When Employees Only opened in Sydney’s Barrack St, the underground hospo-only hangout opened it secrets doors to the public. A world-class speakeasy for hardworking bartenders to kick up their feet, and share tips, tricks and sacred sips, at the end of the night.
The plush, prohibition aesthetic of Employees Only (dark timber, brass highlights, leather, plush green velvet) is a visual ode to the original joint where it all began – where Employees Only first opened up in 2004 behind a clairvoyant shopfront on Hudson Street in New York’s West Village.
With the pandemic looming it put a pause on many restaurants and bars around Sydney. Only to reopen on the 24 June to its friends and loyal customers back to the basement abode with crazy cocktails and great music. Employees Only launched their “dinner and a show” on Fridays and Saturdays, and all other nights live DJ jazzy selects.
Head Chef Thomas Stott, who received 1 Chef’s hat for his work at Jellyfish Restaurant, having trained at est. under acclaimed Chef Peter Doyle. Stott was a fresh face at Employees Only prior to the pandemic shutdown, and is looking forward to the first real chance to flex his skills in the kitchen for Employees Only’s diners, having designed, in Stott’s own words, “an elegant but approachable Modern Australian menu, with slight Asian influences based around seasonal local produce.”
I caught up with a friend on Wednesday evening around 7pm and realised something was a miss. The mystic tarot reader tucked away in the corner at the bottom of the stairs, leaning over a small candlelit table, foretelling your past, present and mysterious future. The
midtown’s jazz resurgence vibe, the echo of laughter, to the ‘clinks’ of martini glasses of patrons and the fabulous burlesque and showgirl dancers of Porcelain Alice, Diesel Darling and Luci James.
Sure, I went on the wrong night and will return back on show night, but the service and meals remained high-end. Was a little confused when the music turned from jazz to left-field Aerosmith, Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. Honestly, I was there to catch-up with a friend (we had lots to chat about), taste the new menu and try a couple tasty cocktails.
On the table
Baked canadian scallops in shell w/ wasabi-kombu
butter, pangritatta & red vein sorrel (4) $27
Middle eastern spiced calamari w/ pickled
chilli, preserved lemon, parsley, & aioli $17
Prawn & crab linguini w/ diamond clams, eshallot,
garlic, chilli, white wine & EVOO $34
NY strip steak MBS3+ (250g) w/ 24ct gold,
red wine jus & truffle paris mash $49
Truffle paris mash $10
Sourdough breadbasket w/ truffle butter $8
Passionfruit crème brulee w/ freeze dried
raspberries, kiwi fruit, mint & chantilly cream $13
Chocolate tart w/ salted caramel
ice cream & condensed milk $13
Ready Fire Aim $23
Del Maguay Vida Mezcal, Espolon Blanco
shaken with honey-pineapple syrup, frsh lime, pineapple juice,
finished with dashes of Bitterman’s Hellfire Shrub
Silk Road $22
Saffron Gin stirred with Toki Sake,
Rhubarb Bitters& Rose Perfume served over ice
Bad Romance $20
Toji Sake shaken with White Chocolate,
Raspberry & Armagnac,served
straight up with rose petals
Kyoto Sourt $22
Chivas Regal 12 shaken with roasted
Japanese tea,Lemon & prune bitters,
served straight up
The highlight were definitely the mains and cocktails. The linguine had the ocean flavours whirled through the pasta and not overthrown with other ingredients, and the NY strip steak MBS3+ with gold leaf layer. This, I had a particular interested in. Will it taste metallic? (actually no), did it add a layer of flavour? (I personally didn’t think it did), however the marble beef scale and how perfectly it was cooked (medium rare, obviously) melted in my mouth, the truffle mash perfectly complement the red jus. My advise on this, ask for some bread to soak up the juices.
The Employees Only’s world-class bartenders do have a creative flair to craft a new cocktail to pair with any of the food on offer. With the natural charm to seduce your palate, there is no question or cocktail to hard to make (when asking for advice).
Gobal co-founder Dushan Zaric: “Employees Only Sydney are very excited to be back. We cannot wait to see everyone’s faces again! Anyone in hospitality will know the last few months have been some of the most testing times of our careers… but we’ve made use of the time to ensure our Employees Only offering is the best it can be, developing a more enhanced menu (and getting even better at our bar tricks!). Until it’s safe again to mingle shoulder-to-shoulder once more, we think our guests will love the dinner theatre format – it’s very New York, which is where it all began, so it makes sense for us (and keeps everyone at a safe distance)!”
Customers to the venue can be assured of a safe, hygienic evening, with a compulsory COVID-Safe mobile app check at the door, hand sanitisers throughout the venue, and all guests needing to adhere to a 4 x 4 sqm capacity rule. Staff will be cleaning thoroughly after guests have finished their meals.
Two-hour limit on sittings, with an early and late session.
Bookings are essential
Wed and Thurs: 4pm-midnight
Employees Only Sydney
9A Barrack Street, Martin Place NSW 2000, Australia
T: +61 2 8084 7490 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org