This week we’ll be looking at 3 small bars located in the Sydney CBD. As noted in the introduction of the previous article city north, small bars in the CBD and City East were considerably more impressive than those in other parts of Sydney. Not only are they impressive, there are a lot of them. Setting aside 3 small bars to look at became quite difficult, as the quantity and quality are both high. However, I decided to focus on 3 bars that stood out amongst the crowd; Baxter Inn (Today), Grandma’s (Wednesday) and Palmer and Co (Friday). With that said, honourable mentions go to Stitch, Grasshopper and Ash St. Cellar.
1. The Baxter Inn
152-156 Clarence St
There must be a reoccurring question that (soon to be) small bar owners ask themselves when searching for a location for their new drinking abode. I’m going to hazard a guess at something along the lines of ‘how do I make this place as hard as possible for people to find?’ Even with Google Maps on my iPhone giving me my precise location, I still struggled miserably to find this place, passing it about 3 times before actually working out where it is. Baxter Inn is nestled in a laneway within a laneway (lanewayception) and down a fire escape. After walking through yet another unmarked door, I began to assume this night would only end with me on top of a pile of trash bags missing a kidney or two. However with a sigh, I was greeted by a trail of carpet and the distant buzz of conversation.
It was like I had walked into an American Wild West saloon. Candle lit, with slow piano playing in the background amongst the quiet chatter. The Baxter Inn is blanketed in wood and stone, the former in the form of a long bar counter complete with stools. It’s 10pm on a Saturday, peak hour. Every stool and table is occupied with couples and groups of friends, all happily chatting away.
Behind the bar sits something many gentlemen dream of, over 300 different bottles of whisky sitting cosily against one another amongst the warm yellow glow of fairy lights. The knowledgeable bartender and sommelier can quickly decipher these for you, providing insight into difficult decision-making. However, the range of drinks is by no means limited to whisky, there is a large spirits, wine, beer and cider list also.
Unlike many small bars where cocktails are a big hit amongst the customers, the majority of the room is sipping spirits and wine, with the minority enjoying beer and classic cocktails – Manhattens, Martinis and Magaritas ($17). My Balvenie Single Barrel 15 ($14) on the rocks came with a large chunk of ice, keeping the drink cold and the water content down, evident that the bartenders have carefully thought about the drinking experience.
There is a lack of food here, with only complimentary pretzels being served at the bar. However, I feel this is the way the Baxter Inn should be. The air is thick with wood, stone and the smell of smoky scotch and any food, especially hot, would take these beautiful aromas away.
If you’re a lover of scotch, bourbon or rum, look no further than The Baxter Inn. The intimate atmosphere, timeworn interior and impressive bar staff will want you coming back for more.
Go if: you are a whisk(e)y enthusiast
Stay at home if: you want food as good as the drinks