Employees Only
9a Barrack St, Sydney, NSW, 2000
Wednesday – Thursday 4pm – Midnight, Friday 3pm-3am, Saturday 5pm-3am
(02) 8084 7490

Date night drinks have got their glamour back at this New York City-style speakeasy!

If you didn’t know already, one of New York’s famous cocktail bars has a Sydney CBD-based cousin, Employees Only. This iconic speakeasy can be found lounging down a staircase on Barrack Street and, after an extended hiatus during the city’s lockdown, it has now reopened with a new winter menu and a weekend programme of burlesque shows that come to life at night.

For those looking for a modest night out, this isn’t the place to be! Though you could imagine that would be the case for anywhere boasting a 24 karat gold embellished steak on the menu. But, if you’re looking to elevate date night with an inner-city atmosphere, you should surely include Employees Only to your list.

First things first, let’s talk about the cocktails! Like all good speakeasies, the bartending skills at Employees Only are next to none, and you can forget finding a boring drinks menu here. Headed up by Good Food 2019 Top 20 Bartender Wei Christine Lam, you can sip your way around the world with options like the Oxaca Express ($21), featuring Espolon Blanco Tequila, coriander, basil, jalapeno, pineapple and fresh lime. Alternatively, visit Japan with the Kyoto Sour ($23) that’s shaken up with roasted Japanese tea, prune bitters and Chivas Regal 12; or —our personal favourite — the El Flamingo ($22), a daring but successful mix of lemon myrtle tincture, peach, soda, rhubarb syrup and Barsol Pisco.

When it comes to their bar menu, there’s no arguing that Employees Only know exactly what they’re doing. And, we can’t think of a much better late-night adventure than heading down a dim-lit staircase to sip back concoctions in a jazzy new venue.

For those looking for something to eat, at Employees Only Sydney you’ll find a heartier menu than you might expect for a cocktail bar, dreamed up by head chef and seafood connoisseur Thomas Stott. He describes this winter offering as “an elegant but approachable modern Australian menu, with slight Asian influences based around seasonal local produce”. It includes a range of gastronomic winter warmers such as Middle Eastern Spiced Calamari ($17) with pickled chilli, preserved lemon, parsley and aioli; Prawn & Crab Linguini ($34); and Japanese inspired Saffron Risotto ($28) with enoki, shimeji and asparagus. Arguably, however, the star of the show is the excessive NY Strip Steak ($49), dressed with 24 karat gold flake, red wine jus and served with truffle Paris mash. You can’t argue with the Instagram clout for that one.

However, our pick of the lot is the Chocolate Tart featuring a side of salted caramel ice cream and condensed milk ($13) – it was absolute heaven! Admittedly, the menu boasts a little more style over substance, and is certainly not an essential addition to an evening enjoying some craft cocktails – but the attentive service from the staff and general atmosphere won’t leave you feeling hard done by.

If lockdown has taught us one thing about date night, it’s that however sumptuous a night in on the sofa, it is certainly no match for popping on your weekend best and heading out somewhere overtly glamorous. That’s exactly what Employees Only offers in spades. Think curtained doorways, candlelit corner tables and the crisp clinking of glasses. Manhattan and martinis surely is a match made in heaven for Sydneysiders.

If you’re looking for more date night ideas in Sydney, why not check out our rundown of the top 10 steaks in the city? Or, if you’re after something a little bit fancy, we’ve got a list of the best fine-dining restaurants in the city.

Editor’s note: Hunter and Bligh was gifted an experience to try the new winter menu at Employees Only. All reviews are authentic and opinions are the writer’s own.