New York's game-changing bar Employees Only, one of the leaders of that country's cocktail renaissance, has planted the flag in Australia. Sydney, to be exact. Lock-out laws and early closing be damned, the bar will serve classic cocktails and bar snacks until 3am, remaining true to its roots of being a place of welcome whatever the hour.
"We're excited to work with the incredible local bar community, together helping to reinvigorate Sydney's nightlife and bring it back onto the global stage," Robert Krueger, principal bartender of Employees Only New York, says.
Opened in the East Village in 2004, Employees Only earned a reputation as something of an underground secret among fellow bartenders and bar aficionados, creating several signature cocktails (the Amelia among them) along the way and earning a regular spot in the World's 50 Best Bars list. In the last two years, locations in Hong Kong, Miami and Singapore have been added.
The Sydney outpost on Barrack Street offers a brand-new list of cocktails that melds originals from New York with bespoke creations. There's also be an extensive food offering, with dinner and an all-night menu available. When we spoke to the team in October, they said little more than that they intended to "cater to the adventurous Sydney palate." In practice that adventure looks to have an Italian angle, with risotto nero with calamari, or a Berkshire pork cotoletta with cavolo nero gracing the menu. You can also expect to see signatures such as the hand-cut steak tartare with Employees Only hot sauce, the vols au vent (or "poppers") topped with bone marrow, and pancetta-wrapped lamb chops served with salsa verde. In the kitchen is Aurelien Girault, who comes from Nour.
Where the entry to the original bar is marked by a neon fortune-teller's sign and subtly branded awning, the Sydney location has the added mystery of being located in a basement, something the team was excited to take advantage of in the design. Designer Tim Leveson (responsible for Surry Hills' The Sandwich Shop and The Collector Store in Barangaroo) has worked with heritage features such as skylights set in the footpath above the venue. A curved brass bar, mirrored back bar and booth seating in the dining room complete the look.
The team open the doors this Saturday 24 November at 9pm. Summer in Sydney is looking even hotter.
Employees Only, 9a Barrack St, Sydney, NSW. Mon-Sat 5pm-3am (Late night menu 11pm-2.30am), Sunday 5pm-midnight.