You can’t be a city council in this country without a strong commitment to activating laneways with small bars – and that’s worth celebrating. What follows are a few of our favourite newish bars – in no particular order.
Get in there and mix it up.
19 Peel St, Adelaide
Adelaide’s food-and-booze renaissance continues apace with Clever Little Tailor. This diminutive watering hole rocks that old-timey look so popular with watering holes, dressed up in wood, stone and leather. It also boasts a fine selection of whiskies, while its taps run with local micro-brews. Another reason to go to Adelaide – if you’re not already there?
75 King St, Perth
As this list might intimate, whisky’s really is the thing at the moment; though the whiskeys at Varnish on King definitely sport an ‘e’. Specialising in hundreds of unusual bourbons and ryes from all around America, Varnish has a lot more to offer than a can of Wild Turkey and Cola. Bourbonophobes need not fear, however, the bar boasts an equally creative wine list, and a menu by ex-Vue de Monde chef David Allison.
First floor, 10-14 Bulletin Place, Sydney
Last year, Sydney’s Bulletin Place was practically pelted with awards, being named National Cocktail Bar of The Year by the ABA and the 26th best bar in the world by Drinks International. Needless to say they pour a good beverage. Concentrating on seasonal specials written on a roll of brown paper, there’s also a fair whack of fruit on the menu. Plus, the Bulletin Place employees are the kind of bartenders that will appear on Cocktail Collector Cards (if that ever becomes a thing).
50 Hunter St, Sydney
The Lords of Sydney Small-Bardom are, undoubtedly, Anton Forte and Jason Scott. The gentlemen behind Shady Pines Saloon and the Baxter Inn opened Frankie’s Pizza last year, a pleasantly sordid faux-Italian restaurant with red-chequered tablecloths and cascading candles. Pizza, however, is no joke: there’s a short but serious selection of slim-line pizzas sold by the pie or the slice. To accompany said serious pizza is an equally thoughtful selection of craft beers, some of which tend toward the rather unusual…
6 Mary Street, Newtown
It feels like an age since the phrase ‘Newtown bar’ meant a shandy at the Sando with a burger sent over from George’s next door (we miss you). These days we’ve got Mary’s, with a smart range of French wines and craft beers – and the burgers (the burgers!) are made in-house by ex-Tetsuya chef Luke Powell. But don’t worry, Newtown’s not completely gone: you’ll still get your Resch’s on tap.
85 Doggett Street, Newstead
Newstead Brewing has had Brisbanites on tenterhooks for almost a year, but the converted warehouse has finally thrown open the roller-door. Pouring eight of Newstead’s regulars and seasonal beers, all made on site, there’s also a small selection of guest brews, interesting wine and small-batch spirits. The menu is a compendium of all the manly things: cheese, wings, pizza, pies and snags. Don’t fight it.
15 Caxton Street, Brisbane
The Shady Pines empire stretches far and wide, extending into even the wilds of Queensland. Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall cashes in on Brisbane’s long tradition of live music, bringing dirty rock in spades. Food, surprise surprise, is Nuevo Américaine – think fancy-ass cheeseburgers. Also, there’s no guestlist, so don’t even think about blagging your way in.
270 Russell St, Melbourne
If you thought you knew your whisky from your whiskey, this little temple to the art of distillery might yet prove you wrong. With hundreds of interesting, obscure and mostly delicious bottles all available by the tot, Whisky and Alement is a brown-liquor world tour (with the jetlag to boot). There’s also a small-but-robust selection of craft beers designed to create a sublime boilermaker. With regular whisky classes on offer, you can think of this bar as educational drinking.
51 Gipps Street, Collingwood
Undoubtedly the oh-so-hot-right-now member of this list, Le Bon Ton brings New Orleans knees-up to Collingwood. With an ex-Black Pearl barman on the bottles and American craft beers on tap, the drinks are the business. Open pretty much all night thanks to a rare 24-hour license, you can enjoy southern-style barbecue – or freshly shucked oysters – into the wee hours.
Rear 397 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Handsome Steve doesn’t truck with mixology. Nor are his beers ‘craft.’ And his kitchen consists mainly of a large toaster. But that doesn’t stop the House of Refreshment from being one of Melbourne’s best bars – in fact, it might just make it so. Turns out, a tin of Melbourne Bitter, a ham and/or cheese sandwich, Richard Hell on the stereo and chinwag with your host are what we call “fun.”