Abercrombie Ln, Sydney
Ph: +61 2 9114 7315
Not the outside world, that's for sure. This bar is underground, down an alleyway, off Sydney CBD's busy Pitt and George Streets. Once inside, it's all brick walls and arched ceilings, rustic wood panelling, leather sofas and white-tiled floors, iron grilles, exposed pipework and plenty of nooks and crannies. It feels like you've stepped back in time to the 1920s. Display cabinets are labelled with words like "Tinctures", "Elixirs", "Tipples" and "Tonics", and the lighting is flatteringly low. Bars everywhere are embracing the Prohibition-style, speakeasy trend - Palmer & Co was one of the forerunners; it's been doing this for more than seven years now.
We arrived on a Sunday night after a family-friendly Darling Harbour dinner with our rambunctious young niece and nephews. We were keen for some quiet, grown-up time and Palmer & Co definitely delivered. Low music, low lighting, the murmur of low voices from the low-key people in the bar. Everyone was pretty casual - lots of sneakers and T-shirts and no raised eyebrows at our slightly dishevelled attire (we'd spent the day riding ferries and touristing at Taronga Zoo).
The chat: The wait-staff were suitably speakeasy-attired - the men, dapper; the women, flapper (girls). I'd booked a table online and was worried it would have been given away as we were running 20 minutes late and the website strictly states they'll only be held for 15 minutes. The host who met us at the door was friendly and welcomed us warmly, showing no signs of annoyance at our tardiness. Later, our server, Greta, explained to me the building's history. Once part of the tank stream - the late 18th century fresh water tributary running under the CBD - it became Tank, a nightclub of questionable repute in the early 2000s. "Very sticky floors," Greta told us.
Creative cocktails - special house versions, and a couple of pages of "Lost & Forgotten" blends. If you have a favourite, the bartenders will make it for you (I asked for a negroni - my favourite - and it was expertly made). The most interesting - and potent - on the list was the Zombie: three types of extra strong rum, absinthe, bitters, cinnamon, pomegranate and citrus. It costs A$28 and there's a limit of one per guest.
The expectation: I Googled "Best cocktail bars in Sydney open on Sunday night", and this was third on the list. It was just round the corner from our hotel, which made it top of ours.
This was a classy, cool, romantic place to end a long-weekend in Sydney. My only complaint was the 10 per cent Sunday surcharge. We'd also had to pay that at dinner. What's the deal, Sydney? But the drinks were excellent and the atmosphere buzzy. We left around 10pm but it seemed the party would kick on well into the wee small hours.
- Stephanie Holmes