I’m sitting metres away from the beach with a margarita in my hand as the six-foot swell rolls in, and even though I firmly believe this is how every Sydneysider should spend their evenings I still feel a twinge of guilt about my self-indulgence. Luckily a few more sips should sort that out.
Charlie Bar is on the ground level of the Manly Pacific hotel. The bar’s divided into sections: there’s a few enclosed spaces where you can lounge on sofas and counters, a more formal section with dining tables and chairs, as well as a space that opens right onto the footpath where you can sip cocktails, eat Wagyu beef burgers, and feel guilty as you watch joggers, skaters and surfers pass right in front of you. Well, I do, anyway.
As a beach volleyball bounces up into view before disappearing again (due to an incline I just can’t make out the players themselves) and the wind rustles the leaves of the promenade’s pine trees I decide that the margarita is good for $14. It’s rimmed with salt, is freshly made and not, thankfully, from one of those slushy-machine abominations, and while it’s not outstanding (it’s a little sour for my taste) the view more than makes up for that – and by the time I finish it I not only become used to the sourness but wish I’d ordered a second one.
I also like the aforementioned wagyu burger with chips ($18), which appears on both the snack menu (3pm to 6pm) and on the dinner menu. You’ll certainly find cheaper burgers in Manly but the wagyu beef, nicely caramelised onions, crispy bacon and fully melted Swiss cheese make this better than average – and hey, if you want a nice cocktail with a water view, now isn’t the time to be cheap.
The bar fills up with a mixed crowd, including tourists from the hotel, business people in suits filing down from a conference upstairs (there are several conference rooms in the hotel), a family in the corner as well as a few glamorous-looking locals sipping drinks. The music is subdued and varied, ranging from Aretha Franklin to dance and pop. The décor is a little unusual with large spherical light fixtures dangling down in some parts and small glass orbs hanging in others. But with the beach across the road, you tend to look out and not in.
With the setting reminding me of a misspent holiday spent in Rio I order a lychee caipiroska ($14), which is faultless. Well, almost – the barman apologises for not having the right kind of tumbler and serves it in a tall glass instead, but after the margarita I certainly don’t care about what kind of glass it’s served in. The lychees are nicely muddled along with some lime, and you can clearly taste these amongst the vodka.
Charlie Bar is open from noon seven days a week, but on Friday and Saturday nights there’s also Sable on the 3rd floor. This is a swankier bar that offers a terrace and private nooks, and instead of Charlie’s pub-style menu there are tapas-style tasting plates with dishes such as gremolata-crumbed Hijos de Jose anchovies. However, to be honest I’ve yet to actually see Sables in person but I will check it out the next time I’m in Manly – after, that is, I have one of the lychee caipiroskas downstairs.
Charlie Bar, 55 North Steyne, Manly NSW. Phone 02 9977 7666, or see the Charlie Bar website. Open seven days a week from noon until late.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Charlie Bar?