Amie Wee is a bar fly in Sydney who loves eccentric bars and weird theatre. She runs her own popular experimental theatre events at www.rule34club.com
Published December 7th 2019
Saga Bar's adventure begins before you even enter the bar
It's an understatement to say that Sydney has seen a boom of secret and hidden bars over the past few years.
From the Papa Gede's laneway voodoo magic bar and Earl's Juke Joint's faux butchery frontage, to Ramblin's Rascal Tavern where the entry is marked only by three ominous skulls and the Door Knock Bar which requires you to knock three times on a brass pineapple before you're allowed to go in – there's something about a lack of signage, a sneaky creak of light under a door and the promise of the unknown that makes our cocktails taste a bit sweeter.
However, Sydney's newest eccentric small bar – Saga Bar – takes the idea of a hidden bar to the next level by transporting you to the mystery island that simultaneously feels like a cross between Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and a Thai Island.
Saga Bar's adventure begins when you arrive at the venue. The bar is located in a back alley near Kensington Street in Chippendale, and while there's no signage, the stiff security guard standing in front of the two huge carved wooden doors that loom over the street is an obvious sign that something exciting lies beyond the ornate street frontage.
The entrance of Saga Bar. Image from Saga Bar's Facebook page.
You can't just waltz into Saga Bar though – you have to be let in. Waiting at the front door, I watched the security guard let out a smirk as he deliberately knocked slowly on the door three times. He was feeling the secret society fantasy and I was into it. 30 seconds later, someone opened the door a fraction to let us in, before closing it quickly behind us. I gazed past the front counter into the bar but someone else quickly shut those double doors so we couldn't see into the bar. After we expressed interest in a cocktail, we were shown seats at the bar.
From the exposed beams, lanterns and kilometres of vines and faux vegetation, to the water features, Giant Buddha, actual sand, almost holographic Island imagery on the back wall, and the most beautifully ornate bathrooms you'll ever pee in in your life (once you pee in front of mosaic worth more than your life, it's hard to go back to regular toilets), Saga Bar offers an intense visual feast for such a small space. I honestly had expected to arrive at a tacky island fantasy but nope, Saga Bar is classy, creative and unlike any bar I've been in. It's a melting pot of influences from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the result is a dimly lit drinking oasis.
We had decided not to book a table as the website didn't have a menu available, so we were unsure whether they could cater to my gluten-free date. Instead, we sat the bar and got get the goss about Saga Bar from the barman.
It turns out, there's going to be a food menu going online soon but not a drinks menu as it changes weekly. The menu is pretty limited and is predominantly share plates, but I was impressed to see that it's got a decent amount of options for gluten-free eaters. The chicken riblets with Szechuan and Kingfish ceviche looked particularly enticing. The drink prices are comparable to other Sydney bars (around the $20-23 mark). My date opted for a vibrant purple lavender gin cocktail that was topped with edible pansies, while I went for a spicy rum, ginger beer and chilli number.
Saga Bar only opened in mid-November this year and it's obvious that they're still working out some of the kinks, but I'm pretty sure I've found my new favourite small bar.
If you're looking for a small bar for your Christmas drinks or just somewhere unique to have a feed, check out Saga Bar. I have no doubt that word will get around about this place soon, so I would recommend you book to avoid missing out.