100 George St, The Rocks, Sydney
(02) 8070 9311 or
A church, an Institute for Seamen, an art studio… a multi-level entertainment palace. Bar100 has fun with 100 George St.

A drag queen hosting a trivia night. In a church. It’s the stuff that Catholic guilt is made of, and precisely what happens on Mondays at Bar100, a drinking haven in Sydney’s The Rocks that doubles as a heritage-listed mariner’s chapel. “It’s what I like to call revved-up trivia,” Jason Hirt, Bar100’s General Manager, says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

There’s a lot more than communion wine on Bar100’s drinks menu, too. Sipping an expertly mixed cocktail — there’s everything from margaritas to ‘Almond Gunpowders’ — feels somewhat sacrilegious when surrounded by stained glass windows and staring the Virgin Mary straight in the eye.

Bar100 is the latest in a long line of 100 George Street tenants. Built in 1856, it’s had various incarnations over the years — church, the Rawson Institute for Seamen and, more recently, an art gallery. “There are a lot of bones in here,” Hirt says. “It goes back to the First Fleet.”

Charif Kazal and his seven brothers acquired the building in 2004. Unsurprisingly, their dream of converting it into a three-storey hospitality venue posed more than a few challenges. “We wanted to put life back into such a historical building, but it took a long time to sell our vision,” Kazal says. “It was definitely a labour of love over a very long period of time.”

Seven years and a cool $13m later, Bar100 opened to the public. Thanks to Woods Bagot, which managed the interior architectural design, the space looks spectacular. In fact, it doesn’t look that different to how it did more than a century ago. “We wanted something that would age gracefully,” Kazal says. “We wanted to reference the mariner history of the building. We wanted to stay with the timbre, sandstone and steel.”


Enter Bar100 and you’ll find yourself in a room best described as colonial chic. The sandstone walls, hardwood floors and bespoke chandeliers are gobsmacking in their grandeur. But the focal point of the room is the bar — at 12 metres long, it’s a monolithic form with a brass base.

Furniture is a foil to its surroundings. Dark timber tables come complete with bronze bases, and ring stools complement the curve of arched windows. “Essentially it’s high tables and stools with leather booth seating around the perimeter,” Jonathan Richards from SJB — which specified the furniture — says. “It’s pub furniture of a high calibre. We didn’t want to scream out anything; we didn’t want to detract from what really is an amazing space.” Adjacent to the main bar is the most ‘church-like’ room in the building. Here you’ll find stained glass windows, art deco lighting and a gabled Tudor-style ceiling. Pride of place in the middle of the room is a long, illuminated stone bench. “It creates the same symmetry you get with an aisle in a church,” Richards says. Either side of it, in lieu of wooden pews, are luxurious leather lounges. “We had to think about the function of the room,” Richards says. “It’s a cocktail lounge so we went for luxurious fabrics on deep comfortable lounges.”


Upstairs is 8Brothers Brasserie, a Middle Eastern restaurant named after Bar100’s owners, the eight Kazal brothers. There’s an open kitchen, but the feel is dark and moody. Woods Bagot opted for black tiled floors and bare bulb lights. To match, SJB chose shiny black tables and chairs. “We were going for a classic bistro look,” Richards says. “But it had to have a subterranean feel about it.”

The restaurant spills out onto The Terrace, a sunlit deck with views over The Sydney Harbour. “Outside it’s more laid back,” Richards says. “There’s timber, wicker chairs and floral-print cushions.”

There’s also the pot plant-filled Sunroom, a tropical-themed restaurant annex with tangled fishing nets and vintage maps hanging on the walls. “Again, it’s all about the history of the building,” Hirt says. “It’s referencing that mariner history.”


Finally, on the top level of the venue, is 1909: a super exclusive lounge area, closed to the public and only accessed by a private elevator. This is where Sydney’s elite can mingle, paparazzi free, while reclining on plush ottomans, smoking cigars and marinating in a bottle (or five) of primo plonk.

“What we’ve done with our wine — and it’s a very edited selection — is this idea of The Little Black Book,” Hirt says. “You go, ‘Ok, I want the Henschke 1995,’ and then you sign your name. A few weeks later you might come back and go, ‘Oh geez, Jimmy drank the last of the Henschke.’ That’s the kind of thing we want to develop.”

The décor befits the lounge’s exclusivity. Oriental wallpaper, floor-sweeping velvet curtains and specially commissioned paintings by Australian artist Charles Billich imbue 1909 with an elegant sensuality. “They’re what Charles calls his multimedia paintings,” Christa Billich, Charles’ wife explains. “He takes an original painting, blows it up and adds to it. They’re quite erotic and surreal.”

That the Kazals approached Charles Billich makes sense — in a previous life 1909 was his studio. Billich tells me, “It’s all about incorporating the history of the building into the venue. Charles always says to me, ‘My old studio is my newest playground’. It’s such a fabulous thing to be able to say.”


Since opening, Bar100 has been touted as competition to the jewel in the Justin Hemmes/Merivale hospitality crown, Ivy. But the vibe is more relaxed. “From the start, the Kazals wanted it to be a venue that was open to everybody,” Richards says. “They didn’t want to be a fashionable, flash-then-gone venue.” Sure, the space is stunning, the venue is sprawling and the names drunkenly scrawled in The Little Black Book are just as impressive as those on Ivy’s rooftop pool guest-list. But, as Hirt puts it, “you can show up wearing a t-shirt and boater shoes and the bouncer isn’t going to say anything about it.” Relaxed dress code aside, Justin Hemmes doesn’t hire a drag queen to host trivia on a Monday night. – Joanna Lowry 

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