Penrith Bars: Discovering the City’s Unique Nightlife
We asked journalist Ellen Hill who lives at the base of Sydney’s Blue Mountains to fill us in on what’s new in the Penrith Bar scene and we can’t wait to get out there and try these ourselves!
When darkness descends, warm lights flicker on to highlight clumps of friends gathered for cocktails and a meal at venues around Australia’s newest destination – Penrith at the foothills of the Blue Mountains NSW.
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There’s a slew of fine dining restaurants, sophisticated bars, quirky experience boutiques, late night gourmet burger joints and cultural venues in this nightlife hotspot, just 60 minutes Sydney.
Here’s 8 of the best we discovered during a recent visit.
Theo’s Rooftop Bar, Astina Suites
Perched atop the swanky new Astina Suites in the middle of the CBD, this Mediterranean-inspired open-air bar and restaurant has panoramic views of the Blue Mountains.
Snack on antipasto, avo dip with corn chips and chilli oil or grab a cheese platter with quince, fresh honeycomb and house lavosh or a range of small plates (oysters, arancini, croquettes or chicken skewers).
Larger belly fillers are prawn linguine with housemade pasta, confit garlic, chilli, tomato and lemon; black gnocchi with nduja butter and pecorino; lamb rump with quinoa, burnt pumpkin puree and balsamic mint jam with an array of sides like grilled witlof with molasses and pecorino and spiced roast cauliflower, pickled mushrooms, dried fruit and sunflower seeds.
Sweeten the palate with peanut butter parfait, dark chocolate de leche and honeycomb; dark chocolate fondant with almonds, berries and vanilla gelato, a tropical Eton mess or a simple scoop of gelato.
The pool is for hotel guests only, but walk-ins are welcome in the restaurant and bar. Bookings can be made for groups of six or more.
Where: 21-25 Woodriff St, Penrith
When: Wed, Thurs & Sun 12pm – 10pm, Fri & Sat. 12pm 12am
Tucked away in a laneway in the middle of the main CBD strip, AG is intimate and chic but proud of its “wild westie ways’’. This is where you can mingle with locals enjoying an after-work drink, date night dinner or vinos with the girls.
It’s perfect if you’re feeling peckish after a show at The Joan (see below).
A light nibble is marinated alto olives, Sydney rock oysters or baked organic double cream brie with grilled wild mushroom and rosemary, a cheese board or dessert.
For a more substantial meal, tuck into grilled duck breast with ruby grapefruit, black garlic and citrus jus; the Tajima wagyu rump MBS6+ with Shiso chimichurri and pickled Daikon; or the 600g pinnacle rib eye on the bone with charred greens, yuzu kosho and jus.
Where: 16 Woodriffe St Penrith
When: Thursday 5pm – 10pm, Friday & Saturday 5pm – 2am
Duck Duck Goose Dumpling & Cocktail Bar
Fat, juicy dumplings and bao are crammed with tasty morsels like prawn and kimchi; chicken lemongrass; pulled pork, shallots, cabbage, and coriander hoisin sauce; and shitake mushroom, pickled cucumber and truffle mayo.
Get stuffed on duck spring rolls; kara age chicken with lime and black garlic chilli aioli; lotus chips with avo and togarashi; or prawn toast with aioli and herbs.
Round off the meal with a sweet dumpling or deep-fried ice cream, while the lights and music pump late into the night.
All-you-can-eat dumplings and bao every Sunday 12pm to 9pm.
Where: 439 High Street, Penrith
When: Thursday 5pm–12am, Friday & Saturday 5pm–2am, Sunday 5pm–12am
A dive bar with proper food, booze and arcade games – prepare to retrograde to the late `80s.
The menu blends perennial favs like burgers and ribs slathered with on-trend flavs like chimichurri, kimchi, yuzu and umami accompanied by loaded fries, potato scallops and cheesy onion rings.
Order from the menu or instruct the kitchen to “Feed me’’ with their range of the day selection.
