Time to get back in the saddle again

The Saddle Bar at the Midnight Shift

Saddle Bar (taken by a mobile phone camera)

Good lord! I sat on a saddle last night….and I think I liked it!

Last night was my first experience of the Midnight Shift’s new ‘Saddle Bar’ and I was bloody impressed.

They’ve completely reinvented the space upstairs. It’s sort of painted a bit like an old western town. Wine Barrels for tables, funky stools that spin around. The smoking balcony looking out over Oxford Street is brilliant.

And a nice touch for the patrons: free roasted peanuts in the shell! Oh yes, I was in heaven. I love my monkey nuts! And with all the shells going all over the floorboards it just made the place feel even more authentic – rustic, westerny, cowboy-ish even.


Part of the wall at the 'Saddle Bar'

The main room which was previous the mega-dance floor for the Shift’s club is also transformed. 3 pool tables where people once danced and….bar stools that are actually horse saddles. Now look, they are uncomfortable but I couldn’t move from them because the whole experience was just so camp and kitsch.

Perhaps that’s wrong to say about a “Mens Bar” but it was just so novel – the decorations and furniture etc. – it felt like nothing Sydney has seen for at least as long as I’ve been visiting Gay venues.

And the most shocking thing…………friendly bar staff!

They’ve hired a brand new bar manager for upstairs and he walks around and talks to the customers and chats about what they’re trying to do and asking what the customers think of the place. He’s a terrific guy…just what the place needs. Actually, he’s probably what EVERY Gay venue in Sydney needs!

My friend and I talked to him for about 10 minutes and I remarked that I was shocked that the bar staff were actually friendly (as opposed to the pigs that work downstairs at the Shift). He said his philosophy is not to tolerate any rudeness or attitude from bar staff towards customers. He’s incredibly customer-focussed. And you could really tell…the bar staff greeted everyone in a friendly manner, they were fun and engaging. They made you feel like they wanted you to be there. That’s such a change from the normal Gay bartenders.


Saddle Chairs

The crowd? Mixed. Very mixed. A few of the expected denim/leather brigade but lots of late 20s to mid 30s guys and even the occasional twink who must have popped in for a bit of scientific research

I found the crowd really diverse and friendly. The saddle-stools caused us to talk to a quite a few other ‘testers’ and everyone seemed friendly and happy. A couple of guys tried to have horse races using the saddle stools. That was very funny.

The front bar – as you enter from upstairs – can seem a little empty – maybe they need a couple more wine barrel/tables in the middle of the room to break it up – but otherwise I really can’t fault the place.

It had a feel like…….hmmm, anyone remember Gay venues in the 80s? Before the internet, Gaydar, Manhunt and all that stuff – you went out to Gay venues to meet other guys (hopefully) and hook up. There was always at least one part of every Gay pub/venue that was ‘cruisey’. If you were looking to hook up for a night, everyone knew where to stand and what pose to adopt

Well, Saddle Bar feels like that….like a ‘Mens Bar’ in that it feels quite cruisy. Cruisy without feeling aggressive or downright sleazy. Hard to explain except it seems to have the balance right between relaxed venue and a place to hook up with other guys.


Kingswood Country perhaps?

It’s still building a crowd so don’t go there expecting a gazillion patrons every night…it will build over time. My friend and I both had the same flash at the same time last night..’This place could really work, it could really, really work.” There’s nothing like it in Sydney and we were both struck by the thought that Gay Sydney really, really needs a place like ‘Saddle Bar’.


STAFF – 10/10
MUSIC – 7.5/10
DRINK PRICES – 5/10 (can be a little pricey)
CROWD – 8.5/10



  1. If I was the manager I’d want you to leave. You sound like the most annoying patron they’ve had. Buy a bottle of your favourite scotch and the soda you like, take it home and have a scotch drinking party with your straight friend.

