Once upon a time, drinking options in Neutral Bay were limited to The Oaks, that grand old dame of a pub with its billiard rooms and enormous tree-shaded courtyard.

But in the past two years, a crop of varied small bars have sprung up in the fertile ground at the foot of The Oaks. In fact, Neutral Bay can now be considered a legitimate destination in itself for a night of imbibing – a place where you can easily while away a whole night with only one drink at each bar. Broadsheet took a short trip over the bridge to find the best bars that Neutral Bay has to offer. [fold] Firefly
Start your night at one end of the newly rejuvenated Grosvenor Street bar and restaurant strip with wine and a pizza at Firefly’s Neutral Bay outpost. Firefly was the first new wine bar to appear in the area and still does a roaring trade, but the French Bistro-inspired interior (warm red lighting and wood) has plenty of seating so you shouldn’t struggle to find a spot. Dig into their menu of share plates (scallops, sliders, zucchini flowers and so forth), or if you’re after something with a little kick, try one of their tequila, rum or vodka espresso martinis (the vodka one tastes like affogato).
24 Young Street, Neutral Bay
(02) 9909 0193

The Local Bar
Celebrities and good taste don’t always go hand in hand, but in the case of The Local Bar (owned in part by actors Sam Neill, David Wenham and Rob Sitch), it’s a perfect mergence. Share plates of charcuterie, wine from Sam Neill’s Otago vineyard and a selection of cocktails made with house-infused spirits make this hole-in-the-wall a must-stop – even if you have to join the crowd spilling into the laneway.
6/19–25 Grosvenor Street (8 Young Lane), Neutral Bay
(02) 9953 0027

Garden Brasserie
A few short steps down Grosvenor Street brings you to the Garden Brasserie, the closest you can get to drinking outdoors while being protected from the elements, with its all-glass frontage enclosing a marble courtyard, patio furniture and a wall of ferns. Cue up a game of pool and get in a round of tapas and a tangy teacup of Aperol and Cinnamon Sour.
Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay
(02) 8969 6900

The White Hart
Now it’s time for the serious drinks. At the top of Grosvenor Street, The White Hart melds chic small bar design with British country pub décor, but their drinks menu is single-minded in its purpose, with a tome of a menu dedicated to imported spirits. They put their liquor selection to good use with an inventive and regularly changing selection of inspired Heston Blumenthal-style cocktails – think edible grass, homemade cider spheres and Mojito-flavoured toothpaste.
19–21 Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay
(02) 8021 2115

Honey Rider
Veer off the Grosvenor Street strip for a short stroll down Military Road and stop in for a chat with the guys at Honey Rider. It’s a genuine hole-in-the-wall bar, kitted out with kitschy antique curios and a menu of sweet, decadent cocktails, like the Bramble (gin, blackberry liqueur, rock candy syrup) or Porn Star Martini (vodka, Passoa, sugar rim). And now that you’re loaded up with sugar, it’s time to finish the night off with some karaoke…
230 Military Road, Neutral Bay
(02) 9953 8880

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The Pickled Possum
The name says it all really – when you’ve had a skinful and the urge to belt out a Springsteen or Dolly Parton classic becomes irrepressible, this is the place to go. If you can find the unassuming entrance (with blacked out windows) on Military Road and negotiate your way inside, you’ll find a dive bar haven straight out of a Tarantino movie – dim lighting spilling from fairy lights strung along the ceiling, sticky carpet, beers served out of an Esky behind the bar and a karaoke machine that’s seen better days (much like some of the patrons). The Pickled Possum looks like it hasn’t changed in 40 years – a drinking den of dubious renown, and the best spot to end your night of bar-hopping on the North Shore.
254 Military Road, Neutral Bay
(02) 9909 2091