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Lower Gound, 55 York St, Sydney
Given the strong Asian influence in Sydney, it is surprising that so few small bars have used this as an inspiration. Uncle Ming's fills that gap with a 1920s opium den fit-out. Cocktails are named after Chinese gangsters too, so in that vein it follows the underworld themes of bars such as Love, Tilly Devine and numerous speakeasy inspired venues. However, don't expect it to be dingy: the basement level bar is decked out with fine finishes and mood lighting that only nod to the notorious opium dens of the past.
While most of the bar has a Chinese bent, the drinks menu extends out through Asia to include Japanese beers, whiskey and sake, Korean spirits, plus choices from other neighbouring countries. Cocktails continue this diversity with some packing more than just an alcohol punch: chilli and spices feature in some of the drinks so read the fine print before jumping in. For a different twist, do away with the usual high-brow cocktail glasses by getting your cocktails in a teapot. These only come as a double hit ($36-40): choose carefully and check with your drinking partners that they are the same page.
In keeping with the Asian bent, the food on hand is steamed dumplings and yum-cha treats (which is a nice tie-in with the teapot cocktails as yum cha means 'drink tea'). But they are not cheap: about $8 for three dumplings is getting a little on the high side. The serving sizes are fine for a snack, but head elsewhere for a proper meal.
Uncle Ming's is easy to miss so keep an eye on ground for a chalked sign leading the way. Otherwise, head to Roman Daniels (it's a suit shop) and the entrance is next door and down the corridor.
In brief: Uncle Mings
Best things: Comfortable place that doesn't have blaring music or get too packed (except maybe for Friday nights).
Don't miss: Asian influenced cocktails
Ideal for: Small groups, catch-ups with friends, dates, after work drinks
Date tip: Unlike many other small bars, Uncle Mings can be quiet on Saturdays without intrusive music, so it's worth investigating these nights (unlike Thursday and Friday nights). The soft red lighting sets the mood too. Try to grab the couch in the corner, otherwise one of the tables tucked away from the others.
Gripe: Sometimes the basement setting means that certain dumpling smells can linger, creating an unpleasant cabbage pong.
Last updated: June 2014
You are here: Uncle Mings, Sydney review and address. This 1920s opium den features spicy cocktails, dumpling side dishes and drinks from all over Asia