Best bars in Sydney Melbourne Perth Adelaide Brisbane Canberra Parramatta Penrith Gold Coast Cairns Geelong Hobart Launceston Tasmania Australia Bondi Coogee Manly Surry Hills Darlinghurst Small Bars in Sydney CBD Ultimo Broadway
Curtis Anthony brings you the best of the small bar schtick
For long-suffering barflies such as myself, who came to Sydney from Perth a decade ago expecting great culture and was disappointed and bored by what I saw, there is at last a scene I had given up hope of ever witnessing in this city. Like so many Sydney residents, my trips to Melbourne were heavenly bar-hopping escapades, but back in Sydney there was nowhere I wanted to go too often. At last, Sydney has developed its own small bars culture, hidden away in laneways and full of delicious liquors just waiting for your contemplation ...
What / where when ......
48 Erskine St, Sydney
The very first of the new small bars, with the bar fashioned from the barge used to construct the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Ching A Lings
133 Oxford St, Surry Hills
One of the first new bars had a bumpy start, closing after two weeks but has reopened
302 Crown St, Surry Hills
Famous for dessert cocktails, Aussie pina coladas and tapas until 2am
L2 182 Campbell St, Surry Hills
Sexy tea room with black chandeliers, a white baby piano and some sleek couches with original cocktails like Sweet Popped Cherry. Sticky Bar is Sydney's best cosy wine bar.
13 Burton St, Darlinghurst
Grunge meets glam underground bar, finished with a roller door and polished concrete. They say no to doormen, cover charges, "doof doof", pre-mixed drinks and posing.
31 Oxford St, Surry Hills
A music lovers' hangout, serving great coffee, wine, beer and unpretentious food.
Bacco Chifley Plaza
For suits, namely lawyers and bankers, who work nearby to get good wine and food.
479 Crown St, Surry Hills
Courtyard coffee during the day and wine by at night.
Time to Vino
66 Stanley St, East Sydney
A refreshing wine bar described as "excellent wines from around the world, without the fuss".
It hasn't taken long for the intimate spaces to catch on, writes Rachel Olding. The smile on Clover Moore's face as she opened Absinthe Salon last month said a lot - and it had nothing to do with the supposed hallucinogenic effects of the green spirit served at the Surry Hills micro-bar.''This small bar is what I had in mind when I worked to reform the Liquor Act: intimate spaces that provided an alternative to the large beer barns,'' Cr Moore said. Success is not a word used often by Sydneysiders to describe the efforts of local and state governments, but 18 months after the Lord Mayor helped make running a small bar feasible, the verdict is that the new laws have been just that. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing has approved 22 small bar licences and is considering another 22. These intimate drinking holes, owned mostly by young entrepreneurs, are dotted around the city centre and inner suburbs such as Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Erskineville and Bondi, and soon Crows Nest and Neutral Bay. Next week, the western-styled Shady Pines Saloon opens in Crown Street, Darlinghurst, and the French bistro-bar Grasshopper opens in York Street in the city. While Melbourne is the small-bar mecca that Cr Moore hopes to mimic, Sydney's scene has developed into something of its own.''Nothing you see in Melbourne is repeated in Sydney; our bars are creative and personable,'' said Martin O'Sullivan, the man behind Seven Metre Bar, Grasshopper and the newly formed Small Bars Association.''The owners are the ones who run it and are picking up glasses and serving drinks. You can really see their personality come out in their venue.''Many have pursued points of difference: Seven Metre has an environmental theme, Eau de Vie is about cocktails, Pocket Bar serves crepes only. Clusters have begun to emerge, such as Darlinghurst's Burton Street triangle: Pocket Bar, Dr Pong and pop-up bar The Pond.''Something we've had over Sydney in the past is being a city that rewards investigation,'' said Melbourne-based creative director Barrie Barton, responsible for The Pond, Melbourne's Rooftop Cinema bar and another upcoming Sydney bar.''Melburnians are probably the most forensic people in terms of going out and exploring and being delighted by discovery, but the culture around bars in Sydney has definitely changed.''After a 10-year slump since the Olympics, Mr Barton believes Sydney is enjoying a counter-cultural renaissance as people seek niche venues.So receptive and energetic have punters and governing bodies been that Mr Barton and other entrepreneurs are focusing their attention north.''While Sydney is becoming more progressive, Melbourne is becoming more arcane,'' he said.''One of the reasons which drives my business more so to Sydney is the feeling that there are people who want to make this happen. In Melbourne, people are culturally fatigued and it's harder to get that local community support which is what makes small bars so great.''Difficulties still remain for bar owners, particularly Sydney's notoriously high rents and the often convoluted licensing process. Cr Moore and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said they were working to make the licensing and development processes more closely aligned to minimise time and costs for applicants. Chris Lane, the co-owner of Small Bar, in the city centre, said that although there was a gap between the council's optimism and those who assess applications, the process was handled well. ''There is so much potential … There are so many excited business owners and it won't be long before Melbourne is number two,'' Mr Lane said.
