Best New Bars Sydney Best Bar Sydney

Concrete Playground | Sydney’s Best New Bars of 2018


The city’s very best boozy additions of the year.

From moonlit rooftops to moody underground dens, Sydney almost has it all when it comes to bars. But this hasn’t stopped a horde of new and inventive ones from opening this year. A tiny CBD tapas bar with standing room only, a rum distillery in the heart of Surry Hills and a hidden bar in The Rocks doling out 150 whiskies, cheese and kangaroo salami. This year’s newbies are nothing if not diverse.

At Concrete Playground we encourage exploration and showcase innovation in our city every day, so we thought it fitting to reward those most talented whippersnappers pushing Sydney to be a better, braver city. And so we’ve nominated these six newbies for Best New Bar in Concrete Playground’s Best of 2018 Awards.

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OLD MATE’S PLACE – A hidden drinking den that’s worth the search

Level 4, 199 Clarence Street, Sydney

Old Mate’s Place is a little tough to find, but well worth the effort — the two-level set-up makes for a charming hideaway, pulling inspiration from the diminutive drinking dens you’ll find hidden throughout office blocks in Japan. The bar’s lower floor calls to mind an old library, complete with stately bookshelves, dapper furnishings and family heirlooms throughout. Foliage creeps in and around like it’s been there forever, stretching up to encompass the secluded rooftop space above. Expect a cocktail list that’s broad and oft-changing, spreading plenty of love across a 300-strong back bar selection. To match, they’ve currently got a trio of Philly cheesesteaks and a rotation of cured meats.

Words: Libby Curran. 

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BAR TOPA – A charming convivial standing room tapas bar

4 Palings Lane, Sydney
Spanish tapas culture is reimagined with flavours from all over the Mediterranean for Merivale’s vibrant new culinary offering, Bar Topa. The pint-sized tapas bar in Palings Lane has just a handful of seats, with standing room for around 40 diners. Perching with a wine in hand and snacks to share is the way to go here, just like in Spain’s tapas bars. In the kitchen, Head Chef Lauren Murdoch is heading up a two-part, snack-heavy food offering. Displayed at the counter, you’ll find small bites like whipped salted cod, or sliced jamón on crisp bread, while the tapas menu features a heftier selection of dishes hot off la plancha — the Spanish-style grill. Expect plates of sautéed chicken livers, cuttlefish cooked with parsley, garlic and olive oil, whole sardines, and of course, that classic patatas bravas. There’s an innovative approach to drinks, mirroring the food menu of bite-sized snacks, with most cocktails, beer and wine served as half-pours.

Words: Libby Curran. Images: Nikki To.

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IMPERIAL UP – A rooftop that combines cocktails with LBGTQI+ culture

35 Erskineville Road, Erskineville

Thanks to the Imperial’s $6 million redevelopment, we can welcome Imperial Up to the Sydney rooftop scene. After being closed for nearly three decades, Imperial’s top floor has been spruced up with a 200-person courtyard, a plethora of pop art and gold mirror covered pizza ovens. Think serious Studio 54 feels with artisanal eats, drinks and Andy Warhol vibes. Menu-wise, expect Italian food with a touch of the Imperial’s flamboyant flair. The lineup of stuzzichino, pasta and pizza features fried school prawns with bright saffron aioli, spaghetti ragu, pepperoni pizza and wagyu steak. Like downstairs sibling Priscillas, Imperial UP also has a strong list of vegan, gluten free and dairy free dishes. And — importantly — an extensive cocktail menu, which stretches from the classics through to colourful jugs of inventive drinks. The space is fit for many occasions, the external rooftop and inside Carlotta’s Lounge primed for after-work drinks, and Rosa Room and Carpriccio’s Corner ready for intimate gatherings.

Words: Noelle Monge.

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BRIX DISTILLERS – The inner city’s only rum distillery

350 Bourke Street, Surry Hills

Brix not only serves rum — it makes it on-site. And it’s the first craft distillery dedicated to rum in Sydney’s inner city in a long time. The team behind the bar want to change the people’s attitude to rum and educate the public about the diversity of the spirit. The venue features a fully working distillery with an Australian-made 1200-litre still, which is overseen by head distiller Shane Casey (previously at Archie Rose). As well as its own haul, Brix has a ‘rum wall’ with over 150 varieties from around the world, and a rum-heavy cocktail list. The grand space, which has been designed by interior design firm Amber Road, includes an intimate mezzanine barrelling room, overlooking the still, and an open kitchen with counter dining and banquette seating fitting 70 people on the ground level. It features lots of greys with copper details and wall art by local street artist Nico Nicoson. Brix isn’t a restaurant, but food is still a central part of the distillery and bar. A compact menu, designed by Ivan Sanchez — who previously worked at Bodega and Porteño — features South American-inflected dishes, such as crisp tostadas topped with ceviche and pink grapefruit, pickled tongue with capers, jerk pork belly and a lineup of arepas (stuffed corn flatbreads).

Words: Monique Lane. Images: Dave Wheeler.

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THE DOSS HOUSE – An old-world whisky den in a heritage-listed space

77/79 George Street, The Rocks

A bootery, a boarding house and an opium den. These are just a few of the past lives of 77–79 George Street, but The Doss House is the latest moniker for this heritage-listed building — complete with a focus on whisky. The enormous 150-strong whisky collection is complemented by share platters featuring a selection of pickles, chutney, cheese and meat, with the Aussie-themed platter specifically including emu prosciutto and kangaroo salami paired with native cheeses. The exposed sandstone walls and renewed original fireplaces are paired with brass fittings, antique mirrors, luxurious orange velvet banquettes and an antique chesterfield sofa. The custom-made leather armchairs in one room are offset by high bar stools in another, plus it’s got a revitalised outdoor courtyard to boot.

Words: Marissa Ciampi. Images: Alana Dimou. 

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NICK & NORA’S – A luxe 30s-inspired bar on the 26th floor

45 Macquarie Street, Parramatta

Located up on the 26th floor of the V by Crown development, Nick & Nora’s is the Speakeasy Group’s sixth venue, joining a stable that includes hospitality hits like Eau de Vie and Mjolner. Pulling inspiration from Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man and its fictional sleuthing characters Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated space is a homage to the roaring 30s. Among the venue’s features: an opulent fit-out, lavish art deco touches and a whole lot of Champagne. It has room for an impressive 300 people, complete with a sprawling terrace boasting views across the CBD and Sydney Harbour. Even so, you can rest assured that booze isn’t taken lightly — the back bar selection runs to a hefty 900 spirits, while climate-controlled fridges are stocked with over 50 Champagnes from the world’s most celebrated houses. The cocktail offering is as tight as you’d expect from these pros, with a 30-strong list featuring multiple variations of martinis, sours and Champagne-infused sips. As for the food, expect an offering that holds its own against the plush vibe and ritzy drinks lineup — fine cheese and charcuterie, top-quality oysters and some of the world’s best caviar promise an all-round opulent affair.

Words: Libby Curran. Images: Jiwon Kim.