The Hill Bar, North Bondi could just become your go to venue for socialising this summer. A haven from the city’s pressures with its relaxed Florida Keys décor, you will love being perched above Bondi taking full advantage of the on shore breezes as you listen to some cool beats.
Hurtling from Ashfield for a 6pm start, I was thankful to pretty much step straight off a bus at its terminus and into the promise of a cocktail. This is the precise moment Cargo Chai made my acquaintance. Lined up in anticipation of my arrival, I spied tall glasses packed with ice and an exotic blend of ice cold chai tea, John Frum’s Cargo Cult spice rum, and orange. It was a perfect antidote to my trek on the train and the 333 bus.
Glass in hand I surveyed the open airy room with three Florida Keys themed guest areas. Low walls, cushioned bench seating, wall papering and stenciled prints, white feature walls, potted palms, all contributed to an exotic casual feel. This style extended to the long functional galley bar with its green backlit shelving, and green tiled service bench. The pink flamingo neon light above the bar was the piece de resistance.
While contemplating the cute juxtaposition of North Bondi and Florida Keys with a Cargo Chai on the go, I wandered into a curious conversation about the cocktail’s namesake, Cargo Cult rum. Stories of adventures to exotic lands, World War Two and Bondi connections, and a cult messiah figure were retold to me by two knowledgeable guys from Think Spirits. It all added to the glamour of the cocktail.
To think my night could not improve was naïve. I had yet to sample the tasty fare circulating. A rich variety to choose from, I homed in on the lip smacking tangy oysters in a caramelised red wine vinegar and ecshallot dressing. Before heading for more food, I realised I needed a new drink. The Fresh Paloma was sitting pretty in pink on the bar in a martini glass and was the obvious choice. The capi pink grapefruit, tequila, fresh lime and agave mix had a fruitiness that sat perfectly with the blackeyed bean fritters that came by. The yin and yang of fruity sweetness and savoury beans collided perfectly.
I was totally in the tasting zone. As if sensing this, the friendly wait staff brought around the next offering of sugar cured king fish tiradito. If I was astounded by the zestiness of the oysters, I was floored by the breathtaking composition of ruby grapefruit, jalapeno, lime and ginger dressing, habanero oil and baby herbs flavouring the king fish. Loads of freshness with a back taste of pepper and spice.
Coco mojito was next on my cocktail list. Very citrusy and minty, it is the type of drink you should have on hand for a hot Sydney day. As I’d stepped in from a scorcher, I was receiving the refreshing drink with gusto. To complement the mojito, I jumped onto a succulent and sweet hay Valley Lamb Short Rib. There was no need for additions as it was a beautifully cooked piece of lamb but the chickpea puree, spice salt added a texture and depth. A squirt of lime brought out even more of the lamb’s sweetness. By far, this was my most favourite tasting.
My second last food tasting for the night was the pulled beef brisket sliders that tasted as good as they sound. A real quality slider, it took about five mouthfuls to finish because of the generous serving of tender and tasty beef.
Time was moving on. Before I left, however, I made sure to try the Cosmo Pirate made with Stolen Rum, Absolut vanilla vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice. The Cointreau and vodka gave the cocktail a heady sweetness that was countered by the rum and cranberry juice. Every mouthful was a burst of delight. I could not have made a better well balanced cocktail.
As I was extolling to the attentive bar manager the virtues of this wonderful drink as the perfect nightcap, out came the scallops. I still had some of my Cosmo Pirate and soon discovered that summer in a glass and summer on a plate teamed up beautifully. Plump juicy seared Hervey Bay Scallops plated in their shell and served with a grilled pineapple salsa and cucumber made love to my tastebuds. It was just the right note to leave on. I thanked all and sundry for an excellent night and jumped back on a 333 to the city before it pulled out from the start of its route. I was sorry to leave and am hoping to get back to the Hill Bar a few more times before summer ends.