A Night Behind Bars – I take a look at some of Sydney’s best watering holes.

Posted on August 1, 2010


There are so many wonderful bars to choose from in Sydney and it’s simply impossible to cover them all. However, here’s my personal pick of a few of them.

Zeta Bar – I was here last year and I have to say it was fantastic. I had what has to be one of the top three martinis I’ve ever had in any bar in any city. The service was first class and the waitress listened attentively to how I wanted my drink. When it came, it was beautifully made and presented; a perfect drink in an almost frozen glass. However, if you’re just there for a beer and the atmosphere, then Zeta won’t disappoint either. It has a spectacular view of the Sydney skyline from the open terrace, and the decor is stylish and sophisticated. The Marble Bar in the basement of building is well worth a visit too.

The view from the Zeta Bar's terrace.

Water Bar. The setting here is incredible. The modern design of the bar blends seamlessly into the industrial architecture of what used to be a working wharf warehouse but is now the Blue Hotel. Here you can expect great, personal, one-on-one service and excellent drinks at a reasonable price. This place is just great for the atmosphere, looking, as it does, like some kind of Ken Adam inspired Bond set. After your drink I recommend a stroll along the promenade, where some of the grandest motor yachts in Sydney are moored and where you can look out over the gently lapping water of the harbour.

The Water Bar at Woolloomooloo's Blue Hotel.

The Loft. I love this bar. It’s got fantastic views over the harbour and the interior is very retro 60’s chic. The drinks are lovely, the waitresses are hard to take your eyes off and the crowd is decidedly cool. Lounge at one of the tables, separated by honeycombed screens or chill out on the terraced balcony and drink in the view.

The Loft Bar. Don't wear orange.

Lotus. What to say about this place? Possibly the best cocktails in the World. It’s tight and dark and intimate, but boy do they know how to mix. First time I went there Alexx, the bar manager, had me a gin martini shaken to perfection in moments. And the two ladies I was with had their drinks ready at the same time. Super fast and super good. The décor is somehow reminiscent of the 20s and 30s, but still manages to be cool and contemporary. It’s a bit squeezy inside as the space is limited and this is a popular bar, but this adds to the atmosphere. A great list on offer, but this is the sort of place you can order anything and they’ll be able to whip it up in moments. I’ve heard a rumor that Alexx has gone now, which is a shame, because she really was such a great asset. I hope she’s still there because, if you get her to make you a drink, you’ll never forget it.

A perfect Martini from one of the World's best bartenders.

Hugo’s. A super cool bar, this often feels like something out of a movie, packed with well-dressed beautiful types. A decent drink is on offer, but I didn’t get much of a connection with the staff. Dress up, order something long and settle in for a great evening of people watching. Can be a few egos, but it’s just too cool a bar not to enjoy yourself in.


Zeta, I’ve mentioned, but The Marble Bar in the basement is a fantastic too. As the name suggests, there’s a lot of marble in there. It’s the original bar of Tattersalls, dating from around the 1890s. It was dismantled and recreated in the basement of the Hilton. It’s dark and cozy down there, the polar opposite of Zeta‘s modern, light design, but if you’re after a moody, atmospheric and interesting place to drink, you could do a lot worse.

The Marble Bar.

The Attic Bar in The Arthouse is also a good spot for a drink. The Arthouse itself four bars over three levels. I suggest the Attic because it’s a little cozier, but the Dome Lounge on the second floor is good too. The ground floor pub is  often heaving and is more for beers then it is for shakers. However, with so many different places to drink, you could go on a bar crawl without ever leaving the building!

The Establishment. I fondly remember this place opening up. An absolutely beautiful place, The Establishment was one of the first to try and reinvigorate the bar scene in Sydney. Sadly, it has ended up frequented by a lot of city boys and the atmosphere never really lived up to the décor. Still, this is the sort of place that Wallpaper magazine was created for in terms of architecture, interior design and style.

The Establishment.

If you feel like going into the 60s, go to Orbit. It looks just like a set from 2001, with red carpets and Saarinen Tulip chairs and tables, and has incredible views over the city. It’s the bar of the Summit’s revolving restaurant, so expect 360º views of this incredible city. Well worth going up there after dark. This reminds me of the wonderful Top Of The Town, which used to be the bar of The International in Darlinghurst, which has sadly passed away into the pages of history.

HAL 9000 makes a killer drink.

Longrain is a popular restaurant and bar, situated in the heart of Surrey Hills and is one of the Eastern Suburbs trendiest hang outs. Probably best known for the fabulous food and the dining experience along one long communal table, the bar here is also first rate. This isn’t the typical dressy bar. The atmosphere here is far more casual and relaxed with music from resident DJ’s setting the mood. This place is famous for its Caiprioska, and after trying one, you’ll see why.

Getting a bit muddled at Longrain.

The Dome Bar, Surrey Hills is a gem of a bar, set atop of the Crown Hotel on Crown street. The décor is really quite eclectic for a Sydney bar, which seems to be caught up in the modern, minimal and clean. This goes for a more extravagant, opulent approach, filling the space with chaise lounges and ottomans. The dark, atmospheric space is moodily lit with chandeliers and the colour scheme is all crimson and gold. Very reasonably priced cocktails to be had to.

Dome - Mention it.

The Darlo Bar is really one of my favourite places to drink in Sydney. It’s furnished with a mixture of 50s furniture that looks like it’s been found in second hand shops, garage sales and deceased estates. Nothing quite matches, but it all completely compliments the vibe of the place.  It’s sort of a mess, but it oozes the sort of relaxed cool that many bars would kill for.  Not strictly a cocktail bar, but they are to be had and very inexpensively. A fairly recent addition is the upstairs, where there is now an outside area. This has greatly increased the capacity as the bars popularity itself has increased, and, whilst this provides a place for smokers, this has robbed the bar of some of its dishevelled charm.

Darlo Bar.


Posted in: Food & Drink, Reviews