“We still had tradesmen here at 5.30pm [on the Friday they opened] – we opened our doors at five past six,” says Neighbourhood Bondi bar manager Simon McGoram, formerly of Gardel’s Bar atop Porteño.
Launching just in time for the bustling City2Surf weekend, the former Bondi FM site saw a six-week refurbishment that stripped back the dining room and kitchen areas. The bar can still be found out front, spilling onto the pavement and was welcoming in passersby with an acoustic guitar act the Sunday evening we visited.
Clad in deep blue subway tiles, the open galley kitchen faces a cosy seating area filled with reclaimed pieces – Tooheys beer crates become stools, while the walls are lined with timber fence palings rescued from a couple of nearby primary schools.
Once the home of a giant tepee, the rear garden will soon be open to patrons again, while the in-house radio station is due to be re-launched in September. “Expect a mixture of funk and soul, nu disco, indie dance, indie rock, soulful house and deep house,” says co-owner Keith Hodgson, who will manage the newly named Bondi Radio.
Nestled among fresh fruit on the bar, a miniature wooden barrel is filled with the house-blended rum. The mixture, including Captain Morgan Dark Rum, Bundaberg O.P. and Flor de Caña, is the signature ingredient in the Neighbourhood Hooch along with fresh pineapple juice. The cocktail menu has a tropical feel, but the range of drinks also includes craft beers and local and imported organic wines.
From the kitchen, nibble on bar snacks like macaroni cheese with blue swimmer crab and smoked speck or popcorn Cajun school prawns, while the Big Mama Sunday Roast – at the moment, Southern-style roast chicken with coleslaw, creamed corn and a jacket potato – offers a more filling main. Their jaffles are made in a proper sandwich press to seal bread bursting with a generous filling – try the Philly cheesesteak or pork neck and baked bean ragu options.
Like the food and drink menus, the venue serves up a bit of everything – just what you need in a local. “It’s a good time of year to open,” says McGoram. “People are just walking in straight from the beach.”
143 Curlewis Street, Bondi
(02) 9365 2872
Mon to Fri 5pm–11pm