newtown

These bars pair creative cocktails and natural wines with top-notch bar snacks and inventive designs, making them some of the best nighttime haunts in the inner west.
By Concrete Playground and Marissa Ciampi
September 05, 2018
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The Best Bars in Newtown

These bars pair creative cocktails and natural wines with top-notch bar snacks and inventive designs, making them some of the best nighttime haunts in the inner west.
By Concrete Playground and Marissa Ciampi
September 05, 2018
  shares

THE BEST BARS IN NEWTOWN

These bars pair creative cocktails and natural wines with top-notch bar snacks and inventive designs, making them some of the best nighttime haunts in the inner west.

Newtown has a lot going for it, and its standout bar scene is right up there at the top of the list. Some have been around forever and are still packing out the house every night, others are newcomers that have already won a spot on our go-to list.

From natural wine bars, speakeasy-style haunts and cocktail spots to tiki bars and rock 'n' roll burger joints, King Street has it all. Here's our list of the best of the bunch.

  • 9

    The crew behind Darlinghurst’s Black Bottle has brought its natural wine bar vibes to Sydney’s inner west, with the opening of PG’s. The speakeasy takes up prime real estate along King Street, just across from the Newtown Hotel, and it’s a good’un.

    Cocktails include house specialties (all $18) such as the Lavender Fields (gin and lavender oil with an absinthe rinse), the Kaffir Lime Sour (kaffir-infused vodka with lemongrass syrup and finger lime) and the extremely boozy sounding Cabron on Fire (mezcal, a smoky scotch and agave). For eats, you’ll find bar snacks like chicken wings and cheeseburger jaffles, as well the house pâté from Black Bottle.

    Named after mums Pat and Gigi, the hard-to-find bit comes from the library cover entrance. From the street, the space better resembles a used book store than a bar — one that houses some pretty regal-looking hard covers, we might add. The fit-out sees a mix of seating, from aged leather Chesterfield sofas to cafe-style low tables and high bar stools, along with potted plants aplenty and classical portraits adorning the walls.

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  • 8

    Opened by husband and wife team Brett and Clare Davis back in June 2017, Gurdys has quickly become a King Street go-to. They’re joined by head chef Richard Price, who is turning out a menu carefully designed to cater toward varying dietary needs.

    Each dish is denoted by dietary requirement — allowing meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans and gluten free folk to all eat hand-in-hand without question. Standouts include spicy lamb kofta on Spanish pilaf ($22), tempura mushroom bao buns with barbecue sauce ($16), garlic and chilli prawns ($23) and miso-glazed baby eggplant ($14).

    The wine and cocktail lists are also labelled for vegans, with the latter featuring twists on classics using house-made syrups. Espresso martinis and pisco sours ($20 each) sit alongside signatures like the Spiced Apple Crisp (spiced rum, ginger syrup, apple juice and lime). The four beer taps change weekly with a focus on Aussie craft, and the wine list reveals strong local ties. It’s a wine-by-the-glass-only affair here (apart from French champagnes), with drops starting from $9.

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  • 7

    Nestled between a petrol station and a cluster of hair salons at the bottom of Enmore Road, The Midnight Special is just what a Newtown small bar should be. It’s cool but unpretentiously so, and its unassuming facade has stood the test of time for locals since opening back in 2012.

    For those living outside the 2042 postcode, The Midnight Special is worth commuting to Newtown for. Inside it’s all Americana, soul and rock ‘n’ roll, from the traditional folk song the place takes its name from to the checkerboard floors. Music comes courtesy of 50s, 60s and 70s vinyls, but on any given night expect local DJs to spin anything from Hawaiian war chants to Cleveland protopunk.

    Venture beyond the front room and you’ll find a couple of spacious booths. For those traveling in packs smaller than four, though, the best option is to plonk yourself right at the bar where a specialty cocktail list awaits. Among our favourites are the Tennessee Rose (vermouth infused with T2 tea, rose vanilla syrup and topped with prosecco) and the Smoke on the Water (smoked jalapeno tequila, cointreau and agave). Most of its cocktails are vegan-friendly, too, with the usual egg white foam replaced by aquafaba.

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  • 6

    If there’s one wine palate you can trust, it’s Sophie Otton’s. Having over 20 years in the wine industry, her resume boasts wine director at Sydney’s Rockpool Bar & Grill and, as of 2016, sommelier at Billy Kwong. Plus wine consultant, writer and judge, too.

    Now she’s bringing that expertise to the inner west masses with She Loves You — Newtown’s ever-evolving wine bar focusing on minimal intervention and quality drops at affordable prices. The venture is a collaboration between Otton and her partner Stephen Smooker, along with Martin Corcoran (owner/chef at Adelaide’s Peel Street) and in-house cocktail guru Alex Smith (who hails from Copenhagen).

    Otton’s specialty is alternative varieties that showcase the winemakers’ strengths. Think grapes that are handpicked and aged with no additives or preservatives. Apart from wines, She Loves You is slinging a seasonal cocktail list ($16-$20) that centres on native botanicals and house-made ingredients. If you do go down the cocktail route, Otton’s trusty favourites are the Margarita Pepperleaf (a blend of tequilas, triple sec, native pepperleaf and lemon juice) and the Pink Slip (dry gin, rosella flower, lemon aspen extract and lemon juice) at $18 a piece.

    Images: Katia Monte and Jun Chen

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  • 5

    This aptly named small bar is brimming with more than its fair share of goodness. It’s not just one busy room, but is cleverly composed of an assortment of nooks. A private table at the front, stools along the wall, hidden under the stairs, the upstairs ‘lounge’ room or in the upstairs courtyard: take your pick.

