Co-author of the ebook Secret Sydney Bars Walking Tour (Amazon). Reviews wine & craft beer bars and pubs, Asian restaurants and other places open late. Please visit my blog for more of the same from around the world https://www.TravelWineFood.com
Published April 12th 2016
Connect with Sydney's Nightlife at Sanctuary Hotel
If you haven't been to Sydney City for a while, you will find that the Spanish Restaurant that used to be on the corner of Liverpool and Kent is no more. Instead, it has been replaced with a bar known as Sanctuary Hotel.
The two pool tables out the back
For the music and the atmosphere, the best time to go is after 11pm on a Saturday night. This place is a casual drinking and pool playing pub that attracts all the restauranteurs and staff from many restaurants in the Sydney metropolitan area. If you want to know where most Japanese and Koreans go after work, this is the place. You'll find people from all over Sydney travel across town to be here.
Friends gather in the smoking and drinking areas
Many people are friendly and you'll find a lot of Australians, Japanese and Koreans (ages 18-60ish) in the smoking area near the front catching up, making new friends and having a good time. You'll also meet quite a number of regulars who are there three to five times a week. (A beer after work is a common habit in Asian culture.)
I asked some of the regulars why they liked Sanctuary Hotel and found there were four main reasons.
Reasonable prices (for the Sydney CBD) on jugs of beer. Ideal for sharing in large groups.
Able to sit anywhere and move tables and chairs around. (Groups may start off as 4-6 and quickly become 20 or more by the end of the night.)
A large smoking/drinking/tables and chairs area where you can sit and chat with people for hours.
Not far from public transport like Town Hall station and Druitt Street buses
If you're looking for a quiet evening, you can enjoy that too, well, a bit earlier. The outside smoking area tables (glass enclosed) are generally empty around 6pm so you'll be able to sip a glass of wine and do some people watching, or catch up on that novel. Liverpool Street is a main thoroughfare to Chinatown, and you'll see thousands of people pass through there during the evening. If it's too cold, inside is nice and cosy and they have some delicious pub food like mussels, fish, chips and other items on the menu. (Note that you can't bring food into the front area, so if you're the only one in your group outside ordering, you'll have to eat inside by yourself!)
Enjoy a quiet beer or wine inside in the afternoon
However, if you're not into loud music, I recommend leaving before 9pm. The music steadily increases inside from then on until it is impossible to talk without yelling. When the music goes up, many migrate to the smoking area or leave.
Sydney lockout laws mean you can't be sold alcohol after 1:30am and won't be allowed in. So if you walk out the door at 1:25am to make a call, they won't let you back in, no matter how hard you beg and plead. If you stay, they close at 3:00am, so it's a taxi or a night ride bus for you.
Like many pubs, it's all about who you are with. While Sanctuary Hotel is a hugely popular place, the consensus is that if there was a better option many of the patrons would definitely go there. There weren't many cheaper, bigger, more centralised places available that were suitable. While The Shark Hotel, Star Bar and Maloney's Hotel were mentioned as second choices, Sanctuary Hotel came out on top.