It’s not every Monday night you find yourself sticking on your tallest heels and pulling out a sparkly frock for a 9pm event but after receiving an exclusive invitation to one of the most talked about bars in Sydney’s CBD’s 1st birthday party, I would be reckless not to.
Wondering if we missed the note on the invite, my plus one and I found ourselves in a long queue at 9.01pm, outside semi-speakeasy bar, ‘Employee’s Only’, amongst a crowd dressed head to toe in 1920’s glamour, all waiting to hit up the VIP celebrations.
Luckily, we were able to add to our own attire, a slinky bow tie, from the box of dressing up goodies on entry, for those who had missed the memo, before descending into the underground bar.
Eagerly anticipating what was awaiting us, after being promised show-stopping performances from burlesque dancers, tarot readings and a string of live band performances – not to mention, a list of bespoke cocktails and enticing canapes, we made our way through the thick, velvety curtains cloaking the door to the underground bar.
Word had definitely got out about the VIP event and with founder and owner of the global brand, Dushan, making his way all the way from New York, to celebrate his Sydney venture, the venue was packed from wall to wall, with what seemed like half of Sydney there to reign in the milestone.
Finally making our way through the crowds to the bar, it wasn’t difficult to understand why the place is known for its good-looking staff and unrivaled cocktail making skills. Stuck choosing between an ‘Improved Margarita’ or the ‘Amelia’ (a concoction of Vodka, Elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon and blackberries’, my partner in crime was picking the Manhattan (Whisky stirred with a Rosso Vermouth, Grand Marrier and bitters) over a Negroni. (This was before she located the bowlful of punch at the side!)
Edging our way to a quiet(ish!) corner and sipping on our beverage of choice, we had a moment to digest the scene before us –pure prohibition and a retro-take on what you really could have found back when men and women came to party together in the ill-kept secrets of the ‘Roaring Twenties’.
With a jazz-band keeping the atmosphere pumping, the bartenders keeping everyone’s drinks flowing and endless canapes of fresh oysters, lamb skewers, smoked capsicum tartelettes and pea Falafel, (attempting to) circle the room, it was apparent this was going to be a very late night for most.
With curiosity getting the better of me, I left my companion, in search of the tarot reader eager to find out what my future had in store. Sadly, after waiting in a long line of similarly inquisitive guests, I lost my mojo and ventured off for another tipple just in time to catch the two burlesque dancers, mounting the bar and kicking off their show for the evening.
Definitely not a venue for the faint-hearted, EO is a place to head when you are after that big night out, especially with its doors staying open until 3am, regular raunchy shows and too-easily consumed, undeniably strong, cocktail delights. Still, it is worth checking off your list for any Sydney-sider.
Jen Howard is on the hunt for the best Margarita in Sydney CBD, teaching herself how to surf and always up for a good bottomless brunch at the weekend.
Employee’s Only is open to customers Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 3am