Bondi Beach bars: A small renaissance

Bondi Beach bars: A small renaissance

Cocktails and wines are riding the crest of a fashionable wave and washing up on Bondi's sands
The Flying Squirrel, Bondi Beach
The Flying Squirrel: Someone here just tried their first Ka-annapali Kick-ass. Round two is on the way.

A lot has changed on Bondi Beach since emerging surf gangs and the working class -- who lived in "flocks of bats" that covered the basin -- guzzled 1960s schooners.

A new wave of gentrification, coupled with more relaxed liquor legislation, has given rise to a small bar movement.

Mystery beer, chili-infused Ka-annapali Kick-ass and half-bottles of wine are now tossed back in beachside hole-in-the-walls.

But Bondi has a strong influence on people. Recent tribes have obeyed local edict: wear thongs and hang loose to fit in with the tattooed, sun-tanned, sunglass-wearing troupes.

Old, wrinkled surfers still float around the beach. Transient bohemians and backpackers -- in a constant migratory flux -- still leave unwanted furniture roadside.

But locals and visitors alike are no longer restricted to a schooner of beer in stale-smelling halls, as the district applies a beach-stamp to the city’s bar scene and a new edge to its shores.

Bondi Road reformation

Bondi Road has traditionally been (just) a busy thoroughfare for beachgoers driving to the coast. But three small bars have livened the area by creating a dinnertime festival vibe to compete with omnipresent buses and fish and chip shops.

The Flying Squirrel

The Flying Squirrel is a cool place to hang, where rickety, wooden tables and chairs spill onto the street as much as the shuffling beats and trendy clientele.

It's renowned for its fused tapas, including sea scallops served with glass noodles and psychedelic-inducing betel-nuts. Bartenders are proud of the Ka-annapali Kick-ass: guaranteed to burn your throat, the chili-infused tequila is added to a concoction of Agavero, pineapple juice, lemon, lime and jalapeno peppers.

The Flying Squirrel, 249 Bondi Road, Bondi, tel. +61 (0)2 9130 1033

The Stuffed Beaver

The Stuffed Beaver is a North American-inspired diner where wooden booths engage with non-descript décor and large television screens.

This is where locals hang off the front bar and wash down a Sup Dog with longnecks of Melbourne Bitter, served in a brown paper bag.

Staff claim the Bloody Mary is "literally a meal." The garlic-and-chili-infused vodka is built on spiced tomato juice, and topped with a hard boiled egg (and celery, of course).

The Stuffed Beaver, 271 Bondi Road, Bondi, tel. +61 (0)2 9130 3002 ‎ 

The Rum Diaries

Rum Diaries, Bondi BeachFiery drinks occasionally illuminate the dimly lit Rum Diaries in Bondi Beach

"Never cry over spilt milk, it could’ve been rum," says the blackboard at The Rum Diaries, where bartenders will get every drop in their signature drink, the Blazer.

It’s customers’ choice of rum, liqueur and juice, served in a brandy balloon, and set ablaze on the bar-top. A good thing the balloons contain these fires, as the mahogany walls, antiques and a piano are all wooden, which creates an elegant ambience complemented by couches and chandeliers.

The Rum Diaries, 288 Bondi Road, Bondi, tel. +61 (0)2 9300 0440

At the crossroads

Two convenience stores on the corner of Glenayr and Curlewis streets, in central Bondi, are looking out of place after the arrival of two fashionable, dimly lit wine bars.

The Shop and Wine Bar

With red carpet walls and a wine menu that includes yourself (yes, it’s written on a mirror) The Shop and Wine Bar is more up-market than the pubs down each road.

Summer specials are Spritzers and half bottles of wine, accompanied by breads and dips and cheese plates. The few tables are generally full, particularly at sunset, when drinkers gather outside enjoying final rays.

The Shop and Wine Bar, 78 Curlewis St., Bondi, tel. +61 (0)2 9365 2600

Speak Easy Bar

As its name implies, the burlesque-deco Speak Easy Bar is a place where your voice -- and your friends' voices, for the easy listener -- can be heard.

Semi-naked women on the wall and red lanterns surround romantic conversations. You can order a "mystery beer" -- although the Icelandic Viking Beer's long tenure ensures it’s not a mystery -- or an espresso martini made of freshly ground coffee, vodka, Norello and Cointreau.

Speak Easy Bar, 83 Curlewis St., Bondi, tel. +61 (0)2 9130 2020 

Matt Khoury likes to write. He's been a freelance journalist for a decade
and an editor of five publications -- including CNNGo/CNN Travel's Sydney and Australia section.

Read more about Matt Khoury