The third stage of The Imperial’s dramatic $6 million renovation has finally been unveiled.

One level above the Erskineville pub’s public bar and vegetarian-friendly restaurant Priscillas, which opened earlier this year, is Imperial Up, a quirky rooftop courtyard and cocktail bar serving Italian food. The colourful space had been closed for almost three decades. (And while the thick of winter is an interesting time to launch an outdoor venue, don’t worry, it has heaters.)

“Imagine a little Italian trattoria that loves disco and has a very cool lounge room. Put all that on a rooftop, and now add some tasty cocktails, post-modern glamour and an eclectic crowd,” said co-owner Fraser Short of Sydney Collective (Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Park House) in an official statement.

Before you get to the courtyard you have to walk through a retro-styled dining room, which calls to mind New York’s infamous Studio 54. It’s decorated with pop-art graphics, pastel-coloured fringed umbrellas that tower above orange leather stools, as well as striped walls, quasi-classical sculptures, a pizza oven decorated in gold mirror and a mosaic-lined bar top. It’s fun and most definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Chef Dave Clarke (ex Jamie’s Italian, Chophouse and Quay chef) and his team are serving stuzzichino (finger food), pasta and pizzas, including a margherita with San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte and a “NY Peperoni” with cheddar.

The “pronto” section of the menu features gamberi fritti (fried school prawns with saffron aioli); bruschetta with buffalo mozzarella; salumi with mortadella and Lombardi pickled chillies; and a prawn Caesar salad with pickled onion, radish and parmesan-ranch dressing. For dessert there’s a lemon meringue pie with pistachio praline and Italian meringue.

The Imperial has always played an important role for Sydney’s LGBTQI community, and will continue to do so with its Explore Yourself Sundays (3pm until 8pm). DJ Dan Murphy will play backing tracks for drag and queer performances for Lip Sync Heroes, a lip-sync competition hosted by Farren Heit. Happy hour will run from 5pm until 7pm every Sunday with cheap jugs of cocktails, beers and bottles of wine on offer. In September, Imperial Up will throw a drag party lunch with out there performances and a buffet of Italian dishes.

There’s one more stage before The Imperial’s redevelopment is complete. Opening sometime next year is an open-air, same-sex wedding chapel and ceremonial space for people to exchange vows.


Imperial Up
35 Erskineville Road, Erskineville
(02) 8960 6613

Mon to Fri, 4pm–12am
Sat & Sun, 11.30am–12am

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on July 9, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.