Now that Sydney has embraced Melbourne style small bars, they seem to be popping up all over the place. The CBD, Surry Hills and Newtown are all well known spots to visit small bars but there's no shortage of bars along Glebe Point Road either. Glebe's mixed demographics, its reputation among backpackers and its proximity to Sydney Uni and the city have all ensured that there is an eclectic crowd of punters eager for something a little more sophisticated than beer barns and pokies when going out for a drink. From the rockin' through bohemian to stylish, here's my pick of the top 5 bars in Glebe.
The Record Crate is a new addition to Glebe Point Road but it has already earned itself a place among locals and visitors alike. Run by Neville Sergent, the former owner of Mojo Records and a man who knows a thing or two about music, the place is how I imagine the Championship Vinyl shop in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity would have been had they served beer. I can almost see the novel's characters sitting around sipping their drinks dreaming up new top 5 lists, so it's fitting that the Record Crate kicks off this list. The Record Crate is basically a record shop, that is, they sell records. Yes, real records. Of the vinyl sort. But that's not all, being a licensed premises you can enjoy a beer on tap or a glass of wine while thumbing through the old classics. They also serve up food, which, in keeping with the rock n roll theme, is of the burgers and chips variety. Add to that live bands playing upstairs on weekends and an open mic comedy night and you've got yourself a recipe for a great bar.
Like the Record Crate, Sappho is not your average bar but rather a bookshop cum café cum wine bar. The front of the shop is full of shelves of second hand books and you could spend hours rummaging about looking for hidden gems. Upstairs is also a collection of music books but the real fun is to be had out the back in the courtyard, where the café/wine bar is situated. One of the things I like most about this place is that the graffiti from a time when the back streets of Glebe were a little more colourful has been left in place and now serves as the backdrop to the large, leafy courtyard (which is heated in the colder months, meaning you can still take advantage of it in the winter).
Although mere metres from the hustle and bustle of Glebe Point Road and Broadway, it feels miles away from the rush out on the street making it a fantastic place to chill out. There's often live music in the courtyard in the evening, which adds that extra something to the relaxed ambience. The coffee is great here and they offer a good selection of wines (they even offer vegan wine!), a decent number of beers and from 6pm they have a Tapas menu, which includes a good selection of vegetarian/vegan fare. All up this is probably the most relaxing place to drink in Glebe, apart from Saturday afternoons when it gets packed with visitors from the markets across the road.
Okay, let me say this, free popcorn. That's right, free popcorn. This isn't the only thing to say about the Little Guy, but for me it's enough. The first time I drank at this bar I actually said I didn't want any popcorn, oh how stupid I was. The combination of salty popcorn and beer is truly a match made in heaven and is so good I wonder why I never thought of it myself.
At any rate I'm grateful to the Little Guy for introducing me to such a wonderful complement to their extensive range of beers. This is the Little Guy's specialty: craft beers, particularly Australian craft beers. They also do wine, cider and cocktails but for me, this is bar to come to when I crave a few upper shelf brews. As the name suggests the bar isn't the biggest (which place in the inner west is though?) and it can fill up early on weekends but it's definitely worth squeezing in and finding a seat if you can. They also have live music on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and DJs on Thursday evenings.
Mr Falcon's occupies a large corner house with plenty of nooks and crannies in which to find a seat, or more specifically, a sofa. Their motto is "the comfiest place to drink is Glebe" and relaxing on one of the mismatched sofas at Mr Falcon's often feels more like chilling in the lounge room of a friend's place rather than a bar, albeit a friend's place with beer, wine, cocktails and live music!
Although they serve up some light snacks it's very much about the booze and the music in this place; they have a good selection of wines, cocktails and beers and also jugs of sangria on offer and there's live music every night of the week. If you prefer a bit of quiet you can always find a seat upstairs or out in the courtyard, which, although actually smaller than it appears from outside, is pleasant enough in the warmer months. The staff are friendly, the vibe is laidback and the clientele are a strange mix of old and young, bohemian and chic, making Mr Falcon's a relaxing change in Sydney.
Different Drummer is the granddaddy of bars in Glebe, having been long established before the recent explosion of small bars. But don't let that fool you into thinking this place is over the hill as it's still the most stylish and (arguably) most popular bar on the strip. And with a 2am licence it stays up longer than most of the others. You can get beers and wine here but what sets Different Drummer apart from the others is their cocktails; they may be a bit pricey but the staff really know what they're doing and you will notice the difference. There is also a 2 for 1 happy hour daily from 6 till 7:30pm, which can make the expense more bearable and by the time happy hour finishes you'll probably be happy enough not to think about the price anyway.
There are generally DJs on the weekends and occasionally live music and the kitchen offers a range of Tapas style dishes with quite a few vegetarian options. There are two levels and a small courtyard to choose from here but my favourite perch is on one of the stools by the bar; that way you can keep an eye on the front room, watch the bartenders at work, and always get your next order in easily. The dim lighting with hues of red adds a touch of style to the place and Different Drummer is definitely the most sophisticated bar on the list. That's not to say it's pretentious, but definitely a little less grungy than the other bars on the street. All in all this bar is still doing what it has always done and, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke….