Rachel Olding
It all comes together ... when everything else is closing, Brklyn starts to heat up.
It all comes together ... when everything else is closing, Brklyn starts to heat up. Photo: Marco Del Grande

Basement, 42 North Steyne Manly, NSW 2095

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Opening hours Monday-Saturday 8pm-3am
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 02 9977 7135

A late-night venue where the vibe is just right.

THIS MANLY NEWCOMER HAS taken its ''undrgrnd'' tag pretty seriously. The basement bar is so well-hidden,  my compadre and I pace up and down North Steyne five times before we finally walk into Sugar Lounge and ask the bar staff, who point towards a door down the back of their venue.

The speakeasy is the fifth bar opened by Manly mini-tsars Adam Clarke and Kieran Bailey, who also own Miss Marley's, Cantinero, Harlem on Central and the Sugar Lounge, which houses this innocuous newbie.

Unlike the others, Brklyn is a late-night joint. When all the family-friendly pubs and sophisticated small bars of Manly have closed, Brklyn starts to fill up with hospitality workers and those who aren't ready to go home.

I arrive embarrassingly early, about 9pm on a Saturday night, so instead head upstairs for some tiki drinks and pizza at Sugar Lounge.

The pizzas are on a very thin, floppy base with the toppings sliding off and the tiki drinks are big, fun things decorated with pineapple chunks and little umbrellas.

By 1am, Brklyn is heating up downstairs.

The bar is a dark den filled with leather-lined booths, industrial metal finishes, a huge pool table and some scantily clad girls behind the bar.

The pool table and the Street Fighter arcade games are cranking and the jukebox is belting out everything from old-school hip-hop to '90s grunge. Most late-night joints need a simple formula and this place  has pretty much nailed it. It's just beer, spirits, pizza and dogs – and the fitout is far from fancy.

But I would have liked something a little more exciting than just the standard selection of beers and spirits. Perhaps a rotating list of exotic imported beers or some silly frozen cocktails. Bailey says they wanted to make it ''a bartender's bar for hospitality people who appreciate good premium booze and a relaxed space''.

He's put in a range of spirits – for example, bourbon starts at the house Bulleit ($8) and goes up to a Michter's Bourbon, a small-batch spirit from the US ($18) – but it seems a shame not to use such spirits in some great cocktails. Or to have great bartenders, for that matter.

As it says on one of the menus, this place is about ''super cool bar chicks'' in tiny outfits rather than serious bartenders who are all about their craft.

Don't get me wrong, the bartenders here are all lovely but not what you'd think for a ''bartender's bar''.

The pizzas and the hot dogs are cheap and cheerful. Nine-inch pizzas ($9) come with simple toppings such as ham and mushroom, pepperoni and chilli, supreme or smoked cheese and tomato but, similar to upstairs, the base is a little soggy.

There is nothing spectacular about any one aspect of this bar but the sum is better than its parts. The vibe is just right and it's nice to have a small, secretive and relaxed late-night option when everything else has shut shop.

You'll love it if ...  you want a late-night hangout in Manly.
You'll hate it if ...  you're looking for the whole dinner-drinks deal.
Go for  ... smoked cheese and tomato pizza, pool.