Piccolo Bar in Kings Cross brings an old school vibe and a European-style aperitivo bar to Sydney with a focus on aromatised wines and classic cocktails.
We all have a travel story to tell. It starts somewhere in Europe, a meander late one evening down an unmarked, narrow cobblestone lane which leads to a discovery. A warm glow in the distance and the murmur of patrons seated around tables along the footpath beckon you to stop. You step inside the intimate space amidst historical photos framed on the walls, a red-lit back bar, French pop songs from the 60’s and you’re greeted like a habitué.
You take a seat at the bar – it’s your lucky night – and all around you, patrons are chatting while sipping on aperitvi and cocktails. You know you’ve found your special place. As you choose your first drink, you glance at the old matchbooks that sit under the glass bar top and at that moment you realise, this isn’t Europe. This is Piccolo Bar in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
Piccolo Bar started life in 1952 by Vittorio Bianchi. The late-night café and nightlife venue was an intimate space that rose to fame attracting celebrities, artists and luminaries for many decades. In 2020, the Kings Cross spot was about to become a long lost memory when a new custodian stepped in.
The new incarnation of Piccolo Bar is the brainchild of David Spanton, Founder of Australian Bartender magazine who sought to save the Kings Cross landmark. Under his ownership and along with a talented team, he has created a European-style aperitivo bar that could well be at home in that cobblestone lane in Italy or France. From the aesthetics and hospitality to the choice of music and ambience, the attention to detail leaves nothing short of admiration.
Opening in September 2021, and with a capacity for only 20 patrons, Piccolo Bar embodies the old school spirit with a solid focus on aromatised wines and classics. The enticing list of aperitivi is a good place to ease into the experience with a selection of vermouth, quinquina, Americano and chinato spanning Italy, France and Australia. You’ll find the likes of Punt è Mes, Cinzano 1757 Rosso, Causes & Cures Semi Dry White, Lillet Rosé and Barolo Chinato served in 60ml pours on ice with accompanying soda water and citrus garnish – simple, delicious, and easy sipping.
A solid list of classic cocktails delivers on flavour and balance. From the Garibaldi and Americano to the Amaro Sour and Old Fashioned, you won’t find twists on classics, only classics done well and with top shelf spirits. A Heritage Cocktail Special, such as ‘The Mitch’ from the days of The Bayswater Brasserie (1982 – 2010) gives a nod to the recent past and locale, a tribute to tradition much in line with a venue steeped in history. Should you feel peckish, a selection of tasty bites complements the drinks offering such as pork and pistachio terrine, Pollastrini Italian sardines and a delightful array of artisan cheeses from Penny’s Cheese Shop next door.
The Amari & Digestives list is equally tempting with the likes of Cynar and Never Never Juniper Amaro. For a flavour sensation, try the Piccolo House Blended Digestive, a Franco-Italian marriage of two Alpine Amari, Green Chartreuse and Braulio (with other ingredients) that delivers lingering herbaceous, minty, bittersweet notes with the brightness of citrus.
If the ebb and flow of regulars throughout the evening is an indication, the new incarnation of Piccolo Bar has already become a local favourite. And as you take your leave, you now have a local story tell.
Piccolo Bar is open from 4pm till midnight, Wednesday to Saturday with Aperitivo hour from 4pm to 6pm.
Click on the page numbers below to view images of the cocktails and the bar.