Slake your thirst with tap beer, classic cocktails or new naughty named tipples, tins and a small, curated wine list.
Thursday there’s discounted food and bevvies and free play on the classic arcade games, while on Sunday there’s live music.
Where: 388 High St, Penrith 2750
When: 11am til late Wednesday to Sunday
Rusty Penny Brewing
Mates Matt and Mark turned their backyard hobby into a thriving micro business, recently shifting operations into a massive tasting room with industrial theme fit-out and rad gourmet barbecue food partnership.
If you want to slam a glass together with a local and savour the flavour of Penrith, this is the place.
Top of the menu is Penrith Lager, a crisp, simple mid-strength easy drinking pilsner brewed to cool your throat on blistering Western Sydney summer days, followed by The Nepean (“The beer of Penrith’’) gateway craft pale ale.
Work your way through the range from there: the robust Pale James, full-bodied The Penny and Red Beard, a russet English style ale with a sweet biscuit malt backbone, heavy bodied and smooth mouthfeel filled with toffee and dark fruit flavours.
Round off the session with the Nostalgia Stout, a malty mouthful of coffee, burnt toast and bread flavours.
If beer’s not your thing, there’s the Rusty Penny take on cider – simple, crisp, dry, refreshing.
Where: 4/137 Coreen Ave, Penrith
When: Wednesday & Thursday 11am – 9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am – 10pm, Sunday 11am – 6pm
Named after Australia’s most famous opera diva (Dame Joan Sutherland), The Joan attracts world-class talent at a fraction of the cost without the parking hassles of trekking to Sydney.
The home of Q Theatre Company, The Joan presents music, comedy, theatre and dance works from around the world as well as commissioned local pieces in its concert hall, drama theatre, 100-seat multi-purpose hall.
Located next to a shopping plaza in the middle of town, there’s plenty of choices within a short stroll to stave off the belly rumbles before a show.
Top up at the onsite bar, The Borland, at intermission, then wander to a trendy bar or late-night café nearby for a nightcap after last curtain call.
Where: 597 High Street, Penrith
When: The restaurant 8.30am – 7pm on Monday – Friday and the bar before and after events. Find out what’s happening here
Mr Watkins Bar
From the team that delivered Elton Chong, Mr Watkins kicked off the foodie scene here way before the new normal set in and Penrith was a recognised cool kid.
In a venue stuffed with mismatched décor, the whiff of old books and the murky light of a secret speakeasy where well-travelled uni students double as waiters ready to impart wisdom and knowledge, the vibe is old sock rather than stiletto.
The menu is reasonably priced full-on comfort food that nourishes the mind for trivia night competition (Tuesday) with bangers and mash, osso bucco, pork hock and jerked whole chook for sharing or to keep to yourself.
Where: 467 High St Penrith
When: Mon to Wed 6am – 4pm, Thur. 6am – 11pm, Fri. 6am – 12am, Sat. 8am – 12am, Sun. 8am-2pm (cafe by day and bar at night)
Dom’s Cocktail Lounge, Penrith Panthers
Penrith Panther’s has several bars and restaurants, but the sophisticated standout is the 1920s Gatsby-inspired speakeasy luxury of Dom’s.
Seasonal cocktails offer a fresh take on old-fashioned classics and an abundance of modern flavour combinations. The bar is stocked with a range of small-batch artisan spirits to pair with quality handcrafted syrups, infusions and fresh pressed juices.
Sip your beverage in the intimate venue surrounded by prohibition-era décor of gold-leaf walls and a gigantic birdcage where Sydney’s best live acts perform (monthly Drag Bingo night is a must).
Where: Mulgoa Road Penrith
When: Friday & Saturday 5pm – late
Need more ideas? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions, stay updated with what’s happening and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!
About the Author: An award-winning travel writer, Blue Mountains-based Ellen Hill traipses the country with photographer partner David in search of new experiences and interesting characters, usually in a grubby hatchback piled high with gear and, sometimes, a pampered pet rabbit called Callum.