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Australians can be party animals when they're in the mood. Whether it's a few beers around the barbecue, a few bottles of red over a dinner table with friends, or an all-night rage in a trendy dance club, they're always on the lookout for the next event. You'll find that alcohol plays a big part in the Aussie culture.

STELLAR CELLAR

When this modish subterranean bar and supper club first opened a couple of years ago, we tried pronouncing "Banc" the French way but, with our Australian accent, that turned out sounding like "bonk" (vulgar vernacular for sexual coupling) so it's back to "bank." Young bankers, brokers, and barristers have given this vaulted bolt-hole their stamp of approval, but that doesn't mean it's quiet. This is an excellent place to do some serious wine tasting; apart from the regular list, there's a special cellar list of 400 wines, available on request.
No restrictions. But you'll feel out of place unless dressed smartly
53 Martin Pl. (entrance on Elizabeth St.); tel. 61 2 92 33 53 99


DRINK IN THE VIEW

Even locals like me are riveted by the exceptional views through vast windows from this aerie atop the ANA Hotel Sydney, bordering The Rocks. I love looking west to the Blue Mountains at dusk as the orange sky fades to navy and the lights start to come on. Looking north from this height, the traffic on the Harbour Bridge is a twinkling floor show, instead of the fuming frustration it often is at street level. The international-style décor is nothing to write home about but it's a great place to linger on a comfortable sofa or at a table for two, deciding whether or not to order another margarita.
No restrictions, although smart casual or a suit is appropriate
Level 36, ANA Hotel Sydney, 176 Cumberland St.; tel. 61 2 92 50 60 00


AN OASIS OF CIVILITY

This enticingly sleek and softly lit bar opened in October 1999 bringing class and civility to an area not heavily endowed with either; it's at the back of the strip of Oxford Street given over to porno clubs, drag shows, and a colorful street life after dark. I find it blissful here, mainly because the noise level is usually a low hum, which means you can talk without shouting, a rarity in Sydney bars and restaurants. Other reasons: cozy banquettes, swift service, fires when the weather's cold.
Smart casual dress. Otherwise no restriction, unless the bar (capacity 50 people) is full
1a Burton St., Darlinghurst; tel. 61 2 93 80 21 21


MUSICAL STANDOUT

Everyone who fancies good live music goes to The Basement at some time or other, so you never know who'll be listening or playing there. It's been the sometime scene of all-time greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Incognito, Renee Geyer, and Jimmy Webb. Moody, dark, and rather nondescript inside, it comes to life when the performers get going at around 9:30 p.m., and sometimes it's nearly dawn when the place winds up. It's been going for a quarter of a century and, as Sydney nightlife goes, that's a long time.
Smart casual dress. Patrons must be over 18 years of age From 7 p.m. a cover charge between $7 and $18 applies, depending on the performer
29 Reiby Pl., tel. 61 2 92 51 27 97


INTIMATE COMFORT

It's tucked away beyond the Kirketon's lobby, so you wouldn't know this little bar was there unless you were told. Fix is an intimate, comforting cocoon that attracts the fashion, design, and publishing crowd. They like its China-red walls, high seats that keep you level with the people who are standing, and a very sophisticated air-conditioning system that draws smoke upward before it has a chance to reach the nose of a neighbor. It also has its own kitchen serving excellent casual meals.No restrictions, as long as the bar is not too full (50 people maximum) and you are reasonably well-dressed
The Kirketon Hotel, 229 Darlinghurst Rd., Darlinghurst; tel. 61 2 93 32 20 11


STYLE CENTER

To the people riding buses 301 to 304, you're sitting in a vast shop window, a sleek pool of light in an otherwise black street. The clean space inside is abuzz with style setters and power brokers either waiting for a place at a long, shared table in the restaurant, or content with a sofa, excellent bar food, and cocktails or wine. The interior has such a clean sweep, I'd be inclined to call it minimalist if it weren't for the warm-toned wood and the flowers. It is absolutely right for now.You're turned away only if the bar is full (70 maximum). It's a cool crowd, so wear something of-the-moment
85 Commonwealth St., Surry Hills; tel. 61 2 92 80 28 88


SOFT DECADENCE

A welcome Sydney move from hard-minimalist to soft-decadent surfaces had to happen sometime—and here it is, with Joe Diamond's mohair sofas, velvet cushions, handmade mirrors, and brass candelabras. The idea behind Joe Diamond's was to re-create a decadent Paris supper club of the '20s. I wouldn't say the attempt has been entirely successful—its raw brick walls remind me of what we did in the '60s—but that hasn't stopped the city's young groovers from being crazy about its Morocco-meets-gothic atmosphere.
No restrictions. Wear smart casual
16 Wentworth Ave., Surry Hills; tel. 61 2 92 83 89 93


A SUAVE GAY LOUNGE

One of the first gay dance clubs in Australia, Midnight Shift has kept its edge by evolving with the times on the strip that is the heart of gay Sydney. Its latest revamp by owner Tim Berry has turned it into what he calls a "suave" cocktail lounge, with leather upholstery and soothing music at low volume until the action starts at the witching hour. Definitely a great meeting place for visiting gays.
Must be neat and well-dressed. No sneakers
85 Oxford St., Darlinghurst; tel. 61 2 93 60 43 19


THE OUTDOORS, INSIDE

This place is pared-down with bare floors and steel-legged chairs, so when the weather's good, the doors are flung open and the whole bar and restaurant seem to be outdoors, facing toward the northern end of the beach. Even during the week the place has a holiday spirit and at weekends it's a matchless perch for people watching, because above all it belongs to the locals, everyone from young families during the day to singles, who become more populous the later it gets. Last time I was there, the Cosmopolitan presented to me was good enough to be renamed Sex and the City.
No restrictions. Come in jeans or jackets, whatever's comfortable
Warners Ave. at Wairoa Ave., Bondi Beach; tel. 61 2 93 00 98 12


PEOPLE IN BLACK

This grown-up place is so secretive and publicity-shy, they clammed up when I started asking questions. I guess they don't want the world to know Lachlan Murdoch, Sarah O'Hare, and, yes, Tom and Nicole have been seen there. A bar/club hybrid, although there is no charge for entry, it is a softly-lit, low-ceilinged cellar divided into several intimate rooms, furnished for comfort rather than style with leather seating and a grand piano (unplayed whenever my friends and I have been there) in the bar. There is a dining room and a kind of study. The fact that it's not polished gives it an authenticity that appeals to pleasure-seekers from the (rich and fashionable) Eastern Suburbs, interstate corporates and other restless night owls.
They check you out through a security door when you ring the bell. The club is often closed for private events, so it's a good idea to call ahead. Wear citified casual. Black is perfect
169 Darlinghurst Rd., Darlinghurst; tel. 61 2 93 26 02 22

 

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