The neglected eastern side of Oxford Street, Darlinghurst is coming off life-support with the opening of The Oxford Circus. More like three small bars stacked into one venue, it occupies the site formerly known as Ruby Rabbit and is run by the team behind Low302. On the inside the ground level feels cosy and welcoming. Plush furnishings, interesting baroque art and soft light create a relaxing vibe. On busier nights, a DJ plays music you’ll recognise but not feel it’s just copying commercial radio or the large mainstream clubs. In a bit of a shock, they play songs in their entirety rather than a 30 second snippet.
The mid-level of Oxford Circus is a bit more open with a performance space and stage that features bands and entertainment - including burlesque - on various nights of the week. Behind the stage is one of two smoking balconies, so those wanting their fix don’t have to leave the venue and can pull off a rare Sydney feat of having a drink and a cigarette at the same time.
If the first two floors aren’t enough, hit the top floor's Champagne bar (sometimes closed for private functions) where you’ll get an open lounge feel and the second smoking balcony. There is no need to worry about hitting the stairs for a drink as each floor has its own bar so you can easily grab what you want.
On the subject of drinks, the bars are well stocked with beer both on tap and bottled. It’s not the place to find the latest fad, but the pricing is hard to argue with. The old-fashioned is generous and balanced. At $16 you would be hard-pressed to find a cheaper offering, considering most bars charge $18-20 for the same. Likewise all house cocktails are $16 including sidecars, sours and negronis. In another rarity, some beers are available by the jug such as Tooths or VB ($12), Peroni ($15) or Bulmer’s Cider ($14). For those who like their beers in packaging, a selection of ales and premium beers are also on offer.
There’s another rare Sydney occurrence at The Oxford Circus: staff are genuinely friendly and knowledgeable. They’ll take the time to chat with you like you’re a friend. The atmosphere overall is like you a visiting a good friend’s place where you don’t feel the strangle of outside politics - which seems lately to dictate that you can’t have fun and be responsible at the same time.
The Oxford Circus has gained the first 10/10 rating on this site and here’s how this was determined. Each venue is assessed for a range of criteria including service, atmosphere, noise, look and feel, vibe and price. In all areas, it was hard to fault the venue. Sure, places like Baxter’s (9/10) have a certain wow factor and deservedly so. However, Baxter’s not the place for a more intimate catch-up. Lines, crowds and noise are all a symptoms of its well-earned popularity but these can also detract from the experience. In the case of Oxford Circus, you can make it any night you want without paying through the nose for the experience.
In brief: The Oxford CircusBest things: Multiple bars, friendly service, good drink prices, regular entertainment. Ideal for: Small groups, catch-ups with friends, dates Date tip: there is a lot of choice over the three floors. The best bet would be to start on the ground or top floor. Many of the seating arrangements are quite private and the soft lighting will help things along. Gripes: None Rating: 10/10
Last updated: November 2016
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