    The cocktails (all $16) have continued to be the main draw card here since opening back in 2011. For a refreshing drop, go for the Funky Cold Medina (white rum, elderflower liqueur, cucumber, mint and lime juice). Or, if you’re looking for something with a kick, it has to be the mezcal and smoked maple old fashioned (tequila, LP’s smoked maple, mezcal, bitters and dried chilli).

    For the peckish, the share food menu has plenty on offer, including crispy polenta bites ($12) and a dip platter ($14) for smalls, plus pizzas ($10) and burgers ($12) for the hangry — with both veg and meat options. If you’re the indecisive sort, the Corridor board ($22) comes with a little bit of everything, including arancini, Mediterranean meatballs, grilled haloumi and garlic bread. Corridor is too good to miss out on.

    Images: Trent van der Jagt

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  • 4

    Earl’s Juke Joint has been around since 2013, and has remained a firm Newtown favourite since. Owner and ex-Shady Pines head honcho Pasan Wijesana has pulled created a bar with soul, but without kitsch, giving King Street a grownup bar with a New Orleans edge.

    Once you’ve secured a menu, look over the house rules. Rule #2: ‘don’t be creepy’ is an inspired paraphrasing of Milk and Honey’s often ignored gentleman’s guide to introductions — as well as a built-in conversation point for those on dates. Move on down the menu to the cocktail list, which rotates through eight options every two months and uses native ingredients like saltbush and kaffir lime. At the moment, we’re keen on the Diabolical Biz ($22), which is Beezwax cognac and rye with Peychauds bitters, honey, bee pollen and anise liqueur.

    There is plenty to love about Earl’s extensive beer list, which has taken a turn toward mainly Australian and New Zealand crafts. This list also changes regularly and currently includes Wildflower Gold Blend #14 on draught ($12) and Beer Farm Australian bitter in bottles ($10). Wines take a heavy natural and organic lean, with rare ‘cult’ drops from Frank Cornelissen and Radikon currently available by the glass, plus a pet nat from WA’s Brave New Wine ($12/$56).

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  • 3

    Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham are very busy men, having launched three wildly successful venues in Sydney since 2013 — the most recent being the resurrections of The Unicorn and the Lansdowne Hotel. But the wildly popular, rock ‘n’ roll burger joint that started it all hasn’t lost one bit of its appeal.

    Tucked-away down Newtown’s Mary Street, the bar is undoubtedly cool, with light fixtures made from Jack Daniel bottles and a big, chunky wooden table in the far-right corner. For booze, you’ve got a wine list compiled by a genuine love of the drop, good local beers on tap and an ever-growing cocktail list to boot.

    But the joint is known more for its Maccas-style burgers than anything else. You’ll hear a lot of people rave about them, and we must admit they go down very nicely. A local favourite through-and-through, we can’t imagine Mary’s popularity waning anytime soon.

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  • 2

    Put on your best Hawaiian shirt, because the folks from Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown have opened up a tiki bar in Enmore. The bar takes its inspiration from tiki-obsessed psychiatrist Dr Lawrence Jacoby from cult TV series Twin Peaks. Diehard David Lynch fans should be able to uncover a few other nods to the famous director scattered throughout the venue (at least that’s what my log tells me).

    The drinks menu centres around ten tiki cocktails, which are mostly rum-heavy concoctions illuminated with bright, tropical flavours. From the list, you can’t go past James and the Giant ($20); it’s made from Bulliet bourbon, spiced peach ice tea syrup, apricot brandy and, to top it all off, absinthe. And then there’s the Voodoo Grog ($45 for two)($45 for two) — a drinking bowl filled with two types of rum, allspice, passion fruit syrup, honey and lime. Plus, you can add a float of overproof rum to any drink for five bucks.

    All drinks come with a free bowl of banana chips and, if you’re looking for a real meal, the bar offers pizza delivery from Manoosh — just order at the bar. Oh and before you go, no trip to Jacoby’s is complete without a trip to the bathroom, although be careful lest you stumble into another dimension. The back hallway has been kitted out in red velvet curtains and black and white chevron tiles to perfectly recreate niwt s’kaep suomaf der moor — ahem — Twin Peaks‘ famous red room.

    Image: Katje Ford

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  • 1

    Elaborate Ortiz anchovies, La Belle-Iloise sardines and mussels escabeche, alongside other European delicacies — straight from the can. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, the tin is in at this Newtown bar and deli.

    Behind Newtown’s Continental Deli is Porteño’s Elvis Abrahanowicz and sommelier Joe Valore, and their dream is to share canned food with us. Really. Perhaps not the tin spaghetti that you grew up eating, but the marinated octopus and boquerones they grew up eating, alongside some tasty morsels they’ve made and canned themselves.

    As you walk into their Australia Street deli, you’ll be greeted with shoulders of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling, glass cabinets stocked with mature cheese and shelves of obscure dry goods that you simply must have. Welcome to heaven. The upstairs bistro has plenty of seats, but we like to prop ourselves at the deli counter or, if we’re lucky, nab one of the two tables at the front.

    It’s this combination of quality, carefully sourced fare, creative cocktails — in creative packaging — and a design catering for diners, drinkers and snackers that makes Continental our favourite Newtown bar.

    Image: Kimberley Low

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Top image: Jacoby’s Tiki Bar, Katje Ford

Disclaimer: This doesn’t include Newtown pubs, that list is on its way.

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