The Barfly’s Guide to Sydney

By: Maxine Sheppard

February 9, 2011

Who’s thirsty? It’s cocktail time again, and our Flying Barman Marc Plumridge is on hand once more to offer his favourite spots for enjoying some fantastic summer evenings, Sydney-style.


“Cosmopolitan and confident – the two words most commonly written about Sydney as a whole apply even more so to its bar scene. Vast, open, light and airy spaces which take advantage of the city’s spectacular natural setting are the order of the day, though there has been much encouragement over recent years to develop more intimate, low-key alternatives. Here’s my pick of where to go to experience the best that Sydney has to offer…”


Longrain, a modern Thai restaurant and bar, sits within a spacious converted warehouse in the artistic quarter of inner-city suburb Surry Hills, just minutes from the CBD. With a delectable range of cocktails, an impressive winelist and an award-winning menu created by executive chef Martin Boetz, it’s easily as popular amongst locals as it is with Sydney’s many visitors.

Inside, it’s all about original industrial features juxtaposed with modern design twists, set against a backdrop of contemporary Australian art and photography. The uber-sleek cocktail bar attracts the city’s chic young urbanites and the overall space exudes a laid-back New York vibe, which ramps up a gear at the weekends.

Let the bartender make you a splendid ‘stick drink‘ – a refreshing blend of fresh fruit, vodka and ice, muddled with an enormous wooden stick, or a Ping-Pong cocktail, like the one below.

Longrain, 85 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills

Café Sydney

Cafe Sydney © Cafe Sydney

Cafe Sydney © Cafe Sydney

Circular Quay’s Cafe Sydney is uniquely situated on the rooftop of Customs House overlooking the harbour, and offers one of the very best views in Sydney. Make the most of it by nabbing a well-placed table on the outdoor terrace – perfect for long summer lunches or a sultry late-night rendezvous – or dine inside and admire the city through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Cocktails at Cafe Sydney © Cafe Sydney

Cocktails at Cafe Sydney © Cafe Sydney

Right now, the Summer Cocktail Menu is in operation, and it’s truly extensive. Bring out your fruity side with a Hurricane – a zingy blend of passion fruit, orange and lime juices shaken with Bacardi Superior and Bacardi 8 rums, or an Office Fling martini – white peach, lemon zest and vanilla sugar, drawn together with Grey Goose La Poire vodka, vanilla liquer and cloudy apple juice.

Cafe Sydney, 31 Alfred St, Circular Quay

Pocket Bar

Pocket Bar is one of Darlinghurst’s newer establishments and is absolutely capitalising on the need for more intimate spaces throughout Sydney.

Pocket is currently the height of cool. It’s main sofa-stuffed room is the perfect size and the atmosphere is buzzy without being overwhelming: you can still have a conversation without feeling like you’re yelling. And if the graffit-art that covers the walls inspires you, pop next door to alternative art gallery Outré, specialists in contemporary and underground pop art.

The cocktail list is clean, simple, and delivered with confidence. My choice from the broad selection on offer would be the Pocket Spring Punch, an invigorating combination of Bacardi Gold rum and fresh fruit simply spritzed with champagne, or a classic Cazadores Margarita – always sure to hit the spot.

Pocket Bar, 13 Burton St, Darlinghurst

Ivy Pool Club

Sydney’s Ivy complex, created by ‘playboy’ entrepreneur Justin Hemmes, is a huge six-level nightlife and dining venue arranged around an open-air central courtyard complete with towering trees and trailing ivy teased perfectly into position.

Culinary choices include New York-style grill Mad Cow, premium burger bar The Kitchen, and intimate wine bar and bistro Ash St Cellar, while those seeking just to imbibe are even more spoilt for choice.

An ex-recipient of Time Out Sydney’s Bar of the Year award, The Ivy Bar is the main hub, and describes itself as a ‘sophisticated urban playground’, while The Den is an intimate but lavish Art Deco-inspired cocktail lounge. The real place to be seen though, has got to be the Ivy Pool Club bar – there’s genuinely nothing else like it in Sydney. A glittering turqoise swimming pool takes centre-stage, and the cool mid-century styling of the surrounding private cabanas, decked out in a fresh ’50s yellow and white, are like something straight out of Miami or Palm Springs. Lie back and enjoy a fresh Bacardi Mojito under the scorching Sydney sun, or even better – laze the afternoon away on a gigantic inflatable swan.

Ivy Pool Bar, 320 George Street, Sydney

Iceberg’s Dining Room and Bar

Proudly perched atop the cliffs of South Bondi, Iceberg’s Dining Room and Bar overlooks the most famous beach in Australia. The location alone is enough to draw the crowds, but this modernist white cube also houses one of the finest restaurants and bars in Sydney. Iceberg’s Australian-Mediterranean menu, cool, glossy decor and the majority of its patrons are all seriously high-end, but they’re surprisingly unpretentious too. Despite the gorgeousness of the surroundings, a laid-back casual beach vibe is what you get here, not attitude. For an aperitif, try a South Side Martini or a Venetian Spritz. Sashay over to one of the stylish low sofas or hanging wicker egg chairs, make yourself at home and imagine you’re an extra in a photoshoot for Achitectural Digest.

Iceberg's Dining Room and Bar

Iceberg’s Dining Room and Bar

Iceberg’s Dining Room and Bar, 1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach Virgin Atlantic fly to Sydney via Hong Kong. Log on to for the very best fares.

Check out Marc’s other Barfly guides to London and Los Angeles. Have you ever been to any of the bars mentioned here? What did you think of them? Do you have any other Sydney bar recommendations? Share them with us in the comments below.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Places