A bottle shop that sells mouth-watering oysters, a lively bar behind an unmarked door – this is underground Sydney, and these are the best places to dig up a few secrets.
In the middle of Sydney’s bustling CBD, through a fire door next to a sandwich shop at the northern end of Pitt Street, you’ll find a subterranean oasis – but it won’t be easy. Descend a flight of stairs, wander down a long corridor, veer right and look for a pineapple doorknocker. You’ll need to rap three times to gain entry to one of the city’s newest speakeasies, Door Knock. It’s industrial yet comfy, seductive yet approachable, and the menu boasts vibrant, fresh cocktails that promise to transport the senses from Sydney’s concrete jungle to a Bali tree house. Try the in-house bottled tipple, My Ex Paloma, a smoky spin on the classic Mexican cocktail, with hopped mezcal, smoked grapefruit, agave and apple cider vinegar.
Image: Sarah Abad
On any normal day, Redfern Continental is the suburb’s best bistro for an Aussie take on European cuisine – think more-ish pastas, steak frites and sauerkraut. But its naughty-little-sister bar, GDR, is where the good times unfold. With sultry velvet booths juxtaposed with kitsch European landscape art, David Hasselhoff glamour shots and an always-spinning mirror ball, this cocktail bar is a reward to the curious, found behind a large door at the back of the restaurant. Head here on Sundays between 5pm and 7pm to finish the weekend with $1 oysters and a sexy disco soundtrack.
Catch of the day
For those who suffer chronic menu indecision or loathe large, soulless venues, mark this tiny eight-seat restaurant in your black book. The most intimate of Japanese diners, Raita Noda Chef’s Kitchen in Surry Hills is one of very few omakase eateries – meaning the menu is a no-preview, chef’s-choice-only 10-course dégustation that changes daily based on the best that chef Noda can buy at Sydney Fish Market on any given day. That could mean lightly torched boarfish or Western Australian octopus gussied up with hot extra-virgin olive oil and soy sauce. Here, the element of surprise is what delights.
Good to go
For more molluscs, buy fresh Wapengo Rocks oysters to take home and enjoy from the place you expect them least: P&V Wine and Liquor, a recently opened bottle shop – and much more – in Newtown. This forward-thinking establishment specialises in sought-after natural wines but its fridges are also packed with bottled cocktails (Negronis and Margaritas, anyone?). If you’re feeling hungry, you can pick up ready-to-roast or boil-in-a-bag dinners created by talented local chefs (the roast chicken with herb butter, lemon-brined spatchcock and dahls come courtesy of bar and burger joint Mary’s). BYO appetite.
Check out of your day and into the Sydney Opera House when The Australian Ballet brings Graeme Murphy’s spectacular Firebird to your lunch break on 18 April. The whimsical ballet will be performed in its 45-minute entirety, complete with a live orchestra, breathtaking costumes and special introduction from the artistic team, promising a dazzling way to break up the midweek slump. It’s part of the company’s ongoing behind-the-scenes program so expect to see more events like this throughout the year, including rehearsal-room glimpses, talks and classes.
Millinery and Martinis
You’ve heard of beers and barbers – but hats and house drinks? Soultrap is one of Sydney’s newest style-meets-tipple concepts, bringing bespoke millinery to a sultry Surry Hills basement bar. Located on Campbell Street, right by some of the precinct’s hottest new cafés and restaurants, this warmly lit speakeasy-slash-workshop has all the dressings of a friendly local, with a penchant for golden-age style and mood. Come for the one-off fedoras and stay for the jazz- and soul-centric soundtrack and French-themed apéritifs.
Behind the curtain
Curious about the processes that make Sydney Theatre Company world-renowned? Rough Drafts is an incubator that gives writers and directors free rein. Creatives get a rehearsal space, actors, dramaturgical support, a week to finesse their drafts and, at the end, a platform to present the piece to an audience – you! Tickets are free and it’s a rare chance to see how many of Sydney Theatre Company’s major shows come to fruition. Some of 2018’s biggest shows, such as The Long Forgotten Dream, Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story and Lethal Indifference, emerged from this program.
Top image: Door Knock/Sarah Abad