Sydney doesn't have a huge number of rooftop bars, but the ones we do have are something to be glad about. The days have been getting hotter, as have the nights, so a hard earned thirst is best quenched in the great outdoors, preferably on a roof, pretending that commuters on the streets below are tiny ants.
This list is a collection of bars and pubs that have put their rooftop real estate to good use. There are old faces, newcomers and places that we might have forgotten. So dust off your aviators and your pilot wings, Maverick, because we're taking to the sky.
(Disclaimer: Don't drink and fly a plane.)
The Glenmore is hardly new, but it certainly has a new lease of life. The much loved local's-style pub remains on ground level, but as you head up the stairs towards the first level and rooftop terrace, you can see just how much this oldie has been spruced up. It has one of the best views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and the retractable roof is a great addition, along with the rustic style wooden benches and red industrial chairs, to go with the new kitchen. You have to try the Rocks favourite, corn on the cob with chilli lime butter and a sprinkling of cheese ($8), and BBQ-style lamb and chorizo skewers, with a topping of corn and tomato salsa ($16).
96 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
This is Newtown’s best kept secret. The aptly named small bar is brimming with more than its fair share of goodness. Surprisingly, it's not just one busy room, but is cleverly composed of an assortment of nooks: a private table at the front, stools clustered under the stairs, the upstairs 'lounge' room or the upstairs courtyard — take your pick. It’s a fairly small wooden rooftop deck, but it’s so worth it for the cocktails, the live jazz (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and the unpretentious local crowd.
153A King Street, Newtown
Sweethearts Rooftop Barbeque is the Cross's open-air diamond in the rough. After you've caught your breath after a heavy-going four or five flights of stairs, kick back at one of Sweethearts' long bench tables, in amongst a mountain of trees, beneath some kitsch but redeeming pastel-coloured fairy lights. Reward yourself with a glass of King Valley Prosecco ($10). And don't be alarmed to see the charismatic barman pulling it as he would a coldie; the wines are on tap here. The food menu, meanwhile, is all about skewers, with a range of meat, fish and vegetable on sticks ready to inhale.
33-37 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point
They’ve recently reopened after a major refurb, and if you were a local here before, you won’t recognise it. Come here to escape the usual Surry Hills crowd and eat an awesome vegetarian pizza and a cider on the large wooden deck. Old songs playing on the TV screens will have you reminiscing if conversation dries out.
453 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Located at the intersection of South Dowling and Flinders Streets in Darlinghurst, the Local Taphouse can go slightly unnoticed. With 1920s-inspired decor and a garden-like roof, the Local is anyone's wonderland. The beer haven is the brainchild of Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone, two beer enthusiasts who conceived the inspired idea of opening a taphouse for all those budding beer buffs. Providing more than 20 beers on tap and an extensive range of bottled ales, stouts, pilsners, and ciders of local and international origin, they don't make your decision too easy. They do, however, offer beer pairings for their exceptional food options, most of which incorporate beer in the cooking process. Start with the smoked ale meatballs ($13) to nibble on.
122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst
The rooftop at the Royal Hotel has only just been reopened to pubgoers, and the slick new makeover is something to behold. After a decent trek up a few flights of stairs, juggling coldies, you're rewarded with an outstanding view of the city, the bays and the harbour - an amazing setting to watch the dusk wash over Sydney. The menu at the pub is extensive, comprised of traditional pub food at a decent price ($26 steak, or 8 share dishes for $50). But get in there early, because the rooftop ain’t too big, and it’s bound to fill up quick on the upcoming summer sun downs.
237 Glenmore Road, Paddington
The rooftop at Darlo has high walls but the quirky astro turf and pink flamingos make it more than bearable. Always an interesting mix of people here, and a stone's throw away from Oxford Street if you want to party on.
306 Liverpool Street, Sydney
There's no denying the CBD's drinking and dining scene has upped its game in recent times, and the Bristol Arms — formerly known as the Retro Hotel — is another example of Sydney's transformation skillz. Gutted, metaphorically gilded and reopened in November by Riversdale Group, the Bristol is big, bright and sporting some fairly fabulous city skyline and water views up top. The roof area with not one but two large terraces, accompanied by colourful cane and white decor, is fairly awesome for those post-work summer bevvies.
81 Sussex Street, Sydney
White wood, lobster pots, old-school tennis rackets, fairy lights, a boat dangling above the stairwell, decorative chunks of knotted rope and a whole lot of plants. The new-look Ivanhoe Hotel is very modern, very slick, and very fitting to its beachside location. Paul Kelly designed the bottom levels, Sibella Court the upper, and you can see the ten years of planning that's gone into the fit-out. The outdoor spaces are really something special, including the little touches like tiles and clever lighting on the outdoor rooftops.
27 The Corso, Manly
While you can have a wildly differently experience at Cafe del Mar depending on what season, day of the week and time of day you come, there's no denying the cabana-style perfection of Cafe del Mar's rooftop terrace. From the Camilla-clad hosts to the large open kitchen, ample outdoor summer seating and wraparound views of, albeit, this city's not-so-favourite aforementioned harbour, the team behind this place have put on quite the show. In all honesty, though, considering the brand in question's history of drawing food-appreciating party animals from all corners of the world, you'd bloody hope so.
Rooftop Terrace of Cockle Bay Wharf, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney
By the Concrete Playground team.
October 9, 2014 by James Whitton