Have you discovered these semi-hidden holes in the wall in The Rocks?
Hundreds of years ago The Rocks had a rough reputation. The way the area was built helped the unsavoury side of the community thrive away from prying eyes - down narrow cobbled laneways, in subterranean sandstone basements.
Today, The Rocks has changed completely. Think cocktail bars and fine dining instead of opium dens. But the hideaways and the holes in the wall still remain, and they’re now filled with semi-hidden restaurants, bars and cafes to discover - if you know where to look.
Inside the sandstone walls of a two-story heritage building on George St, you’ll find one of Sydney’s largest collections of gins and a team of mixologists who know their way around a cocktail. This is Frank Mac’s, a cocktail and gin bar from the hospo geniuses behind subterranean whiskey bar, The Doss House.
Behind Frank Mac’s 5-metre long bar, there’s over 80 juniper blends sourced from all over Australia and the world.
A cosy 120-seat dining and drinking space flows from a hidden courtyard out to alfresco seating on George Street, furnished with charming vintage lounges and a fireplace that crackles away during winter. Just like they did in the Doss House, owners Ciara and Eoin have bought out the character of this heritage space.
La Renaissance Pâtisserie and Cafe
La Renaissance is the only patisserie in the southern hemisphere to be admitted to Relais Desserts - an organisation that recognises the world’s best pastry chefs.
While most people know about the little place that serves the best croissants and cakes in Sydney, the courtyard out back is still something of a secret. The airy, semi-secret space features pink pastel walls and creeping vines - plus it’s relatively private so nobody you know will catch you eating copious amounts of gateaux.
Alice is a swanky basement cocktail bar by Hunter Hospitality, the same group behind renowned Sydney restaurants Sake and Spice Temple.
Follow your intrigue down an ambient stairwell lined with rich velvet drames and settle into a booth and dive into the playful drinks and food menu.
Once a bond store, the venue’s opulent interior features original sandstone walls and timber beams; velvet-clad booths; ostrich feather lamps; and splashes of marble, gold and amber.
If you didn’t know it was there, you could easily miss Tayim, an excellent modern Middle Eastern restaurant tucked away down Nurses Walk in The Rocks. And it’d be a shame if you did.
This compact little bar and restaurant is hiding in the ground floor of a lovingly restored heritage sandstone building, serving comforting but refined Middle Eastern cuisine that’s made it a firm favourite among locals. Come for dishes like the melt in your mouth like wagyu beef cheek with zaalouk, and stay for the innovative cocktail menu and bustling atmosphere.
On Playfair St, one of The Rocks most historic areas, you’ll find a little Italian restaurant called Caminetto (if you look hard enough). It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but out back, it’s hiding a giant courtyard tucked away under a massive sandstone wall.
It’s also hiding some of the city’s best pizza and homemade pasta prepared by hand using 100% Australian produce.
The Doss House
There’s a secret underneath George Street - The Doss House. This subterranean cocktail bar is hidden away in the basement of a centuries old heritage building built in the 1840s. The space recaptures the convivial spirit of Sydney’s early years, with original fireplaces, a whiskey menu that’s several pages long and a full complement of house cocktails.
Its stylish, vintage interior hints at its long and colourful history, with previous tenants including an opium den, a boarding house and a doctor’s surgery.
Château Tanunda's private wine tasting room is housed in an atmospheric 1860s sandstone original building. The space is where wine enthusiasts can explore some of the Barossa's most distinctive wines during privately hosted wine experiences. This exciting initiative is the first of its kind for Sydney. We recommend their Old Vines Expressions tasting experience which is an exploration of some of the rarest wines in the world, from vines that are 50, 100 and 150 years old.
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