What do you get when you combine an ex-Skunkhour frontman, some ksubi designers, a city obsessed with Mexican food and a suburb quickly becoming even more famous for a YouTube parody of its hipster inhabitants? You'd probably get something like Buckler's Canteen, a seaside venture from a collective of rock singers and designers including Aya Larkin, Paul Wilson and Mark Tarrant.
SOME MIGHT CALL IT ECLECTIC, others might call it confused. There's a lot of stuff going on here. The hip hangout at the base of the Swiss-Grand Hotel is decked out like a pirates' tavern with melting candles, tattered flags and weathered wooden tables. The candles flicker as the door swings open and closed letting in a stiff sea breeze from Campbell Parade. There's a grungy element with a back-room of pinball machines, pool tables and rock music. Then there's a menu that borrows a bit from everywhere: Mexican tacos, Aussie beef burgers, seafood tapas, Japanese edamame and South American cod balls. And then there's the tropical, fruity cocktails to top it off.
STRANGELY ENOUGH the mishmash seems to work. Some can pull off the laissez-faire, whatever-goes, "oh, I just threw this together in five minutes" vibe. Just ask the Bondi Hipster from a series of spoof videos that have gone viral online. ''We don't shower because it's a waste of water and it makes you look cool like you don't bother,'' one says. I'm positive several people in this bar are from those videos. But not acting. The bartenders have a tiny bit of that too-cool standoffishness as well, something some bartenders still seem to think is a job requirement.
THE COCKTAILS ARE NOT CHEAP and for $17 or $18 you get a big glass of lolly-water. A Fafa Fene (vodka, apple, passionfruit, lime, mint and honey, $17) and a Raspberry Mule (vodka, lime, raspberries, ginger beer, $16) are weak and totally boring. Even the $18 Margarita (tequila, lime, agave), a safer bet you'd assume, is sugary sweet and comes in a tumbler of ice without a salt rim. In a bar such as this, with its pirate theme, I'd much rather some simple rum drinks served up short and punchy. Tap beers cover the usual suspects - Peroni, Pure Blonde, etc - and there are five wines by the glass, mostly decent Australian drops such as a clean-skin pinot grigio from Geelong ($9).
THE FOOD COMES OUT PRONTO and is good pub-style grub. The tempura fish tacos ($13.50) have a generous slab of light fish (but, like many other options, are still over-priced by my reckoning) and the sesame and soy-soaked edamame ($5) are moreish. Skip the tofu - it's an odd combination of braised soy tofu and creamy chickpea and coconut sauce - and go for some other share plates such as the salted cod balls, wagyu beef or the Buckler's B.L.A.T.
AS THE NIGHT KICKS ON the place has a great vibe. The real-life Bondi hipsters and their mates are having a grand time playing pool and pinball and a quasi dance floor starts up. The communal tables host a mix of young and old and stay pretty mellow. There's obviously enough here to keep many people coming back.
YOU’LL LOVE IT IF you’re looking for a laid-back Bondi bar.
YOU’LL HATE IT IF you’re after endless wine and cocktail choices.
GO FOR tempura fish tacos, B.L.A.T., pinball and pool.
IT’LL COST YOU cocktails $16-$18, wine by the glass $7.50-$9, tap beer $6-$7, share plates $11.50-$15.50.
Address Corner Beach Road and Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, 9130 8290
Open Tue-Thu, 4pm-midnight; Fri-Sun, noon-midnight
- (02) 9130 8290
- Opening Hours - Tuesday-Thursday, 4pm-midnight. Friday-Sunday, noon-midnight.
- Author - Rachel Olding