In a harbor city with no shortage of quality drinking establishments, these new-to-the-scene bars and cocktail lounges are making waves.
Once a popular haunt for dockworkers, the century-old Hotel Palisade is today more posh than proletariat. Recently reopened after a seven-year hiatus, it sports eight smart guest rooms crowned by the Henry Deane, a cocktail bar named for the engineer who designed the hotel above the original pub in 1915. The two-level space has been fitted out by stylist and historian Sibella Court with pink-leather sofas, copper-trimmed furnishings, and plenty of marble. But what you really come here for is the views, which take in the Harbour Bridge, Goat Island, and parts of Barangaroo. Order a Bobâ€™s Biscuit (Chivas Regal, vermouth, and Dom BĂ©nĂ©dictine, served with shortbread), nudge your way onto the balcony, and realize why Sydney is regarded as one of the worldâ€™s prettiest cities (35 BettingtonÂ St., Millers Point; 61-2/9018-0123).
When a quartet of Sydneyâ€™s savviest hoteliers joins forces on a classic Aussie pub project, great food and beer is guaranteed. At The Unicornâ€”a collaboration between the teams behind Maryâ€™s, PorteĂ±o and Young Henrysâ€”this comes in the form of weekly roasts, veggie lasagna, trifle, and old-school pub beers such as XXXX, VB, and Coopers. Itâ€™s not just the menu that nods to its antipodean roots, what with the bar top made from reclaimed red gum and native flora and fauna prints on the walls. The beautiful Art Deco building is blissfully free of the TVs and slot machines that clutter many other city watering holes; instead, thereâ€™s a dartboard, pool table, and piano for sing-alongs (106 Oxford St., Paddington; 61-2/9360-7994; no website).
A haberdashery cabinet may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think whiskey haunt, but at this CBD newcomerâ€”the latest project from Merivale groupâ€™s CEO Justin Hemmesâ€”the furnishing comes with a history. Located on the second floor of the Angel Hotel, J&Mâ€™s space was once the headquarters of Hemmesâ€™s family fashion outlet, House of Merivale. Besides the antique cabinet, itâ€™s now thoughtfully designed with leather and velvet armchairs, polished floorboards, and unfinished concrete walls. You donâ€™t have to leave your seat to get a drink, as charismatic staff wheel around an old trolley laden with cocktail-making paraphernalia, currently with a Chivas 18 twist. Try A Life Less Ordinary (a not-for-the-fainthearted blend of Chivas, Aperol, bitters, Pernod, absinthe, and more) or opt for a rare Speyside or Irish whiskey from the impressive list (1 Angel Place; 61-2/9254-8088).
Applejack Hospitality (the group behind Sydneyâ€™s popular Bondi Hardware and The Botanist) has expanded its portfolio into Darlinghurst with this luxe lobby-esque barâ€”think period furnishings, gilded mirrors, and tiled floors, all in muted tones of pink and gray. A great way to begin the night is with a Count Negroniâ€™s Cold Drip, a clever riff on everyoneâ€™s favorite aperitif made by muddling coffee-infused gin, vermouth, orange bitters and Orange Colombo in place of Campari. Sipping this eye-opener while perched on a Chesterfield banquette, itâ€™s hard to believe that in its last incarnation, the underground space was one of the cityâ€™s more notorious nightclubs (34 Oxford St., Darlinghurst; 61-2/9331-5434).
While many Sydney bars glam up their menus to the point where the line between drinking establishment and exclusive restaurant becomes blurred, The Paddington is positively shunning froufrou at the hands of chef Ben Greeno (formerly of Noma) and his custom-made French rotisserie. If the slick split-level spaceâ€”all white tiles, exposed brick, and timberâ€”doesnâ€™t entice you to linger, then Greenoâ€™s organic Bannockburn roast chicken and chips will. Itâ€™s the perfect accompaniment to the impressive wine list or, for something offbeat, a blend of Plymouth Sloe gin, pink grapefruit, lemon, tonic, cider, and coriander that the bar calls Sloe Mo (384 Oxford St., Paddington; 61-2/9240-3000).