Since the opening of Shady Pines a couple of years ago, its two creators (Anton Forte and Jason Scott) have been sneaking around Sydney plotting their latest triumph, so last weekend I decided I would finally see for myself whether the delightful sounding Baxter Inn was worth the hype - and long queues.
It was about 11pm on a Saturday night when we walked past a tucked away alley on Clarence Street and wondered where the enigmatic bar that we were supposed to be spending the rest of our night was. A bit of light suits stalking ensued and this nondescript alley turned out to be the way through to the nondescript entrance of Baxter Inn. We waited for about 20 minutes (much better than I expected) and were finally let in to this exclusive time machine.
If you were enchanted by the nostalgia and charm of the film Midnight in Paris, you'll definitely be pleased to find its real-life Sydney counterpart. Inner-city basement location, dim fairy-lighting, rich jazzy blues seeping from the bar (and amazing bathroom) sound systems, bartenders sporting little authentic moustaches and aprons, old-school pictures of boxers hanging everywhere you turn, free pretzels and a whole lotta whiskey – what more could you ask for.
The cheapest wine is a relatively reasonable $7.50 but wine is so 21st century! Go all out with a freshly squeezed apple juice and whisky cocktail (yes, they had motorised juicers in the 1920s). If you're not a whisky fan, this will not be a pleasant experience for the first few sips, but trust me, it grows on you.
This place practically screams for a pretentious crowd, but I was pleasantly surprised. I suppose no matter how hip you are, it's hard to pretend you discovered the Prohibition Era before anyone else. And if you find a way, that is more commendable than condemnable!
Overall, Baxter Inn certainly lived up to the hype. There's no dancefloor but it would be a delightfully classy start or end (or middle really) to any evening. Even if themed bars aren't your thing, you never know how the past you might feel.