First published on 3 Jun 2010. Updated on 7 Apr 2011.
The little room is completely open at the front; there's plenty of outdoor seating; and during the day the sun sparkles over the bay while people wander up and down the wharf. If water views aren't enough for you, the cocktail list will have you glued to the table. Collins' list is classic (Negronis, Martinis, Sidecars and Sazeracs just to name a few) and the beer list includes the very drinkable Budvar, a Czech creation. There's also Sapporo, Peroni and Little Creatures. If you're there for the grape juice, there's an entire section of the wine list devoted to sherry as well as plenty to try by the glass. Chef Nathan Sasi's menu is a mix of Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern and there are enough small plates to keep you grazing for hours. This is beer and cocktail food - sassy, fresh and spicy. Take along a crew and settle in for an afternoon of eating, drinking and some of the nicest views this side of Blackwattle Bay.
So you've eaten in Astral, chef Sean Connolly's fine diner perched on top of Star City Casino - but have you had a drink in the bar? The views out the window at Astral Bar are one in a million. On Saturdays the bar's open 'til 2am and you'll need that long to get through the cocktail list – it's huge. There's the alarming - Vanilla Cherry Negroni, Watermelon Martini – but there's also the excellent. We dig on the West Indies: Mount Gay rum, Tuaca liqueur (a citrus and vanilla-flavoured Italian tipple), pineapple juice and mint. It's refreshing, it's not too sweet and does a very good job of taking the edge off. Or give one of their 19 beers, both local and imported, a red-hot go. Bar snacks are available (twice-cooked pork belly skewers, garlic prawns, cheese plate) and they're totally fine. But for us, it's all in the cocktail list - and the view.
Flying Fish Bar
Just down the wharf from Alira, the bar at Flying Fish fries an exceptionally good chip. If you've had a night on the sauce or you're about to begin one, consider these carb sticks to sooth the savage beast. Nab one of the cane lounges out the front, order a round of drinks and relax for the afternoon.
While Pyrmont has its fair share of tradie pubs and average sushi restaurants, there's little in the way of bar culture. Which is surprising, as it's a growth area of small businesses and young couples with cash to burn. Enter Gallon. The room is all leadlight and wrought iron in curly shapes - an interesting choice for a new bar opening in the middle of a small bars revolution where graffiti, milk crates and longnecks rule. But that's not the problem - the music is. Off-putting doof-doof has its place, and that place is 15 years ago, along with fake fur pants. Drinks-wise, there's wine and there's beer. Hit the Coopers Pale or Boag's on tap, or the St Hellier pear cider by the bottle. There's an OK selection of wines by the glass, too, with very little straying beyond New Zealand. It's the same by the bottle, with the exception of their Champagne, Veuve Clicquot, which they list as ‘Verve'. But you could make an argument for the food - especially as a foil for the beers. Order a pizza; there are six to choose from including the Ivanka - pork sausage, tomato, cheese, and a nice price at $13.50. Or try the veal and pork meatballs in tomato sauce with hunks of crusty bread. If it's gotta be fried, go the crumbed schnitzel bits with lingonberry jam (who knew lingonberries existed outside the walls of IKEA?) or the crumbed cauliflower. For after-work drinks, you could do far worse than Gallon - there's a sweet little outside bit that's open during the day and the staff are friendly. Check it out - it can only improve with time. And better music.
The Harlequin Inn
A favourite with local tradies and fishermen up from the Sydney Fish Market, the Harlequin will do you a chicken schnitty burger and a cold beer. There's Thai food, too, but we recommend the fried chicken. Packed out every Friday arvo with thirsty workers, there's something on almost every night of the week, from meat raffles to trivia to a live band on Thursdays.
The Lord Wolesley
This is one of Sydney's great Aussie pubs. You won't see schmiddies here, nor will you see any of the other malarkey that's snuck its way into our town's establishments. No change on those stupid little plates, bottled water instead of tap, dumb cocktails, beers poured in one pour, lines on the wine glasses. This bar is everything those other rent-a-bars aren't. They serve the best Toohey's Old in Sydney (their taps are surgically clean so you'll never get that bitter taste - it's always crisp, sweet and clean and poured in two pours, no less) and there are little plaques on the bar commemorating all the past drinkers who've gone to that great pub in the sky. In an age of paint-by-numbers pubs, this one stands out like a beacon.
Peppered with velour lounges, lamps, pot plants and designer pouffes, Oscars' sleek, retro design effuses a casual charm conducive to a cheeky after-work cocktail. Like your drinks sweet and extremely fruity? Make sure you try an Oscars Rascal, their signature drink: Absolut Vanilla, fresh raspberries, lemon juice, sugar and cranberry juice. If beer is more your speed, Oscars has a wide selection of imported beers on tap including Hoegaarden, Bohemian Pilsener, Leffe and Stella Artois as well as premium Australian draught and bottled beers like Beez Neez and James Boags. Line your stomach with ribs - they're $15 on Wednesdays - or you could always go a $12 steak on Mondays.
The Point is in possession of one of the biggest and best balconies in the city. It's also in one of the best spots - right near Blackwattle Bay. Down the pointy end of Pyrmont, this heritage-listed pub boasts four different bars and a recent refurb. Head upstairs to the more refined, hushed surrounds of Margot's Lounge, where there are plenty of ottomans scattered about and a massive fireplace. Or step out to our favourite bit, the balcony. There's not a nicer spot in Pyrmont for sitting with a cold beer or a cocktail. Their list features all your usual suspects - Martini, Caprioska, Margarita - but you'll also find a Long Island Green Iced Tea. It's full of antioxidants. And also booze.
Pyrmont Bridge Hotel
It may be a stone's throw from Darling Harbour but this is no place for colourful cocktails and fancy frocks. While Darling Harbour yielded to hard-shelled tourism a long time ago, the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel has resisted for 137 years. A little bit dingy, a little bit grungy, the pub boasts three cosy levels of nooks and crannies to explore, as well an alfresco rooftop terrace with views. If it gets too rowdy you can always retreat to one of the pub's little balconies, which are perfect for a quiet drink on a sunny afternoon. With trivia every Wednesday night, poker on Thursdays, crab racing on Friday, and a bangin' jukebox and Big Buck safari pinball every night of the week, this joint is always a good choice when you're in need of a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
The conversation and beer have been flowing freely at the Quarrymans for almost a century. An important part of local history, this community pub is located at the bottom of a heritage-listed building and is closely linked with the development of Pyrmont/Ultimo as an industrial area populated by tradies and their families. This is a place to down a schooner and enjoy some good old fashioned bistro gear including the classic rump steak with mash and veggies for a mere tenner. If a plate of tasty pub grub isn't enough, you'll be warmed by the glow of pokies aplenty and the friendly faces of the ever-present grey-haired punters.