THE number of small bars in Sydney is rising so quickly that one licensee has formed an organisation to defend the interests of the burgeoning industry. Martin O'Sullivan, who set up the Seven Metre Bar and owns the Grasshopper Laneway Bar, formed the group to give the owners of small venues a collective voice. About two dozen small bars have opened in the city and more are due to open before the end of summer. Development applications have been lodged with City of Sydney Council for five others.''What the Small Bar Association is about, it's getting people like Sticky Bar and Pocket bar and all those other venues a voice so that they can feel they can get some representation,'' Mr O'Sullivan said.Mr O'Sullivan - who has worked with Goodbar, Dragonfly, Ladylux and The Lincoln in his decade in the industry - said licensees of smaller venues were fed up with being tarred with the same brush as larger venues when people were discussing alcohol and violence. The new association would also encourage more people to open their own venues, he said.''If you work in a bar and get yourself to the point where you're a manager to a bar, it's very difficult to take the next step,'' he said.''The idea is to make it accessible.''It means that you or I or anyone is able to set up their own bar.''Mr O'Sullivan said a small bar cost less to open than a larger venue - about $200,000 compared with a minimum $1 million outlay for a nightclub and up to tens of millions for a pub.He described Grasshopper, a small French eating house and bar, as ''very Melbourne'', with no visible entrance or signs.''Not everyone wants to go to one of Justin Hemmes's amazing venues,'' he said. ''People want intimacy. People want the ability to go somewhere where the bartender knows who you are.''People like going somewhere where everyone is welcome and we don't have door names and door-lists. It's a refreshing change.''Lord mayor Clover Moore said there had been continual high demand for the more intimate drinking holes since new drinking laws came into effect on July 1, 2007. The laws were designed to ''promote small, vibrant boutique bars and places to listen to live music, as an alternative to large-scale, noisy, TV- and poker machine-dominated existing venues'', Cr Moore said.''This helps protect residential amenity, build a more civilised drinking culture and encourage owners and operators to use live entertainment in their venues.''The new bars include Absinthesalon in Albion Street, Surry Hills, opened by Cr Moore, and Balcony Bar in Erskine Street. Shady Pines Saloon on Crown Street will open soon.
TINY bars tucked away in the city's back streets are transforming how -- and what -- Sydneysiders are drinking.
One year on from a legislative shake-up to encourage small bars, a bitter concoction of financial turmoil and a chronic shortage of space has not put off 22 barmen from intimate little drinking spots across the city.
Not just an escape from the sound of throbbing nightclub doof-doof or giant plasma screens and pokies of big pubs, each culture-rich cubbyhole has challenged the beer-swilling Australian stereotype.
Taking its inspiration from Melbourne's bar culture, the City of Sydney Council enacted legislation making it easier for smaller venues to get a liquor licence without spending tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege.
In July this year, the council gave an even greater incentive for people to rejuvenate alleys around the city with small bars by offering up to $50,000 to approved projects.
Cocktails will be served in jam jars at the premises of 7m Bar when it opens next week. Not so much a ``hole in a wall' as an alley decorated with debris including an old BMW, seven boats and a swing set, the art installation is inspired by what Sydney Harbour would cough up if the ocean rises 7m -- the inspiration behind the bar's name.
At the other end of the scale is Absinthesalon, which harks back to old-world absinthe drinking, serving it pure or in the traditional sugar-cube method. Absinthe importers Joop van Heausden and Gaye Valttila want to bring ritual back into the lucid herbal tonic and demystify the aperitif's history when they open in four weeks -- the drink was once said to be an addictive psychoactive drug.
``It's traditionally served between 4pm and 7pm, the green hour,'' Mr van Heausden said, explaining their 4pm to 10pm liquor licence.
They offer up to 25 varieties of absinthe, and only absinthe, served in the traditional turn-of-the-20th century fashion.
All entrepreneurs have felt a simmering demand for something special.
Three-month-old Pocket bar in Darlinghurst has shot to the top of the modelling circuit with its interior design of street-art-meets-your-nan's-house and a pledge of no posers, pre-mixed drinks or doormen.
Nearby, Jason Scott is about to pull the insides out of a vacant record store and an old surf shop and bolt on a bar to bring us Shady Pines Saloon -- fashioned like a country-and-western tavern in tribute to 1920s US sly grog dens. Aref Jaroudy, of Low 302, thought late food was missing from a Sydney night out and now offers dinner until 2am.
Owners agree the lounge-room size intimacy means better behaved clientele.
``We get the best blend of people, who can come to a place where they don't feel harassed or intimidated,'' Sticky Bar's Michael Fantuz told The Daily Telegraph.
Demand for more hole-in-the-wall drinking venues continues to grow, with seminars on starting a bar in Sydney booked out.