A Work In Progress, Sydney CBD

Merivale’s new art-pop bar takes city drinking to a whole new level.

You know you haven’t really grown up when you get excited about drawing on the walls of a new bar.

Unless that bar happens to be your own. A Work In Progress, Justin Hemmes’ new pop art and pop-up bar, is a grown up step for Merivale. Hot off the success of their Manly dining destination Papi Chulo, A Work In Progress is ushering in a new era for the hospitality company. They’re catering to the local drinking scene that wants something a little rough around the edges but can still mix a mean cocktail.

A Work In Progress is exactly that. It’s a watering hole that wouldn’t look out of place in Newtown, with comic-strip-goes-naughty style artwork covering every available wall space, and a break-out room – complete with squishy sofas and games of Connect Four.

It’s so named for its mission statement: the bar is, literally, a work in progress, a pop-up to entertain the crowds while Merivale works on its long-term plans for the space. Curated by Glenn Barkley (former senior curator of the MCA), and featuring the works of Darwin artist, Franck Gohier, it’s a healthy injection of culture in pop-art form in a space where no one will give you the beady eye if you’re a little bit tipsy. Can I be the first to put up my hand and ask Merivale to make this place permanent?

Tasting Notes
A Work In Progress

The vibe: Hipster-meets-city.

Cuisine: Thai Street Food

Ideal for: Anyone who despises schlick city bars.

Bartender’s choice: Down the Stairs ($18): Żubrówka, almond & freshly pressed apple

Try the...Marinated mince prawns wrapped with egg noodle and plum sauce ($3 each)

By the way...Their fruity cocktail list is continually reinvented.

Find A Work In Progress on Facebook

Re: drawing on the walls. While you might be hard-pressed now to find a fresh bit of wall-space, there are a few dedicated drawing areas with the requisite crayons. And nothing brings out the inner artist like tequila, right?

Head to the bar, and a friendly chap in a painter’s smock will mix you something from their short, if not entertaining, cocktail list. Fans of anything-and-apple-juice won’t be disappointed by the Żubrówka and almond with fresh lime and pressed apple, while Beefeater 24 gin and Campari with fresh mandarin and Chandon is a crowd pleaser. Wine and beer wise, you’re looking at an easy mix of Australian and imported, with the de rigueur craft beer featuring heavily.

The Thai street food menu is where these guys really show their strength, thanks to Head Chef Air Jantrakool who comes straight from a long and celebrated stint at Sailor’s Thai Canteen. Once you’re past the novelty of the decor, tuck into tasty cocktail bites designed to share: crispy wafers stuffed with shredded chicken, fresh shredded coconut, Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves ($4 a pop), or Betel leaf wraps with smoked trout, fresh ginger, lime, peanut, and caramelised roasted coconuts ($4.50 a piece). If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a mean Chiang Mai curry to satisfy your cravings, or a crispy pork belly in hot sweet and sour sauce if that’s more to your liking.

Like many city-based venues, Friday night is the ideal time to go, although don’t be so quick to dismiss the city on a Saturday (both nights have a 2am license). They swing the doors open come lunchtime during the week – so if you’re craving a flavoursome midday feed somewhere a little different to your average city dining, you know where to go.

Just leave a little doodle when you do.


Address: 50 King St, Sydney

Opening hours: Mon to Wed, 12pm-12am, Thur to Fri, 12pm-2am, Sat 5pm-2am, Sunday closed.

Phone number: (02) 9240 3000

Watch the behind the scenes making of A Work In Progress

Alex Bruce-Smith

Alex Bruce-Smith is a publisher at finder.com.au, taking care of shopping & travel. She funds her addiction to online shopping by hunting coupon codes like a pro, and can usually be found waiting anxiously for a package to arrive. #notevensorry

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