The unconventional and eccentric culture of Sydney’s hipster neighbourhood, Newtown, has flowed naturally into its bar scene. From boutique breweries and rock-n-roll burger joints to speakeasies and beautifully styled cocktail bars, a wander along King Street and Enmore Road will fulfil all requirements. Three legends of the Sydney bar scene share their take on the best bars in Newtown.
Dotted between the vibrant street art, antique book stores and eclectic mix of restaurants is a quirky mix of fabulous bars. Whether it’s a quick drink before a gig at the Enmore, or an all-night bar crawl, there’s a bar in Newtown to suit all tastes. And there are few better equipped to curate a list of the best bars more than Charlie Lehmann of Ramblin’ Rascal fame, Dre Walters from Old Mate’s Place and Lachie Gunner of Grandma’s Bar. Whether it’s excellent service, expert cocktails or the ambience and culture, these three experts help Culture Trip narrow down the best bars in Newtown.
“I’ve been bartending for close to seven years, first in Adelaide, then moving to Sydney three years ago,” Lachie explains. “Newtown for me has always been the place to go to have a good time without fail. There’s always something to see or do or drink or experience.”
Jacoby’s Tiki Bar
Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
Courtesy of Jacoby’s Tiki Bar
Taking inspiration from the American tiki bars of the 1930s, Jacoby’s Tiki Bar is a colourful oasis serving tropical cocktails. Twin Peaks fans may notice references to the cult TV series, including the hallway which is reminiscent of a notorious scene from the show. Run by the team behind Newtown’s Earl’s Juke Joint, Lehmann says, “Up the top end of Enmore road near the famous Enmore Theatre, this tiki bar has all your tropical hijinks and a quirky twist of David Lynch-inspired artefacts. Smash a can of Tecate or delight yourself in a Piña Colada and settle in.” Gunner adds, “If I’m looking for a party, there’s no better option than Jacoby’s Tiki Bar on a Sunday night.”
A few blocks away from Enmore Road is Young Henrys, a craft brewery that doubles as a bar. Five signature beers are available on tap: Real Ale, Natural Lager, Hop Ale, Cloudy Cider and Newtowner, as well as two or more alternating brews. Owners Richard Adamson and Oscar McMahon believe that, “Everyone deserves to drink good beer,” with their intention being to “brew beer our local community would enjoy and be proud to call their own.” Judging by the packed tables on a weekend afternoon, they have succeeded. “The Young Henrys boys are very active within the local community providing dope civic and social spirit. More so, they are the official beer of the greatest Rugby League team ever, the South Sydney Rabbitohs,” Lehmann adds.
A neighbourhood deli on Australia Street, featuring an array of delicious European goods, fine wines and canned cocktails, Continental Deli Bar and Bistro’s winning formula has led to a second outpost opening in the CBD. According to Lehmann, this place is “the perfect spot for a Sunday arvo, chugging down their famous Mar-tinny (canned martini) while you delve into cured meats, canned razor clams, stankin’ cheeses or their famous three-cheese toastie. Take your nan here, she’ll love it.”
Housed in an old butcher’s shop, Earl’s Juke Joint is a New Orleans-style speakeasy, named after drummer Earl Palmer. Owned by Pasan Wijesena, the ex-manager of Shady Pines, the cocktails here are expertly mixed with a frequently changing menu. According to Walters, Earls is “run by legends – they know good drinks, and service is on point”. Aim for happy hour between 4pm-6pm, Monday to Friday.
Café by day and bar by night, 1989 Arcade Bar is the passion project of Brit Ben Campbell and his Aussie wife Marnie, who sold their one-bed flat in London, moved to Australia and opened up Sydney’s first (and only) arcade-themed bar. It features more than 29 classic arcade games – including Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Streetfighter and Donkey Kong – and 23 craft beers. This is the place to relive your teenage years. Serious gamers can also take part in video game tournaments at this King Street venue.
With several outposts across the city, Mary’s has become a Sydney institution, but the love affair began in Newtown. According to Lehmann, it’s the city’s “premier beer, burger and fried chicken joint. Loud tunes, shots of Jack and Reschs on tap! What more could you want? They also pack a large selection of natural wine. I always lose my shirt here and wake up knowing I’ve had a good time with the hangover to match.”
“Tandem Bar is my hidden gem – known for its Scandinavian approach to atmosphere and cocktails. The bartenders there are always friendly and up for a chat,” says Gunner. The Scandi-themed bar, complete with a tandem bicycle above the entrance, specialises in aquavit, with aquavit cocktails, aquavit and tonic, and aquavit flights all available on the menu. The King Street hangout has four areas: the main bar, the living room, an outdoor courtyard and the loft. Make the most of what the menu has to offer by timing a visit to coincide with happy hour, Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm–7pm, with $6 (£3) pale ales and $12 (£6) Aperol Spritzes.
For a bar/restaurant combo, Bloodwood delivers the goods, serving biodynamic wines and seasonal dishes inspired by Asian, Middle Eastern and European cuisine. According to Walters, “It’s super simple – the food is a perfect example of using good produce and balancing flavours, the staff are amazing, and the wine list is on point. It’s across the road from Earl’s Juke joint, so there really is no need to go anywhere else in Newtown.”