If it’s been a while since you visited Neighbourhood Bondi, you’ll find it more colourful than you remember. Over the last few months, new directors Brendan Darcy and Ben Campbell have been refreshing the Curlewis Street bar. The two met years ago while working at The Alchemist cocktail bar in Manchester; more recently Darcy was operations manager at Coogee Pavilion, while Campbell ran the bar at the now six-year-old Neighbourhood.
They took over the rum-centric joint mid-2019, and they’ve gradually extended the tropical theme into tiki-lite territory, in preparation for a summer relaunch. The tiki influence is subtle, but unmistakable: it’s there in the pineapple logo, the kitschy party shirts worn by the staff, the carved wooden mugs garnished with orchids, and in the flaming (literally) watermelon punch. It’s a fun new direction for the bar, which now hosts trivia on Tuesdays, live music on Thursdays and DJs on the weekend. There are also mixology masterclasses if you want to nab the recipes to some of the concoctions being shaken up by Campbell and bar manager Elliot Berriman (a fellow Mancunian and Alchemist alumnus).
The refreshed cocktail list champions the tropics with plenty of rum, citrus and pineapple. There are 14 cocktails in total, drawn from the classical repertoire and updated with native ingredients and a sustainable ethos. For instance, there’s the Ausmopolitan, a localised version of a Cosmopolitan, made with native riberry and lemon myrtle instead of cranberries.
All the syrups, shrubs and liqueurs are made in-house, including the “hipster orgeat”, a syrup usually made from almonds but in this case utilising the kitchen’s discarded avocado pips. It’s one of the key ingredients in the Bondi-Tai, Neighbourhood’s homage to the Mai Tai.
The food menu has also been revamped thanks to Kevin Davis, the former sous chef at nearby Drake Eatery. He’s retained many of the popular items – the burgers, the fried chicken – while nudging the menu in a fresher, lighter direction to complement the tropical cocktails.
Like much of the staff, Davis is English, which explains the Scotch eggs (made with lamb mince and Indian spices) and Sunday roasts (with potatoes, gravy and proper Yorkshire puddings) sitting alongside poke bowls and watermelon-burrata salad. The incongruous menu items, the punny cocktail names, the accents, the party shirts – it all amalgamates into a big, light-hearted wink. Or as the owners would say, a bit of Northern charm.