In Food + Drink

Meet The Sydney Bar Bringing Bohemia Back To Kings Cross

Very few suburbs in Sydney have gone through as much as Kings Cross. Bordered by areas like ritzy Potts Point and artsy Darlinghurst, the locale, once called Queen’s Cross, has clear and distinct chapters in its often dark history.

Perhaps the area’s most definitive time was during the 1930s, when thinkers and dreamers were just as common as dealers and schemers, and the identities who would change ‘The Cross’ forever were formed. Now, there’s a new venue committed to recalling that age and telling those stories.

As refined as it is risqué, newly-opened Dulcie’s Bar Bohemia and the small team behind it make no secret their intentions to channel the history of Kings Cross into both a sophisticated cocktail bar and a wildly creative community space. Opened towards the end of 2018, Dulcie’s marks the very first small bar license in the actual Kings Cross precinct to be granted in 15 years.

The bar is named for Mary Elizabeth Kathleen Dulcie Deamer, who was known for being Sydney’s ‘Queen of Bohemia’. A strong-willed feminist, novelist, and thespian, as well as a founding member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, she was notably Australia’s first female boxing reporter.

dulcie's bar

Dulcie’s  taps into a time when Kings Cross was called the ‘Paris of Sydney’. Credit: Chris Singh

Back then, Kings Cross was referred to as the ‘Paris of Sydney’, and Darlinghurst Road was lined with artisans, delicatessens, theatres, jazz clubs and wine bars.

Somewhere between the violence of underworld figures like Tilly Devine and an increasingly pervasive drug problem, focus shifted away from Kings Cross’ progressive avant-garde culture and onto its social issues. Dulcie’s plays in the era just before that shift, reviving the golden age in a way that the current generation has not seen before.

“I think I’ve always wanted to create venues which represent theatrical elements of Sydney that people can immerse themselves in,” says owner Brandon Martignago.

“That idea of theatre where people go and watch something and get taken away to a different world was kind of exciting to me”.

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The team has plans to provide Tarot card readings to anyone who buys a martini. Credit: Dulcie’s Bar Bohemia

The bar’s sense of the theatrics is undeniable. Dulcie’s has gutted the gritty remains of a former strip club and turned the space into a dazzling drinking den, ornate with its neat layout of fringed lamps, decadent rugs, antique mirrors and black and white portraits reflecting the Sydney of old. It’s like stepping into an unpretentious supper club.

Most notable is a small stage, kept intact from the venue’s former life. It’s the lifeblood of Dulcie’s, and has given the venue the ability to curate a program of shows that tell the stories of Kings Cross.

“I think people come here and immediately expect us to be a theatre”, says Martignago. “We have to remind them that we’re a bar first, with a stage, that things may or may not happen on”.

And those things have been as varied and colourful as the cocktail menu.

A former police detective who worked The Cross in the ’80s and ’90s gave a talk about what the area was like back then. A famed ’78er told the story of the first Mardi Gras. Numerous burlesque and cabaret numbers have performed in the small bar. And the team has plans to provide Tarot card readings to anyone who buys a martini.

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A loose, anything-goes sense of creativity defines Dulcie’s. Credit: Chris Singh

It’s this loose, anything-goes sense of creativity that defines Dulcie’s. An old piano on stage can be used by patrons to show off their skills. And if you’re good, the bar will give you a bottle of wine to drink while you play.

While Dulcie’s will continue to use the stage in many other ways – like classic film screenings for winter, for example – the plan to host more drinks masterclasses is a focus.

The use of Australian-only craft spirits, wines, beers and even bar snacks adds substantially to the bar’s sense of place. Seeing as Dulcie’s is all about fostering new ideas for people, educating guests on just how far the Australian craft spirit industry has come makes sense.

“You still get a lot of people who come in and want a Chivas Regal or a Hendrick’s”, says Martignago.

“We like that, because we get excited about people that have only grown up with those brand recognition names. We like to suggest new things and break down preconceptions”.

Dulcie’s Bar Bohemia, 44B Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross

(Lead image: Dulcie’s Bar Bohemia exterior, image: Dulcie’s Bar)

Published 14 March, 2019