Finding Bar Messenger in Circular Quay is like a scavenger hunt. The bronze sculpture of Mercury, Roman messenger god and the bar’s namesake, hanging above the double doors at Transport House, is a clue you’re close. Enter the lobby and look for a gilt-framed painting of a woman drinking a Martini, ring the doorbell and enter.
“We wanted something hidden away, with an old-world vibe, like a speakeasy,” venue manager Aaron Rothe tells Broadsheet. “To get inside, you walk into the lobby and pull a painting away from the wall.”
Inside, displayed on shelves and behind the bar is a 150-strong wine collection that’s heavy on classics with a few organic and biodynamic drops for balance. With the exception of five New Zealand wines and a handful of champagnes, the list is all Australian.
Cocktails are also classic, including the Negroni that’s made from gin distilled at the bar’s parent company Mulpha Group’s (Intercontinental Sydney, Bimbadgen Estate) Hunter Valley winery. “These recipes are decades old, and we didn’t want to overcomplicate them, or mess with what works,” says Rothe.
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The snacks pair well with drinks. There’s smoked buffalo curd with honey, lemon thyme and flatbread; burrata with a fig and balsamic reduction; and pate served with toasted brioche. Salumi platters are piled with prosciutto or Wagyu bresaola, and there are gruyere toasties made with mortadella, black forest ham and caramelised onions, or with ricotta and pecorino.
The fit-out of the 120-seater mixes eras with ebony and natural cane chairs, rose-glass lamps on the dark timber tables and statues of lions taken from the Intercontinental Sydney, when it was refurbished, placed around the bar. The venue was once a file-storage room for Transport NSW and features a rough sandstone wall that’s now behind contemporary glass panels. Although the room is spacious, it feels intimate and private.
Rothe says he feels the CBD is coming back in full force, with corporates back in the office and theatres full. “During the week, people come in straight after work and stay for a few hours, on Saturday we see the theatre crowd before a show. The city has really bounced back; there are more people out and about.”
10 Phillip Street, Sydney
(02) 9233 3424
Wed to Thu 3pm–late