Photography by Merivale
Words by Jane Ryan
330 George Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000, Australia
Tel: +61 (0)2 9114 7379
Website: View bar's website
Hours: Mon-Sun 12:00-02:00
Style: Restaurant bar
Recommended for: Aperitivos, Food, Fun/atmosphere, Late night, Wine
Price guide: Middling
Owned by: Merivale
Merivale's famed Italian joint has made the transition from Bondi to the CBD – fronting the Ivy Precinct on George Street with its wood-fired oven and heavenly smells of burrata and 'nduja. But this new location isn't just focused on the snacks, it's got its very own cocktail bar complete with liquid classics from Turin, Milan and Venice.
You'll probably have noticed that the Ivy Precinct is getting a bit of a makeover, from disco coffee shops to intimate French bars, as the juggernaut of the Sydney hospitality world decides to inject fun (and money) back into the CBD now the lock-out-laws have become a distant nightmare.
Bar Totti's is part of that injection, with a stripped back, white-washed dining room facing the street and the darker, moodier and more intimate bar down the back. While the front room, soaked in natural light thanks to its glass façade, is where the hungry will gravitate, it's the dark sea-green bar with its island counter that we're more concerned (and enamored) with.
The bar part of Bar Totti's has its own entrance in the laneway next to Bar Topa, meaning you wont have to jostle past tables of pasta and puffy wood-fired bread to get your hands on a Negroni. The space itself feels cavernous with a high ceiling and shelves climbing the tall walls. There was a clear 'vintage' memo sent to the design team but its been interpreted slightly differently, with hundreds of records featuring in one corner and Roman-style earthenware pots in another. But it comes together well – it's Merivale after all, and they know how to style – with plenty of dark corners to conduct boozy dates and brighter high tables for friends sharing wine.
In the centre is the bar itself, made of grey speckled marble and with plenty of stools to perch on and oversee the production line of spritzes. The short Italian cocktail menu includes delights such as the Sgroppino with sorbet or a twisted Milano Sbagliato which calls for mandarin alongside the usual suspects of Campari and prosecco. You can even order a half-litre of full litre of Negroni (which will set you back $60 and $95 respectively).
The drinks are done well, there's plenty of Italian bitter to get you salivating (yes you can and should eat at the bar) and as a whole they're balanced well with the citrus elements and sweet ingredients. There's a total lack of pretense here too, our Sbagliato came in a small tumbler and would have looked at home in a Milan café at aperitivo hour, which is just how we like it.
Food-wise, it's all about the bread and whatever accompaniments you can pile on it – a DIY open sandwich of fresh tomatoes, cheese, sardines, salami and olives. It's heavy on the oil but not unwelcomed. The servers carrying it and the staff behind the bar are efficient, yet gently betraying signs of a frazzled opening. They're not yet ready to entertain but they can get you a Negroni tout suite and for now that feels like enough to ask of them.
With a 2am closing time, DJs playing Wednesday to Sunday and the antipasti coming out piled high on the plates (too high perhaps in the case of all those tomatoes), Bar Totti's has quickly become the new must-visit for Sydney's CBD.
The only downside? It's the loo. Toilets are shared with Felix and Little Felix which means leaving the venue, walking through Little Felix and into a corridor that doesn't look customer-facing at all. You'd be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into an employees-only and were en route to the kitchen. They're the basics of basic, and after all the style and glam and fun of the new Merivale venues, this parting note feels a tad lackluster.