A whiskey den with a colourful past, a brewery that’s a hit with families and an urban farm that makes its menu from the spoils – these are some of Sydney’s best new places to down a bevvie or three.
The Doss House
Luckily co-owner Eoin Daniels is a joiner or this place may still be a storage facility for excess denim stock, which was its purpose before Irish expat Colm O’Neill unearthed the (now) whiskey bar. The fortress of heritage sandstone that creates such a hearty home for The Rocks’ The Doss House, a moody below-street-level den for whiskey lovers, is both the blessing and the curse for the atmospheric venue – the latter only for such strict council restrictions enforced on its interiors. The owners’ enthusiasm for rich, history-backed hospitality is palpable from the drinks list (that runs over 150 whiskey bottles long) to the interior flourishes celebrating the venue’s former life – a place of lodging for unsavoury types, of course, and also a thriving opium den. Take a seat in front of the fire, employ the wit and knowledge of the bartenders and chomp on emu prosciutto, kangaroo salami and the Italian ‘sorpresa’ cheese where the mystery is all part of the fun.
77/79 George Street, The Rocks; 0457 880 180
Bondi Public Beach Bar
At Bondi Public Beach Bar, you may as well be barefoot for how easy drinking and snacking is in this welcoming, open space at the foot of QT Bondi. Staff are chatty and free with ordering endorsements (the insanely juicy Double Squish Cheeseburger comes heartily recommended, as do the pizzas with their pleasingly thin and crisp crusts). Wines come in all shades – white, red, orange, pink – and the all-important spritz comes in three varieties, including one with strawberry, agave and an Italian elderflower bevvie, Fiorente.
180 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach; (02) 9132 5777
The Spritz Bar at Acre
Urban farming is more than just a crafty backdrop at Acre. Set on the inner-city site of Pocket City farms, the ethos of the venue trickles down to the staff’s care and enthusiasm for everything from changed menu unveilings to the weekday activities held on-site for community members. At Acre’s new outdoor Spritz Bar, arms are further outstretched for school night aperitivo platters that make their way around tables free of charge. Ordering off the menu is just as rewarding: the rustic tearing and sharing platters are excellent. Make a point of ordering the local mozzarella, sprinkled with radicchio and toasted hazelnuts, as well as the salt fish croquettes.
31A Mallett Street, Camperdown; (02) 9194 3100
In the sandwiched space between Potts Point Hotel and Sweetheart’s Rooftop, Boogie Mountain takes up the mantle of a late-night venue in both mood and ethos. While the interiors are said to be inspired by the Arizona desert, the result is more a Lynch-esque lodge, with royal blue and deep red velvets perfect for dimly lit evenings spent spinning around the circular tables. There’s no dud on the sin-soaking menu of hearty offerings but the poutine tumbled with butter-poached lobster and cheese curds is the obvious frontrunner. The lentil “disco balls” – smokey, arancini-style spheres – easily exceed meaty counterparts with serious flavour. Should your night morph into a morning, the ‘lock-in’ menu is also pure genius: order Maccas at the bar and have it delivered right to the dancefloor.
33 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point; (02) 9368 7333
The Stockade Brew Co. Barrel Room
If a place is the sum of its parts, then this Marrickville brewery must be all family. In one corner, there’s a group of young bucks happily appreciating sips in the barrel room. At almost every second table in the expansive warehouse space, families are juggling well-behaved kids and golden, frothy beers. It’s a grown-up spot for a classically rowdy drink and the beers on tap reflect that. Alongside the expert staple brews of 8 Bit, Chop Shop Duel and Hop Splicer, for example, there are also a few barrel-aged options that come of age on-site. For the peckish, a food truck is stationed at the venue’s entrance and regularly rotate: when we visit, local burger slinger Baby Rey’s gets into the spirit with beer-infused sauces and truffle-doused fries.
25 Cadagon Street, Marrickville
This diminutive corner diner may appear muted behind its drawn Venetian blinds but like many of Manly’s dimly lit bars, darkness is always linked to activity. Rather spacious for a nook, rowdy music signals that it’s very much the kind of place you can both start and finish an evening – as does the comfy booth-style seating parallel to the more casual bar stool set up. If beginning here, wave a finger over the cocktail menu (almost any choice is a winner) and move on to a menu of comfort classics not out of place at any New York diner. The pastrami-stuffed Reuben towers with its incalculable layers of expertly salted beef (offset perfectly with the sting of sweet and spicy pickles) and the Liquor Chicken is almost intimidating in its decadence, oozing retro-style gravy and a hunk of fried bird between two golden waffles. There’s also bottomless coffee for any night that’s swerving dangerous towards morning.
49 Sydney Road, Manly
Though this Pyrmont stalwart has a sheen of newness thanks to a considerable refurbishment following a three-decade-long closure, it still retains a few historic touches. Out front, the painted billboard still advertises a beer garden and Tooth’s beer on tap (though the latter isn’t present alongside the list of elaborate concoctions served in Vera’s Cocktail Lounge upstairs), the original jade-coloured tiles that line the lower half of the walls have been thoroughly buffed and the trailing ivy has been cleared from the sandstone that lines the outdoor beer garden, save a little left for character. Lunch and dinner offers a Mediterranean take on pub-food regulars – rump steak is served with sautéed lentils, the cheeseburger patty features soy sauce and za’atar and the golden fried calamari rings come with a house-made tartar sauce. – Kate Barracosa
61 Harris Street, Pyrmont (02) 9692 0301