Australia & NZ

Discover Sydney’s Alleyway Bar Scene

As the capital of New South Wales and premier metropolis in Australia, Sydney unfurls a panoply of eclectic restaurants, bars, cafés and faux dives. The concentration of such establishments is especially dense in a few notable inner-city enclaves that act as virtual magnets for socialites, scenesters, preppy young pros and bohemian hipsters.

This relatively new reality represents a sea change turn of events for Sydney nightlife and exists, patently, because of a recent subversion of decades-old prohibitive liquor licence laws. Happily, for thirsty locals and visitors alike, the city now has a small bar culture to rival Melbourne and, indeed, with easy-to-navigate laws in place and fewer barriers to entry for prospective pub proprietors, the sky is the limit in the years to come.

The fresh crop of new after-work and late-night hangouts proliferate, most notably, in a network of furtive alleyways and back streets in the ‘hoods of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. The tidy area, southeast of the Central Business District and a short stroll (sober, mind you) from Hyde Park and The Domain, is a poster child of the inner-city urban revival movement in Sydney.

While droll oxymorons like “grime chic” are de rigueur turns of phrase to qualify the upmarket gentrification of both Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, the metamorphosis is undeniable. Darlinghurst, for one, was a red-light slum and Surry Hills, at one point in time, a hub of light industry. Today, however, Crown Street and Oxford Street provide a tasty dose of dap boulevard charm to a city once in dire need.

With that in mind, check out a few choice spots for your Sydney laneway bar itinerary.

Love Tilly Devine
91 Crown Ln
Darlinghurst, 2010
02 9326 9243

A bar with a website homepage this sleek must have serious chops. Thankfully, this is very much the case with Love Tilly Devine, a “sly wine bar” with delightful nibbles cobbled together with fresh backyard garden ingredients and, most notably, a clever, unorthodox wine list.

Outside Love Tilly Devine in Darlinghurst

Shady Pines Saloon
Shop 5, 256 Crown St
Darlinghurst, 2010

A first-rate homage to the frontier-era dive bar, Shady Pines Saloon lubricates rough-hewn charisma and is run by a couple of chaps who know quality booze. The interior décor is taxidermy-cum-hunter lodge chic and live country and western music strikes the appropriate tone.

Shady Pines Saloon patrons

Sticky Bar
Level 2, 182 Campbell St
Surry Hills, 2010
0416 096 916

One man in Sydney is out to redefine the bar and restaurant scene with a simple strategy: be the polar opposite of normal. The man in question, Michael Fanutz, is the brains behind Table for 20, a BYOW communal eatery that donates a percentage of profits to the HopeStreet Urban Compassion project. Upstairs from the restaurant, Fanutz now operates a tidy bar space with innovative cocktails and finger foods.

“Niki-vs-Nikita” cocktail at Sticky Bar

With a brazen aim to become the best alleyway bar on the planet, Sticky Bar cajoles with a convivial atmosphere, sharp décor and maven mixologists. Indeed, with cocktail names like the “Venetian Spritz” and “Bear Hug”, the atmosphere here is ripe for a memorable time in Surry Hills.

Bar snacks at Sticky

Time to Vino
14 Kings Cross Road (Diamant Hotel)
Potts Point, 2010
02 9380 4252

A sleek wine bar with killer gourmet comfort grub, Time to Vino is a fab joint that proves that hotels in Sydney can deliver the goods in the bar and restaurant game.

Time to Vino

Uchi Lounge
15 Brisbane Street
Darlinghurst, 2010
02 9261 3524

This clandestine little Japanese lounge and sake bar is a Darlinghurst gem. Uchi’s iconoclast cocktail menu is a riot of new school infusions and the bar snacks hit all the compatible notes.

Uchi Lounge

3 Comments for "Discover Sydney’s Alleyway Bar Scene"

Chris says on January 17th, 2011 at 5:47 am:

Not really alleyways but opposite Shady Pines are bundles of bars on Burton St like Pocket (awesome cheese platter and pisco sour), 13b, Dr Pong (has a ping pong table in it!) and across the road, The Commons – good selection of wines.

Down the road Crown St, round the corner from Love Tilly – new tiny tapas place just opened called The Owl House – yet to get there but keen :)


  1. Laura Ross
  2. HotelClub

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