Bar Zine has never understood why The Oaks’s name is plural when there’s only one tree in the courtyard (it’s now 70 years old and rumour is it’s insured for a small fortune) but this North Shore institution makes up for it by having not one but five different bars under its roof.
There’s the art deco cocktail bar aptly named Nineteenthirtysix; The Garden Palace Bar, which has photos of NSW chief justices on the walls and art deco lamps; the Cue and Cushion bar on the first level (which is actually a series of rooms with pool tables, chesterfield sofas and balconies along with a bar in the corridor that services them); the minimalist bar off the courtyard that looks a little like a psychedelic Apple outlet; as well as the Steakhouse, where men can reaffirm their masculinity by throwing a steak on the indoor barbie (there’s also a grill in the courtyard).
Despite the different themes for these bars there’s a uniform whiff of the upper crust about the place (then again, it is in Neutral Bay), which might also explain why you can buy that most English of drinks, a jug of Pimms (served with dry ginger and lemonade with a lemon, orange and cucumber garnish).
We opt for a caipiroska instead, which is made with Absolut vodka, muddled fresh lime and white sugar (the difference between this and a caiprinha is that the latter uses cachaca instead of vodka).
For $16 we can’t complain – in fact, it’s an almost perfect drink and much better than the mojito we had on our last visit, which unlike the caipiroska was topped up with soda water (and whereas some people might prefer that, Bar Zine prefers its cocktails undiluted).
The last time we were here we also had a Candy Apple (Absolut Citron and Kurant vodka, apple schnapps, apple juice and lime), which tasted … well, it tasted as sweet as it sounds.
This time around, however, I’m unable to order more than one cocktail as a transsexual (or a very masculine woman – it’s hard to tell) insists on wedging him/herself right next to me despite a vast array of empty seating. Now, I have nothing against either transsexuals or masculine women, but … well, I also don’t like them sitting almost on top of me, which is why I escape to the Steakhouse for a beer while wondering why it is that it’s never the good-looking girls the bar who look in my direction, much less sit next to me … but I digress.
There are several different dining options here: you can grab a pizza ($19 – $22, with ingredients ranging from barramundi and smoked salmon to Peking duck sausage and marinated pork); pots of mussels ($22); steaks ($23 for an 18-month New York cut and $26 for a dry-aged 20-month rib-eye, although other steaks are available); and tasting plates such as the Szechwan soft shell crab, which is definitely worth the $14 we spent.
The Oaks might not be the most intimate and hippest bar in town but it doesn’t need to be. Whether you want a cocktail, pizza, steak, a game of pool or knowledge on how to get a sex change operation, this might just have what you’re looking for.
The Oaks, 118 Military Road, Neutral Bay, 9953 5515. See The Oaks website
Open Mon – Wed 10.00am – 12.00am, Thur – Sat 10.00am – 1.30am, Sun 12.00pm – 12.00am.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate The Oaks?