Behind an unmarked, white steel door on William St in Darlinghurst is a secret members-only bar where discretion is key and so are carefully crafted cocktails. Magazin is the brainchild of Martin O’Sullivan, Belinda Lai and John Toubia- the same clever folk who brought us Grasshopper Bar and The Boston. Being one of the first small bars to ever open in Sydney after the liquor laws changed over five years ago they are no strangers to trying new things and challenging the way Sydney-siders drink and dine.
Behind that steel door is a dark staircase with a sign saying “no cameras”. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust and see the intimate bunker style 70-seater bar. Leather booths line the walls and dim tea lights are on every small marble topped table. It’s a minimalist, stylish fit out and completely the opposite vibe to the grungy, casual feel of Grasshopper.
Like a hatted restaurant, your host will seat you at table, hand you a menu and make some suggestions. The subtle lounge music in the background is soft enough to have a conversation but loud enough to mask those around you. The cocktail list is comprised of both classics and signature drinks. You’ll find the classics listed from lighter to heavier style drinks and the signatures listing only the key ingredients used to make the beverage. The extensive wine list features houses both locally and abroad and for those in the mood to celebrate there are magnums of Champagne including the 2010 Chablis Grand Cru ($410).
Behind the small bar is a kitchen used to prep fresh, seasonal ingredients for the cocktails. It’s where you’ll find head bartender Taka Shino (ex-Black) creating garnishes of jellies, candy, and my favourite, the ginger lolly pop.
So, how do you get membership to this bar? Membership is based on referrals from existing members or by knowing Martin, John, Belinda or Taka. It’s not about how loaded you are and one of the main reasons for this members-only bar isn’t to get the cool kids in, rather keep the wanker’s out. Once your application has been approved there is a one off membership fee followed by an annual fee. This then gives you access to the bar 7 days a week 5.30pm-3am on weekdays and 7pm-3am on weekends. You’re welcome to bring guests with you and every second Sunday they design a special cocktail menu for an evening called ‘Switch Sundays’.