Best new Sydney bars for summer
At Old Joe's in Cronulla, fish 'n' chips come with six types of sea salt and sandwiches are piled high with lobster. Photo: Fiona Morris
Joe Santamaria knew how to do summer in Sydney. At his legendary Cronulla milk bar, it was almost expected that you'd walk straight off the beach and into the shop for a milkshake, to be slurped up before the sand had shaken off your feet.
Almost two decades after Joe's Milk Bar closed, the Shire's burgeoning bar scene has revived his superb summer routine. But this time around, the milkshakes come with an adults-only twist: vodka, Joseph Carton banana liqueur, Mozart Chocolate liqueur, Milo, caramel and fresh banana.
They call it the Joe-J-Fox Milkshake at Old Joe's (135 Elouera Road, Cronulla, 9523 6866), a new beachfront bar named in honour of the great man.
"We still want people to still come in off the beach and have a milkshake or a beer in their cossies like they would at Joe's," says general manager Steve Lyon. "Speedos are welcome."
The sorbet-coloured spot attached to Northies is one of a bevvy of new summer bars that'll have you hot-footing from Cronulla to Palm Beach via Bondi, Neutral Bay and the seedy belly of the inner west.
At Old Joe's, the milkshakes and spiders are spiked with alcohol, the fish and chips come with six types of sea salt and the fresh sambos are piled high with chilled lobster.
Sydney-via-New-York designer Sibella Court has tapped into the hassle-free vibe of the Shire better than a pack of dirty moles from Puberty Blues. "I delved into my own upbringing and beach culture of the 1970s for inspiration: striped umbrellas, washed out Okanui board shorts, tasselled terry towelling and ice-cream at the end of a salty day,'' she said.
There isn't a Chiko Roll in sight at the season's best new bars. Rather, they've gone loco for tacos, the 2013 food trend that just won't go away.
At Cranky Fins Holidae Inn (1 Beach Road, Palm Beach, 9974 1159), the owner of Bondi Beach bar Bucket List, Andy Ruwald, serves them up with spiced fish, shepherd's-style pork or haloumi, washed down with margaritas and Bloody Marys in a cottage that used to be the Boathouse restaurant. This newcomer is shaking off the shackles of white tablecloths and weddings, opting for casual service, wild beach murals by former Mambo artist Gerry Wild and local grommit Ozzie Wright and 1930s furniture from Bondi Public School. ''We're going for the Corona beach-shack vibe, just something completely relaxed, it's getting a bit too stuffy up here,'' says Ruwald.
The taco craze isn't missed at the re-opened Oxford Tavern (cnr New Canterbury Road and Crystal Street, Petersham, 8019 9351), where tortillas are made fresh in-house every day and stuffed with steaming Asado steak.
However, the stripper poles and jelly shots probably trump the tacos for centre stage.
The Drink 'n' Dine team's renovation of the former topless bar has been the most talked about opening of summer. Jaime Wirth and Michael Delany have created something that is part beer barn, part late-night honky tonk bar. The stripper stage is now a back bar and the jelly wrestling lives on as a big, messy dessert of jelly, ice-creams and toppings to be shared among three to five people and eaten with hands only. Gloves provided.
The old pokies room is now an open-air jungle bar with a huge steel drum smoker cooking up smoked brisket, pulled pork, Brontosaurus ribs and smoked sausage to order. It's open until the wee hours for long summer nights.
The long terrace at Newtown newcomer Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen (above the renovated Marlborough Hotel, 201 Missenden Rd, Newtown, 9557 7280) is a good find. It's American-themed, with New Orleans food and drink such as shrimp po boys and a darn fine Rum and Raisin Root Beer Float with a big dollop of molasses ice-cream that doubles as dessert.
For further proof that the entire Sydney bar scene went to the Americas for inspiration during winter, head to Neutral Bay newcomer SoCal (1 Young Street, Neutral Bay, 9904 5691).
The washed-out shades of the Californian coast was the influence for The Botanist and Bondi Hardware's Hamish Watts and Ben Carroll, who've transformed an old gentleman's karaoke joint into an upstairs oasis.
SoCal is hot and hip. There's even a section of ''raw'' food on the menu. Among the shocks of neon, excellent Californian wines and young barmen in Hawaiian shirts, the outside terrace is already full on warm evenings.
