Basement bars: Sydney's other underbelly
You may not be aware, but Sydney has a boozey underbelly. There are numerous places around town where one can sip a clandestine cocktail or a camouflaged craft beer in dimmed lighting and a lock-in atmosphere, you just need to know where to find the damn things. To give you a helping hand, we’ve shortlisted seven of Sydney’s best underground bars.
You’ve probably strolled down York St and past this cosy joint without even knowing it. Its windows are lined with Imperial AT-AT Walker figurines (what’s up Star Wars fans) and other retro trinkets, and that’s just the start of it. Mosey on down the rabbit hole and you’ll find yourself surrounded by Atari consoles and couches. The walls are often lined with local art and the ever-rotating taps pour NSW-only craft beers. These guys also knock up a mean cocktail – its beer cocktail has apparently been crowned the best in Sydney.
This subterranean swill house on Clarence St was ranked sixth in the World’s 50 Best Bars Award in 2015. The “Baxter” is dark and wooden and its liquor shelves are ridiculously stacked. Rumour has it its whiskey list is up around 800 strong. Just stop and think about that for a second… there’s impressive hangover potential there.
This place is on Clarence St and it’s awesome, but it isn’t for everyone. Before you continue reading, just know that its shtick is video games in a bar. If you can imagine a gamers’ bedroom mixed with the pub from Cheers, you’ll be somewhere close to Spawn Point Small Bar. It’s like a booze-serving library for different gaming consoles, with everything from rollercoasters on Oculus Rift headsets to Donkey Kong Country on Nintendo 64. Just be careful not to drop the N-bomb here (nerd, that is), or you might cop a controller to the face.
These guys are about local, seasonal and sustainable food and drink, god bless ‘em. But hang on, the Old Growler… what does that even mean? Actually, don’t answer that. But if you are wandering around William St near the Coke sign and in need of a quench, drop in to this basement bar for a pint of craft beer, a glass of Malbec and a ploughman’s platter.
Frankie’s absolutely cranks. The Hunter St hangout does solid pizza, international beers (including a beer of the week), a mean green apple cider and live rock ‘n’ roll. Being open seven nights a week until 3am, these guys are flying the flag high for Sydney’s embattled nightlife. Most Sydney-siders have a late night Frankie’s tale and if you don’t, you’re probably a wee bit boring.
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To complement an imaginative cocktail list, this York St haunt has a barrel-ageing program – meaning they’ve foraged the lands for their favourite Seppo whiskies, blended them and left them to mature in vats. If you’re down with the brown liquor, ask the bartender for a flight and try them all.
Not just a clever name, this really is an actual barbershop. Shimmy past the piles of hair in the shopfront and you’ll find yourself in a swinging small bar with a cocktail and spirits list that would’ve given Dean Martin (too soon for an Amy joke?) a run for his money.