    • hey Nick,
      if id be a mere moron, i’d presume you are right, if i would pay attention to idiots who think i’m annoying, i’d killed myself long time ago
      i don’t know where from you get the ideas reflected in you massage ; and the (uninvited) offensiveness?
      as for the drinks in bars and pubs i actually NEVER had a need to complain (as i said, once i would have complained i did not have time to) – i am prone to think of myself a reasonable patron – i drink a lot, smoke a lot, and i tip freqentley (I believe that drinking out is under-priced in Australia – in fact, i probably tipped at least a $2 o r 3 for the drinks in question), so do my friends
      i got thrown out for not being happy with my drink, trying to drink it, unsuccessfully, and for rising my complaint to the “bar manager level”
      the same security guys, who let me in over the cues in the Shift, have witnessed me being thrown out, without causing any public incident (sic!)
      btw, the bar manager have invited me (quite privately!!!) to come over (having no time to talk in the Shift) as if i am a piece of shit…
      Nick, have a good time anywhere you go (including the Saddle bar, which i really like ) and don’t bother being rude to people you don’t know; and don’t worry about their problems – i’m sure you have enough problems of your own.

  2. why do i get this “berserk” faces as an icon next my postings (and how canone chaqnge it?) – aside the 1st one (when i was really not just puzzled but pissed off ‘majorly’ ), i think i’m quite cool about the whole affair (not happy but not berserk either…) – i can’t, myself, fix the fact that i have been thrown out for objecting to a taste of my drink, and ON top of it, not being happy with defensive ‘explanations’ – but i’m in no way hyped up about it …

    • I can’t change it this end. I think you’re supposed to choose it each time you make a comment. Oh well, it’s not a big deal.

  3. I think you should give the Saddle Bar another try. There’s obviously good will there from the bar manager. Sometimes a bad experience can be just a one-off thing. Give it another go, with a fresh attitude and clean slate, and see if you have a better time.

    • i never had a bad time there – how could one in 4- 5 times there altogether, and i really like the place too- but if i would ever publicly humiliate someone, asking them to leave my place, even using a pointing finger (!!) (so that bouncers on the street can see it, and ask you “what have you done??”) i would SURELY NOT expect to see them back …
      what good will you see in Mark’s posting? i see just more defensiveness, despite me originally saying that it was in good part my fault – did he say “oh shit, i should have instructed my staff to replace drinks if customers complain, wouldn’t come to this”? no. all he has noticed is that i “didn’t say” that the ice has melted, and that we were not told not to come again, just to leave, just then…
      this is still my “dinner or drinks conversation” everybody agrees with you (even i see i have to somehow get over it; f … the fact that the drinks were not right. it happens) but none of the people who think i should go back have actually seen the finger pointing, or rather marshalling, OUT!

  4. for the ‘objectivity sake’, i forget one thing under ” the possibilities are”:

    4 we were both wrong – drinks were fine

    that is a possibility, but as my logic can tell, only form the bar manger perspective – we both had a scotch at the same bar, – both one before, and one after. twisting faces, we had about half of them (but than we purchased a replacement, at least to see that we were not both gone without the sense of taste…)

    all the pondering kind of beats the point – what kind of a bar manger tells customers they are not welcome any longer because of their mere complaint ?!

    • Hi,

      I don’t have anything to do with the management of the Midnight Shift/Saddle Bar – I am just a customer and my review was written from my personal experience there.

      If you want to complain directly to the owner of the Midnight Shift/Saddle Bar, the details to contact them are below. The owner’s name is Tim Berry.

      The Midnightshift
      85 Oxford Street, DARLINGHURST, NSW. Australia 2010
      Phone (02) 9360 4319
      Email info@themidnigthshift.com

  5. I have been looking (for a quite a while tonight) for place (or a right email address) to complain about a bar manager’s decision/behaviour ( SADDLE BAR – bar manager called Mark, or Marc) , and there does not seem to be one ?!?

