Easy drinking: Bulletin Place feels more like someone's home than a bar.
Circular Quay has a bounce in its step these days. In hidden nooks and alleys, a few excellent bars have sprung up, including Grain Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel and Tapavino and Bulletin Place, which have transformed a laneway behind the Basement into a hive of activity.
Bulletin Place is the smallest of the bunch, a tiny square room above Cabrito Coffee Traders. With its dark wood floors, scattered pot plants and rustic tables, it feels as if we have stumbled into someone's lounge room.
The only downfall is this place fills quicker than you can say, "This is a really cool lounge room.
"Word spreads quickly in this town and it won't be long before you're lining up just to get into the line to get into Bulletin Place.
Nevertheless, table service is afoot, even at the busiest of times, and promptly we're squeezed on the end of a large wooden table with a wine list in our hands. The service is just as warm as the homely surrounds.
"It wasn't a conscious decision to open the smallest small bar in Sydney but it means we can offer a bit of extra face time," owner Robb Sloan says.
"We want it to feel like guests are coming into a home, rather than a commercial bar."
For such a tiny space, they have packed in a lot of bar cred. The four very experienced barmen really know their stuff: Sloan (formerly of Black Pearl), Tim Philips (ex-Black Pearl and ivy), Adi Ruiz (ex-Rockpool Bar & Grill) and Matt Linklater (ex-ivy Level 6).
Only two bottles of red and two bottles of white are opened at any time - as nominated by the floor. Other than that, a large roll of butcher's paper on the wall lists an ever-changing handful of cocktails based on the freshest market produce of the day.
Fruity cocktails get a bad wrap most of the time but these are tangy, zingy creations that are understated and easygoing. Think nectarine sours, tequila grape spritzers and fresh apple and ginger juice with vodka. A Passion Collins (vodka, passionfruit, lemon, soda, $19) and a Stone Sour (scotch, peach, lemon, $19) were fabulously simple and fresh.
Wines and beers are a casual affair, too. Rather than a wine list the size of a Shakespearean tome, Bulletin Place has just a dozen drops and two beers - either a Peroni or a rotating "local hero".
Bottles of Cloudy Bay sauv blanc and Catena malbec are already open. The former is incredibly fruity and intense for a sauv blanc (or is it all the fruit cocktails I'm downing?) and the latter is smooth as a baby's rear.
Snacks are minimal, too - just tamari almonds ($5), a thick and delicious hummus with dukkah ($8) or a solid pork terrine ($12), all courtesy of their neighbour Tapavino.
It may sound as though the choice is as small as the bar but that's the beauty of it.
It's simple, easy, chilled-out drinking'n'dining that we can't get enough of.
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF ... you're looking for the next best city bolt-hole bar.
YOU'LL HATE IT IF ... you're with a big group on a busy night.
GO FOR ... fruit sours, hummus, Catena malbec.
IT'LL COST YOU ... cocktails $19, wine by the glass $10-$14, bottled beer $9-$10.
- Prices - cocktails $19, wine by the glass $10-$14, bottled beer $9-$10.
- Features - Bar
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 4pm-midnight; Sat, 6pm-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding