The most interesting thing about Firefly, a tapas bar with a clean modern design, is that it opened at all – after all, up until now the only obvious places to drink in the area were The Oaks, The Pickled Possum and The Cremorne Lounge (home to Minskys and SoBar).
In other words, despite opening up in an economic downturn, at least Firefly is targeting a relatively untapped market – which might explain why it’s often hard to find an empty seat here, even on a Monday evening.
The atmosphere is relaxed and while the smell of Spanish food fills the room Firefly still feels more like a bar than a restaurant. Amongst the wood paneling and stone walls there are sofas, small café-style tables and chairs as well as long open windows to allow you to watch the North Shore world pass you by as you drink. There’s also a bench for larger groups.
The long wine list is impressive – or perhaps we should say formidable, since there are more bottles here that cost over $100 than under $50. There are some interesting Australian choices, such as the $200 1993 Moss Wood cab sav, as well as wines from Portugal, Italy, France, Chile and Argentina. However, we end up being happy with a $9 glass of Chilean carmenere.
The cocktail list is brief by comparison but the selection is intriguing. The grapefruit martini ($18), for example, is made from gin, Massenez grapefruit and grapefruit bitters and yet it still feels like you’re drinking a proper martini. The grapefruit flavour certainly comes through, but it’s tart rather than being sweet and fruity and works well.
The high tea caipiroska ($15) is made from muddled mandarin and lime, vodka, and bergamot and Earl Grey syrup (bergamot is a small, oddly shaped citrus whose rind is used in Earl Grey tea for its aroma). The syrup’s flavour is too strong for our liking but if you love citrus – or tea – then you may feel differently to us.
Those after something lighter might like the Hemingway daiquiri ($16). Made with Matusalem Platino rum, maraschino liqueur, gomme (a highly sugary syrup that has gum arabic added to make it smoother) and pink grapefruit juice, it’s subtle in flavour, easy to drink and a far cry from the rich fruity daiquiris you often see in bars.
Another easy to drink option is the Bitter and Twisted ($13 – lychee, blood orange juice, Campari and Eliza sparkling chardonnay) – then again, Bar Zine’s female companion says she likes it simply because she relates to the name.
The tapas here obviously have a Spanish and Portuguese influence and include salt cod croquettes ($10.50 – as the name indicates, it’s salty and might be an acquired taste for some), chilli chicken chorizo ($9) and Petunas smoked trout with crème fraiche ($14). The rest of the menu, however, is harder to pin down: the mains range from gazpacho ($13) to spaghetti with pork and veal meatballs ($19), plus there’s a selection of cheeses from France, England, Italy as well as South Australia.
Firefly is open for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays, serving churros (a Spanish pastry similar to a donut) with a thick chocolate dipping sauce for $10.50 and a Berocca and soda ($4.90) for those who had too many martinis the night before. A $12 Bloody Mary is available from 10 am for more hardcore relief.
The meals and cocktails here are affordable and different to your usual bar fare, and even though the wine list can seem intimidating you have to give Firefly credit for having an impressive range – and for allowing you to have a Bloody Mary and fried churros for breakfast.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Firefly?
Firefly, 24 Young St, Neutral Bay. Phone 02 9909 0193, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Firefly website. Open for breakfast Saturday to Sunday 7.30am until noon, for lunch Monday to Sunday noon to 3pm and for dinner Sunday to Thursday 6pm until 9.30pm and Friday to Saturday 6pm until 10pm.