    Just to state – I will not rest until I have found a right way to complain – or basically until I get this issue right – i’m stil grasping to believe this is possible to happen (!)

    let’s start form the gist of it – a friend of mine and I complained about the taste of our scotch – I had a scotch and soda, my friend straight. first I briefly complained to the bartender who appeared young and indecisive, then I took it (5-10 min later, after mutual whingeing with my friend) to the bar manager – after dealing with defensiveness (that “nothing is wrong but the soda is out of the bottle”), I buy another couple of the same drinks – just to find that they are quite fine – after asking the bar manager to compare the taste of the 2 straight scotches I was told to have my drink and leave; later we were told that we are not welcome into the bar again – !! – I admit that (as a lawyer, and information professional) my complaints can sometomes come across as too insistent, or overly elaborated, but … but .. to put it all in a few points:

    1 I was not happy with the taste of my drink
    2 my friend was very unhappy with a taste of his drink ( that ,really, \should have been the end of it)
    3 I had 3 beers and 1 scotch before – my friend had NO drinks at all until ONE (in Saddle Bar as well) before the object of complaint
    4 we were happy with the drinks we both had afterwards – I said to bar manager that I am not after a free drink, especially not against his judgement that the drinks, we are not happy with, are OK – so i bought them
    5 in all my 49 years of life i have only once obtained a new drink after a similar complaint (having a dry, or a coke, in place of soda is a different issue) – btw, that one time was in Bauer Bar in Venice; @ 20 euros per drink, for a Ballantines in place of JW , it was snatched out of my hand and replaced before can open my mouth – my fiend, in his 45 years of life, can’t remember similar incident

    6th, and main point – (there is no point saying that neither of us was ever banned form anywhere – in fact i was banned from communist party (Croatia) for ‘disloyalty to party causes’ ) we did nothing (nothing!!) but complained about the strangely sweet taste of our drinks – being banned from a venue for that is rather bizarre

    the possibilities are:
    1 something was wrong with with a batch glasses
    2 something was wrong with a batch of ice
    3 something was wrong with the bottle we were poured from (both of ours 2nd drinks at that bar, as both our 1st and 3rd drinks [before and after] were fine) …

    whatever the ‘score’, my only issue is that I don’t want to be banned form the bar that I like to go to (love the place!) because of either shifty or complaints-clumsy bar manager

    it seem to be strange that there is no avenue of official complaint (seems normal that people simply don’t go again to the bars they are ‘banned from; or just unhappy with, but also that the bar managers don’t behave this way) – short of having to show up in order to be thrown out (as I said I can’t possibly allow the current situation) – what else one an do – any ideas?

    my name is Branko Bulovic, I am happy to provide my personal email and my address in Darlinghurst too; my friend’s (‘straight scotch’ drinker) and several other witnesses are happy to be named, with contact details, too

    • From the bar manager Mark. Don’t want an online arguement, but just 3 points you should have mentioned in fairness, 1 all the ice in your friends Scotch and Ice had melted, 2 I offered to replace your drink, 3 you were not told you are not welcome at the Saddle bar again.

      • Mark,
        if you had read what i say mare carefully… i say:

        “…a friend of mine and I complained about the taste of our scotch – I had a scotch and soda, my friend straight. first I briefly complained to the bartender who appeared young and indecisive, then I took it (5-10 min later, after mutual whingeing with my friend) to the bar manager…”

        also, if you had listened to me more carefully you would have heard that i said that we complained immediately but the bar younger bar person dismissed our complaint – i never say i complained to you immediately, you were just too quick to decide that something is wrong with complaint rather than with the drinks… and now, again, you think i am wrong in describing what happened

        in the meantime i came to think that it was partly my fault for not making it perfectly clear that we HAD complied earlier, and that it was my to reject the offer for replacement rather than considering the willingness of the offer – you were very defensive which confused me

        re being welcome again or not: i have decided to “get over it”.. just wonder how to get over the embarrassment – i have never been thrown out of a bar (or for that matter out of anywhere) , i had no idea that one might be welcome somewhere where once he’s been “asked to leave” . thank you, but i will sit on it for while, i was not guilty of anything to now be forgiven

        i don’t want an online argument either – i never expected you to find this posting (i could not find another avenue that night when i had to write it down; how can i make it clear: i was shocked to be asked to leave a bar for merely expressing dissatisfaction with my drink). as i said, i am over it

      • sorry, there are a few typos, just to fix an important one:
        “and that it was my to reject the offer” should be “and that it was my fault to reject the offer”

  6. How long has it been since you humped????

  7. Nice review. Very accurate.

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