The secret martini bar hidden behind a pop-up bakery
Bakery by day, martini bar by night - La Boulangerie adds some French flair to one Sydney eatery. Produced by Tim Martin
Great bars should always start with quality drinks and service, but it helps to have a quirk that sets you apart from the competition.
Featuring elaborate themes, bizarre locations and obtuse product offerings, here are some of Australia's most unusual drinking holes.
Golden Age Cinema & Bar
Surry Hills, Sydney
Often, the best bar concept retains a genuine link to the building's history. Restored from the old screening room of the heritage-listed Paramount Pictures Building, Golden Age's intimate 60-seat cinema shows some of the latest films you won't find elsewhere. But as in the adjoining cocktail bar, the strength lies in its modern interpretations of the classics. Look out for Hitchcock Date Night and try the maple pecan old fashioned.
Clothes shopping can be a mentally taxing experience, so it pays to have a stiff drink within reach. For some that means a hip flask, for everyone else there's Shirt Bar. The beautifully presented CBD outlet offers deluxe shirts, suits and accessories for men and women, but is just as well known for its whisky, with a now legendary Scotch Club that hosts monthly private tastings for members. If it's coffee you need, try Shirt Bar's Fat Coffee, the house blend developed by co-owner Adam Hofbauer.
Mojo Record Bar
Vinyl record shops are a rarity in Sydney, and so are decent rock n roll bars. Mojo keeps the tradition of both alive under the same roof. Browse for new or pre-loved vinyl before heading out back for great music, a solid range of Australian beers and wines, as well as seasonal and classic cocktails. There's vinyl DJs and live music courtesy of blues band Jesse n' James every Saturday night.
The Barber Shop
Bars that offer grooming services could soon be a feature in its own right. Even bar mogul Justin Hemmes is in on the act, installing Rudy's Barbershop at Coogee Pavilion. CBD venue The Barber Shop started the trend, with a small vintage-styled salon on York Street concealing the entrance to a smart cocktail bar. Deft mixology skills in the bar match the precision hair cuts, all of which come with a free beer. Now that's service.
Many councils would laugh you out of the chambers if you applied to open a bar and burger joint inside three train carriages that had been transplanted on top of a five-storey building. Not so in the City of Collingwood, where such gambols are welcomed and even encouraged. Jugs of beer and tequila shots are only right, and you're in good hands with the food. Easey's is the project of Melbourne burger aficionado Jimmy Hurlston, a published author on his favourite cuisine.
Across the road from Easey's is Australia's first communal motorcycle workshop, Kustom Kommune. With a bar and Texan BBQ joint now under the same roof, the result is a drinking spot that feels like a bikie clubhouse. The bikers often work on their machines until late in the evening, so the sparks may literally be flying in the garage while you enjoy your whisky and/or beer. Ironbark BBQ prepares the brisket and other BBQ treats, widely acclaimed as one of Melbourne's finest.
Melbourne could school just about any city on hidden bars. You'll find Jungle Boy carrying this mantle at the rear of Boston Sub, an unassuming sandwich bar on Chapel Street. Head through the cooler room door and into a finely decorated tiki den for rum cocktails or a negroni on tap. Hungry? Boston's at the ready to bring you a submarine sambo.
Leonard's House of Love
South Yarra, Melbourne
If you needed further evidence that American food is on trend, check out Leonard's, which fuses burgers and fried goodness with Aussie charcoal chicken. The venue itself is anything but normal however. Spliced between two modern, multi-storey buildings is this cottage that time forgot, now reinvented as a 70s-style log cabin with a pool table and many homely touches. A 3am licence and DJs on the weekends kit Leonard's out for an eternal house party.
Lovingly built by its owners using recycled school furniture, The Classroom's school theme extends across all aspects of its décor and atmosphere. It's definitely not suitable for kindies though, with craft beers, cocktails and wines on offer from the 'canteen'. Try the Principal's Choice wine or beer as you trip down memory lane.
Lefty's Old Time Music Hall
If that mezzanine looks familiar, perhaps you frequented this venue in its former guise, burlesque strip club The Velvet Cigar. Featuring chandeliers, giant gilt-edged mirrors and velvet drapes, Lefty's plays to its former tenant's strengths, while incorporating mooseheads and other saloon-style touches that hark back to America's deep south. Live country music, American eats and whiskey cocktails are now the reasons you'll want to visit.
And don't forget to check out the video at the top of the page of the secret martini bar hidden behind a pop-up bakery.