There’s a bar which has become something of a destination for in the know bartenders; a place that is that rare beast which combines great classic cocktails, a killer back bar selection, and old school hospitality in a neighbourhood joint hideaway that’s smack bang in the middle of corporate Sydney.
That bar is Burrow Bar. It offers its customers — most of whom are regulars or on their way to becoming one — some shelter from the storm that is Sydney life; the pleasures of old fashioned hospitality, a place of refuge between the office and home.
Robby Miersch is the venue manager here [update — he’s recently left his post at Burrow], and we recently caught up with him to find out what makes the bar tick and why he lives and breathes Burrow Bar.
As told to Sam Bygrave
I’ve been working in hospitality for 12 years almost. I’m originally from Chemnitz, it just became famous in the news for a while, because they had a march of Nazis walking through the streets. It’s kind of a small town, we’re very backwards down there — I moved out of Chemnitz when I was 16.
My ex-girlfriend and me we decided to go somewhere else, because Berlin was a big party city — we wanted to go somewhere and travel. It was either Canada or Australia, because the hospitality situation is quite good here, you can make good money. The country is beautiful.
How was working at Eau de Vie? It was interesting, I used to work in a completely different field, I used to work in hotel bars in Berlin. More on the celebrity side, so I used to serve people like Bruce Willis and other motherfucking celebrities — not a big deal for me.
So Eau de Vie for me was the first small bar, where the focus was on cocktails in general. The bars I used to work before, they were cocktail bars as well but it was more like rich people buying bottles of vodka and Red bull and going crazy — and obviously making heaps of tips. Then signing off and getting pissed at Berghain.
Berlin was wild, which was one of the reasons why we came to Australia.
Eau de Vie was interesting, very prep-heavy. There was a weekly day shift where you’d prep for eight hours, to get all the syrups done — there’s a huge pre-batch system. So when someone orders a cocktail, all the bartender does is pull up the pre-batch and add the juice, mix it together and done.
I kind of got bored after a while because at Eau de Vie all you’re doing is selling the Eau de Vie drinks, and classic cocktails are done the Eau de Vie way so that they’re not really classic anymore, with special essences and all that stuff.
After Eau de Vie, I was helping out at Bennelong for a little while, and then I met Bryce [McDonough, co-owner of Burrow Bar]. That was the beginning of Burrow Bar, I started right before New Years Eve 2016.
I had a lot of chats with Bryce, and he said this was going to happen and this was going to happen, and I’d opened three venues before, so I’m used to unfinished places and I know how it’s going to be if you work there long enough. So I saw the potential in Burrow Bar and started working here full time.
Burrow Bar is a family place, it’s bar for locals. It’s a bar where you can have a chat; you see other bars where the music is too loud or it’s overcrowded — we’re not like that. Obviously we have a lot of regulars, so I’d say it’s the modern Australian version of — what’s that show called again? Where everybody knows your name? Cheers.
The regulars know you, you know their name, and when new people come in they get connected with the old regulars as well. It’s a huge family, a bar run by two lovely people and the customers are the same.
We’re right in the middle of the CBD, but we didn’t advertise that much; Bryce and Chau never wanted to pay money for it, which is a good thing, because the bar grows healthy — we’re getting busier and busier, organically.
It’s personal service — it’s very important. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, you should always get treated the same way. No arrogance — that’s very important. I don’t care if I have a wanky customer who orders a shit drink, he deserves the same service, and at the end of the day he pays for it. My bar philosophy in general is old school hospitality: treat your customer right so they treat you right.