When four seasoned bartenders who have always worked for other businesses – including in Japan – decided to build their own bar, they had no idea how difficult it would be. Now, with their beloved Burrow Bar open and thriving, they can look back and laugh at all the challenges, and look ahead to even more exciting times. Co-Owner Bryce McDonough told us the story.

The challenge

The decision to establish Burrow Bar was one that developed organically following a conversation between the two couples. Bryce and Jonny have been best mates for 35 years and, together with their partners, wanted to realise their dream of owning a bar with a vibrant personality and a focus on bringing people together for unique and interesting drinks and food.

Problems they had experienced

Once the basement site was finalised, the new challenge was in learning how to do the due diligence required with regards to licensing, DA and Council approvals. The team spent eighteen months researching food premises guidelines, building codes and the equipment required.

Upon researching ‘commercial kitchens’ and ‘commercial bar equipment’, Bryce discovered Cafeideas.

“The website is very useful,” Bryce explains. “We were happy to see it included pricing so we could gauge whether we were looking at equipment we could afford. Also, the category breakdown was helpful in leading us to other ideas that we may not have otherwise considered.”

How Cafeideas helped

When Team Burrow entered the Cafeideas showroom, they found a good indicative range of the products on offer. They found staffer Ashleigh to be “incredibly helpful, and very knowledgeable about the products”. She encouraged touching and feeling the products to understand the build quality. Additionally, she offered for them to bring in their own ingredients and trial the combi oven instore.

“We didn’t do that but Cafeideas gave us tickets to the Fine Food Fair so we could see it ‘in the flesh’ there. Well … the combi oven is phenomenal for us at Burrow Bar and we didn’t realise just how versatile it was until Cafeideas walked us through it!”

During the setup phase, Ashleigh left Cafeideas and Bryce was put in touch with Daniel Clark who took over about two weeks before delivery and spent a couple of hours familiarising himself with the account. He organised financing through Silver Chef to alleviate cash flow issues and arranged for all the products to arrive on time.

“I feel we might have been a nightmare to deal with at times due to stress but Daniel was 100% capable and patient with us. He really ‘got us’ and even surprise-visited us when we opened. We were so grateful for his advice and support and without his help, we would have had far worse stress.”

Bryce says he was particularly impressed with the expansive product range at Cafeideas and that if there was something they couldn’t supply then Daniel could tell him who could. Daniel was also able to advise which products, brands and specific models of equipment would be most appropriate, without ‘overselling’.

“The follow-up service has been every bit as good as the service during the buying phase,” Bryce says, “and that’s why you go back to the same company instead of shopping around for the next cheapest price.”

From Cafeideas, Burrow Bar sourced the following products: Exquisite back bar chiller, F.E.D. bar cooler, Unox ChefTop Mind.Maps combi oven, Anvil induction cooker, Roband grill station, Woodson counter top filter hood, F.E.D. workbench fridge, Washtech glasswasher, F.E.D. under-counter freezer, Hoshizaki ice maker, Bologna bar table bases and Darlinghurst bar stools.

About Burrow Bar

Burrow Bar is a dedicated cocktail bar serving unique and interesting cocktails using fresh, quality ingredients. Tucked away in an almost secret location in a George Street basement, the bar has been eagerly adopted by local office workers who noticed dust-covered tradies – as well as Bryce, Jonny, Chau and Pie – emerging from the mysterious hidey-hole in the laneway throughout the construction and fit-out days. “They were counting down the days,” Bryce shares, “very excited to have ‘their own’ bar!”

Indeed, Burrow Bar has been wholeheartedly embraced by those very office workers who now drop by for a drink or something delicious to eat. The small kitchen turns out fresh, house-made breads and other tasty tidbits, all made with quality produce and loads of pride.

The drinks themselves are the stars of the show and encourage a sense of curiosity and adventure. “We like people to try new things,” says Bryce. “We enjoy chatting with our customers up at the bar and we frequently recommend or suggest different drinks. We’ve got a beautiful long bar for people to sit at and watch how we make our cocktails.”

With nearly fifty years of bartending experience between the four co-owners, Burrow Bar provides ‘next level’ drinks yet at affordable prices. As Bryce tells it, they want to be highly accessible so customers can experience their special brand of personalised service and exquisitely created and poured cocktails. Even down to the fruit juices used, Burrow Bar uses a slow press juicer which makes a phenomenal difference to the end result.

“Our customers can literally watch us chop up an apple and juice it to produce full bodied, creamy, still green, not separated juice to top up their Zubrowka,” Bryce proudly explains. He says it’s partly why the cocktail menu is ever-changing, to reflect the coming and going of the seasons.

Designed to be a cosy, welcoming space for talking, socialising and meeting new people, the basement has been stripped of its modern day disguise to reveal the original and stunning Federation era convict-laid bricks. Low lighting, dark wood furniture and lush décor all contribute to the overall feel of stay-a-while comfort.

Contact details

De Mestre Place, Sydney NSW 2000 (it's quite hidden so look for the dimly lit B)
Open from 4pm to 7pm, seven nights a week.