Alex Harmon took her taste buds for a trip to the other side of the harbour during Eat.Drink.Manly month. It wasn’t quite a pub-crawl – more a chance to get intimate with Manly’s burgeoning small bar scene…
I wonder why it’s taken so long for Manly to get its own 70s style tiki bar? Overlooking the beach, this little spot would be perfect for post-surf brekky or in my case, post-work, almost-winter Mojitos that promise to transport me to a warmer place. Sugar Lounge makes ’em big, bold and (like their namesake) as sweet as a candy shop. In the kitchen they whip up tiki-style share plates, grills and pizzas.
We try mushroom and brie croquettes, they explode with hot molten cheese – trust me when I say they are to die for. Their charcuterie plate is pretty good too, stacked with salty meats, creamy cheeses and a side of hummus. Avoid sitting in the big cane chairs, they engulf your entire person, trapping you for the whole afternoon. I couldn’t risk it with three more small bars to visit…
Harlem on Central
The small, prohibition-style bar has also arrived in Manly. Just off The Corso, you’ll find it through an inconspicuous brown door. Somewhat ironically, I had to ask a policeman where to find it, as I’d walked right by. It’s dark, sophisticated and like nothing you’d expect from this sandy-footed town. The waiters look like they’ve been transported from 1920s New York, with bow-ties and suspenders. They mix up a Morangie Sour with ease – it’s a Scottish malt whisky cocktail with a bitter orange finish. Drinks come with complimentary popcorn, a cool touch to a slow jazzy kind of bar. It wouldn’t be Harlem without mini sliders. They come in two variations. First there’s the New York, which (I hate to say) tastes like a McDonalds cheeseburger. I’m even more loath to admit, that this isn’t a negative – it’s a delicious burger without the aftertaste of guilt. There’s also the mushroom jazz, which has a juicy deep-fried mushroom filling and sweet relish. For a vegetarian burger it has soul – even the most hardened New Yorkers would have to agree.
By day it’s the café with the ominous name, Ground Zero, but by night it becomes a pop-up Mexican joint. While I love the pop-up concept, it’s not without its problems. The service is very slow due to a lack of staff, or should I say, equipment – the waiter tells us they only have one toaster to toast the tacos. Luckily their Margaritas are spot on and they use the real deal, Trombo Tequila. Considering this, ten to fourteen dollars for a cocktail is pretty good. Ladies might like the Tommy’s Margarita with sweet agave nectar – I’m self-medicating a sugar high here.
The tacos finally arrive and luckily they’re tasty and fresh. You can even get a seared yellow fin tuna taco for five bucks. Or stick to the classics – chicken or braised beef – and you can’t go wrong. It’s street cuisine in a refined, lantern-lined venue.
This bar crawl worked out to be quite the worldly journey, with Miss Marley’s taking us back to 1950s South America. Luckily my taste buds don’t suffer from time travel jetlag. While there are over one hundred tequilas to choose from, the refined vintage décor and cute South American barmaid suggests a Chilean red – who are we to argue? The Casa Lapostolle is a full-bodied, chocolatey drop that is paired well a plate of empanadas that come with my favourite Chilean condiment, pebre (a coriander, onion, garlic and chili salsa). My dining companion decides this bar crawl shouldn’t be without dessert and dives into a slice of banoffee pie (without the cream). It’s decadent, it’s seductive and it didn’t last long between the two of us. Miss Marley’s is a touch of femininity in an area I’ve always perceived to be Man-town. I shall return.