Further east at Manly, the recently renovated rooftop bar at the Ivanhoe Hotel (27 The Corso, Manly, 9976 3955) has to be the million-dollar spot on a warm evening. The drinks hit the right note (sorbet and sea-salt margaritas, jugs of Granny Smith cider punch) but the decor might have you crying deja vu.
Like Old Joe's and a host of slicked-up Bondi bars, it's a case of the Hamptons strikes again. Striped banquettes and Americana kitsch seem to be the design-du-jour.
After all that balmy, sweaty, outdoor drinking, it's time to head below street level. Lucky for those who can't stand the heat, basement bars are still opening in droves.
Bondi has welcomed Spring Street Social (110 Spring Street, Bondi Junction, 9389 2485) - an apothecary-style cocktail bar opened by food-conscious pharmacist-turned-truffle farmer Pete Wright (and, yes, his own truffles will be on the menu soon). But Clarence Street is hiding the hottest summertime escape, The Lobo Plantation (Basement Lot 1, 209 Clarence Street, city, 9279 4335). Channelling the heady, rum-filled home of Cuban sugar baron Julio Lobo, this extraordinarily decadent bar picks up on all the classiest parts of a tropical escape - sugar cane and expensive rum, barbecued corn husks, electric green palm fronds.
For the, er, less-than-classy side of the tropical escape, head to Cliff Dive (16-18 Oxford Square, Darlinghurst, no phone), the much-hyped Papua New Guinea-themed nightclub from the Tio's boys, Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore.
While Lobo is dishing out expensive rum, Cliff Dive is splashing the cheap stuff into giant tiki cups to be subsequently splashed on partygoers throwing Sepik River-style shapes on a tiny dance floor that heaves after midnight. It's silly, fun and open until the wee hours - just in time to catch sunrise on the beach and a milkshake on the way home.
SYDNEY'S COOLEST AL FRESCO BARS
(153A King St, Newtown, 0422 873 879)
Perch yourself street-front, or head upstairs for a rooftop spot overlooking the jagged tops of Newtown's backstreets.
465 The Avenue
(465 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, 9423 2888)
The weekly jazz on the lawn will coax you outside to the open-air tables at this opulent North Shore bar styled on a 1920s Berlin spiegeltent.
(96 Cumberland St, The Rocks, 9247 4794)
A knock-about pub with knockout views across Circular Quay. Head to the Metropolitan Hotel, Hotel Sweeney's and Zeta Bar for more rooftop action in the CBD.
(Watson's Bay Hotel, 1 Military Rd, Watsons Bay, 9337 5444)
Straight from Vogue Living, this bar channels an upper-class Noosa vibe.
Striped deck chairs, Italian-style cocktails and wood-fired pizzas in the evening sun.
The Bar at the End of the Wharf
(Pier 4, Hickson Rd, Dawes Point, 9250 1761)
High ceilings and big balconies send a fresh breeze through this chic bar just a wagyu slider's throw from the Harbour Bridge.
READERS HAVE THEIR SAY ON SYDNEY'S BEST SUMMER COCKTAIL SPOT
Elise DM @lcsmoothie: Hugo's Manly!
Doc @Doclach: Clovelly hotel. Ocean views, seabreeze and excellent bar staff. Live music too. Simple cocktail list but bright and breezy
Dooley @dooleyza: Don't know about cocktails but cold beers at Newport Arms!
Claire Barnes @vachementclaire: Outside balcony of Corridor in Newtown for best summer cocktails, definitely.
Angela @angelwings202: Grandma's and Papa Gede's Bar definitely are my two favourite!
Shannon Maree @shaan_mi: gotta be @OperaBarSydney
Lilacandvogue @kristeljones: Sweetie's Rooftop Bar and Opera Bar
Katie Sheehan @KatieSS73: Would have to be @HinkyDinks in Darlinghurst
Em Sprouster @emsprouster: The Argyle, at The Rocks!
Kelly McGuinness @kjmcg1: Hemingways on Manly Beach hands down!
EstebanDeLaSexface @theRealSuza: Gotta be @since_i_leftyou that c/yard!
Scott Ellis @blahblahellis: Marys.
Peachey @andrew_peachey: Little bit north but Reviver at Gosford is a good contender.