Palmer & Co, Sydney, New South Wales © Destination NSW
The best hidden bars in Sydney
Sydney has turned its basement spaces, heritage courtyards and old butcher shops into hard-to-find speakeasies. You'll be glad you made the effort to seek them out.
By Paul Chai
Disguised entrances, dark interiors and enviable cocktail lists – Sydney's hidden bar scene going strong. The city has embraced the old-fashioned speakeasy style of bar, and they're packed with drinkers who love a good time.
Since I Left You
Where: 338 Kent St, Sydney
Your friendly neighbourhood small bar, Since I Left You has been a firm favourite among the city drinking crowd since it opened. The big drawcard is the courtyard with original 19th century architecture, strings of festive fairy lights and live bands. Signature cocktails are full of fresh ingredients, and there are plenty of bar snacks to nibble on.
Where: 175 Victoria St, Potts Point
With no website and no menu online (just a limited Instagram presence), this place is likely to stay off the radar. Jack’s is a well-kept secret, with a dark interior covered in vintage band posters and a long bar illuminated by retro Victorian light shades. They are big fans of classic cocktails, and offer a scrumptious menu of bar snacks.
The Baxter Inn
Where: 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney
Unmarked from outside, low lit within, and with a wall of whisky that requires a tall ladder to get to the top shelf stuff, The Baxter Inn is the perfect spot for a whisky sour and some free pretzels (the only bar snacks on offer). There is even a speakeasy-within-a-speakeasy here in the form of the concealed Whisky Room, where the really good stuff lives.
Earl's Juke Joint
Where: 407 King St, Newtown
Earl's hides behind the facade of the old Betta Meats butchery that used to operate here. Now, when you push through the front door, expect quality cocktails rather than quality meat. Framed photos, exposed ceiling beams and a dark wood bar form the simple decor, but you come to Earl’s for the company. This loud and fun joint models itself on a down-home American bar but with upmarket drinks. Pick something with bourbon in it and you can't go wrong.
Where: 61 York St, Sydney
One of the more high-concept modern speakeasy entries – you squeeze past the faux seamstress on street level, down a dark staircase to the bar below – Stitch is packed full of old Singer sewing machines, spools of thread and ornate metal dividers in booths that echo the old machine's design. It's a whisky joint, so grab an old fashioned. If you are in need of a bite, the food is American-inspired; burgers, hot dogs and bar snacks are all on offer.
Where: Basement/275 Clarence St, Sydney
Grandma's is a place where you always get spoilt. This kitsch basement bar boasts a tropical vibe and self-proclaimed "faded granny glamour." The star drinks are a range of exotic tiki concoctions (think mai tais and coladas), which you can sip at candlelit tables. The intimate bar space is narrow, so you're bound to make new friends.
Palmer & Co.
Where: Abercrombie Ln, Sydney
Walking down the cobblestone alleyway, then down the narrow fire escape stairwell to prohibition bar Palmer & Co. feels like being transported to another place and time. Music plays, black and white photographs line the walls and antique knick-knacks are carefully displayed, all harking back to a forgotten time when liquor was banned (but always free-flowing). At this modern-day speakeasy, the focus is on the spirits, with a wide selection of gins, whiskies, tequilas and absinthe to choose from.
Old Mate's Place
Where: Level 4/199 Clarence St, Sydney
Once you manage to actually locate the discrete entrance to Old Mate's and ascend the four levels of steep, narrow stairs (don't worry...there's also an easy-to-find lift), you'll be in need of an icy cold beverage. Order a drink from the curated cocktail list, and perhaps something off the bar menu, which features a rotating selection of deli sandwiches.
Love, Tilly Devine
Where: 91 Crown Ln, Darlinghurst
Tilly Devine, infamous Sydney brothel madam and organised crime boss, would have been running speakeasies back in her day, but her modern namesake is an altogether more sophisticated proposition. Down a Darlinghurst laneway the Love, Tilly Devine set-up is simple: white-washed brick, refined share plates and lovingly selected wines. Grab the prime spot at the window and tour the world via the 300-strong wine list.