A 26-square-metre bar should feel small, but Alleyway doesn’t. It spills out into a triangular courtyard bordered by dramatic, storeys-high brick walls and makes ingenious use of the space it has.
“Every millimetre inside was counted,” says interior designer Shehani Kumarasinghege of Scott Carver.
“Each detail had to relate to something else. For example, recycled fruit crate shelves lined with bottles of spirits are level with smoky mirrors that create a panorama of the entire bar.”
Alleyway opened quietly in May, in time for Vivid. There are no signs on the street. A set of stairs on George Street leads down to the courtyard, and Alleyway’s high tables and stools are to the right.
“It’s hidden away,” says bartender Matty Johnston. “We didn’t want to tell too many people at first because we didn’t want masses coming for the fad of a new bar.”
For a small venue, Alleyway is adept at keeping the offering fresh. “We’ve got 75 whiskies and you’ll never see the same one on the menu twice,” he says. “Once the bottle is empty, it’s gone.” Johnston and his team are serious about whisky and discuss tasting notes before serving to customers. “We know our shit,” says Johnston. “We’ll get you drinking and appreciating stuff you’ve never had before.”
Although whisky is the dominant spirit on Alleyway’s menu, the bar also features gin, tequila and mezcal, and a variety of natural wines. Many cocktails riff on traditional drinks. There’s the Matcha Gimlet which is made with matcha green tea syrup and Brookies Byron Bay gin, and the Peruvian-style pisco sour made with a fig twist.
The atmosphere is cosy owing to the 15-person capacity inside and the friendliness of the mostly Kiwi bar staff. “Everyone here is either bro, mate or cuzzy,” says Johnston. “We want people to feel like it’s their neighbourhood family bar.”
The food offering is simple, prepared in the tiny back kitchen or at Alleway’s sister cafe, Avenue, upstairs at George Street level. The charcuterie board features what Johnston affectionately calls “assorted swine”. Cheeses such as ash-washed brie are on offer, as well as caramelised chicken wings.
200 George Street, Sydney
Mon to Tue 3pm–11pm
Wed to Fri 12pm–11pm