Everything We Know

Everything We Know: Burrow Bar & Cash Only Bar & Diner

Burrow Bar in Sydney is moving to a two level space up the road, and opening Cash Only Bar & Diner in the process — here's everything we know.

Sydney’s Burrow Bar is moving to new digs up the road, and in the process, owners Chau Tran and Bryce McDonough are opening a new venue to sit above it: Cash Only Bar & Diner.

After over five years at their original space in De Mestre Place, their lease is up and they’re reopening on the corner of Barrack and Clarence Street.

It represents the latest addition to a blooming Sydney CBD centred around Clarence, Kent and York streets, following the opening of Sammy Junior on York Street this week.

“We’re positioned just within the outer reaches of Uncle Ming’s, Stitch, and Employees Only right here,” says McDonough, of a precinct which includes some of Sydney’s best bars.

“We’re 150 metres from the front door The Baxter Inn, you know? When you think about the places that everyone knows and talks about — The Baxter Inn, Old Mate’s Place, and Cantina OK! are the ones that really echo across the industry,” he says.

We spoke to Tran and McDonough to get a feel for what will change for Burrow Bar at its new location, and what we can expect from Cash Only Bar & Diner — you can read more on that below.

As to what will take over the former Burrow Bar space, we’re still waiting to hear full details. What we do know is the space will be occupied by Merivale — the influential and prolific hospitality group owned by Justin Hemmes — which owns the site.

Merivale’s group bars manager, Sam Egerton, tells us that the concept is still in development. “What I can say is we are looking to keep a lot of the beautiful elements of the space that the Burrow team exposed and lean into the underground environment with a focus on things being late, loud, fun and live,” he says.

What is Burrow Bar about?

Burrow Bar is just over five years old and one of the go to places for Sydney hospitality’s scene to turn things up a notch. The emphasis here has always been on an intimate hospitality — something you can expect will continue when they open the new location on the corner of Clarence and Barrack Streets.

What is changing at Burrow Bar?

Think of Burrow Bar in its latest incarnation as a more confident iteration, suggests Tran.

“We’re trying to make it like if Burrow Bar had just graduated from university and got its first pay check, what would it look like?” She says.

“Yeah, but it still doesn’t want to pay its HECS,” says McDonough.

They’re planning on stepping up the execution of the drink program a notch or two, whilst maintaining their focus on fun and good times.

“We’re going to run it as Burrow Bar as we can,” says McDonough. “But it will have the amazing food from upstairs.”

Expect Burrow Bar to run from 4pm to midnight to start with.

So there’s two venues?

Yep, there’s two venues, with two seperate entrances, and two distinct identities. They’ve taken over the site of the former Mach 2 restaurant.

Burrow Bar is moving into the basement of the site, and will have its own entrance — you’ll enter through iron gates at 96 Clarence Street and skip down the stairs.

For Cash Only Bar & Diner, you’ll enter on the corner of Clarence and Barrack Streets into a light, sun-filled room.

What’s the big idea behind Cash Only Bar & Diner?

They’re looking at opening from 11am until 11pm, for full restaurant style service. The coffee window is currently open from 7am until 2pm.

“We are looking at a unique takeaway only menu,” says McDonough, “for the window, working in conjunction with Quynh [Van Nguyen]. That’s more of a building to order Vietnamese salad bar — that same dish won’t be available inside.”

You don’t have to eat at Cash Only Bar & Diner — you can just pop in for a drink at the bar if that’s what you desire.

What’s the food concept for Cash Only Bar & Diner?

“The food concept is regional Vietnamese food, from the middle of Vietnam — Hue, to be exact, that’s where my mother is from,” says Tran. “It’s close to the beach, [there’s] a lot of seafood.”

This regional focus is something she feels is lacking when it comes to Vietnamese restaurants in Australia.

“A lot of Vietnamese restaurants in Australia don’t do regional; it’s very much the same-ish cuisine. Everyone does pho, everyone does a banh mi, you can walk into any and you’ll get an across the country menu,” she says. “For us, regional Vietnamese food is something that I don’t think is being done.“

They’ll also tinker with food service, too, to a style that is more suited to a bar setting.

“For us, tapas-style eating is where we’re at and how we like to eat. So somewhere where you can go with two people, or for 10 — and you can make your way through the entire menu,” Tran says. “That’s how we want to plate up. Authentic Vietnamese food but served in a non-traditional way.”

When it comes to the drinks served in Cash Only Bar & Diner, they’ll be taking a different approach from the dark spirits and rich drinking approach you find in Burrow Bar.

“Upstairs we’re going very much bright and breezy,” McDonough says. “We’re going to focus on the blonder spirits: gin, Pisco, tequila, mezcal, white rum.”

Trans says to think of the difference between the two bars in terms of barrels: “[Spirits that] haven’t touched a barrel upstairs; has touched a barrel downstairs,” she says.

They’re in the process of hiring for a restaurant manager for Cash Only Bar & Diner, and working with a friend of theirs to build the wine list.

“That will be 50-60 strong,” says McDonough, “a lot of decent bottles, a lot of thought going into it — we’re excited by that.”

When will the bars open?

The latest information from Tran is that Burrow Bar will open in the second week of April. Cash Only Bar & Diner opens at the end of April.