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Where to Grab a Drink Before or After the Theatre in Sydney

3 January 2019 by Elissa Blake
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Sydney’s burgeoning small bar scene and its stalwart pubs mean you don’t have to confine yourself to the limited stock food and drinks offered by most theatres. A pre-curtain cocktail, a quick meal – even an interval heart-starter – is seldom more than a five-minute walk away.

The Opera Bar
Lower Concourse, Sydney Opera House

The view? Unparalleled, clear across Sydney Harbour to the Bridge and beyond. The noise? On a busy night, it roars. But for a swift one before your evening of Puccini, Shakespeare or rock concert, The Opera Bar is hard to beat for convenience and that feeling that, yes, you’ve arrived. 

The Wanderer
501 Elizabeth St., Surry Hills

Across the road from Opera Australia’s headquarters, this long and skinny hole-in-the-wall bar is a little haven of cool on a hot Sydney evening. Think man cave atmosphere (rough timber, exposed brick, a framed photo of Oliver Reed, etc), chilled beats, and a great range of fresh craft brews.

The Bear Bar
730 George St, Haymarket

Sydney’s Chinatown has been slow to embrace small bar culture. The Bear is something of a pioneer at this end of George St. Two minutes around the corner from the Capitol Theatre, The Bear offers relaxed ambience, intimacy and a great range of cocktails. Something cleansing before “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”? Proprietor Andy will sort you out.

The Hero of Waterloo
81 Lower Fort St, The Rocks

Rapidly gentrified in recent years from public housing bastion to one of the richest postcodes in Australia, the Millers Point/Rocks precinct has shiny waterfront bars aplenty but for a characterful meeting place within easy (downhill) walking distance of the STC Wharf headquarters (currently under renovation, re-opening 2020), this old school pub has it all: fine beers on tap, convict-era atmosphere, and history oozing from the walls. It’s been here since 1843.

Dear Sainte Eloise
5/29 Orwell St, Potts Point

Euro-classy but relaxed, this wine-focused bar also serves fine pre-show-sized food. It only opened in 2017 but Dear Sainte Eloise (a reference to George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London”) feels very established in this rapidly changing area.

The Kings Cross Hotel
244-248 William St, Kings Cross

This multi-purpose pub has its own theatre (a 50-seater and Sydney’s only permanent traverse stage) but it’s also handy to several others in this rapidly evolving precinct. Ground floor is big screen and beer territory. Head upstairs to the second floor for the buzzing terrace bar and kitchen. One more floor up for KXT Theatre.

Bulletin Place Bar
Level 1, 10-14 Bulletin Place, Circular Quay

Can’t face the full-throttle roar of the Opera Bar? The Bulletin is a great place to meet. Intimate (it used to be a Japanese noodle joint) and rustic, it specialises in zingy seasonal cocktails (citrus in summer; spices in winter) and the list changes daily.

The Rose Hotel
52-54 Cleveland St, Chippendale

Beloved hang-out of Sydney university students and those clinging to their student heyday, the recently scrubbed-up Rose offers a bewildering range of craft beers (28 at last count), seasonal cocktails (sharable cocktail jugs, too) and a barn-like back dining hall serving quality pub grub. Save the whiskey bar for post-show.

The Baxter Inn
Basement level, 152 Clarence St, Sydney

Open since 2010 but still showing Sydney how the small bar should be done, the Baxter offers warm ambience, a superb collection of whiskies, and staff who delight in introducing you to new spiritual experiences.

The Gilt Lounge
QT Hotel, 49 Market St

Sydney’s splendid State Theatre has a lot going for it architecturally but its bars are primitive to say the least. If you fancy more than a Pepsi or wine in a plastic cup, slip around the corner to this sleek-but-comfortable, Don Draper-ready cocktail bar and buddy up to an Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins.

The Lord Nelson
19 Kent St, The Rocks

This handsome colonial era pub (1841) was one of the pioneers of the boutique brewery movement. A magnet for tourists and beer lovers, it’s also an ideal pre-curtain watering hole for theatregoers heading down to the Walsh Bay precinct.

The Old Fitzroy
129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo

Sydney’s longtime crucible of independent theatre is in the cellar of the Fitz, one of the few inner city pubs to have dodged the renovation bullet. Many of the locals are beyond colourful and the area’s rough edges are always apparent, but the Fitz offers pure theatre from top floor to basement. Cool little kitchen, too.