Manly’s nightlife is increasingly becoming more sophisticated, as Harlem on Central shows. Despite being opposite a backpackers and a few doors away from a kebab shop, this is a dark, sleek and elegant 1920s-style bar where the bartenders wear bow ties and a polished black dog statue guards the door on the inside.
The décor is moody with a few touches of colour, such as the gold fabric wallpaper and the purple-curtained alcoves. Its best feature is the long bar counter and stools but, as someone who always feels like a tourist in Manly, I nonetheless grab a seat near the window so I can peer at the thonged masses outside.
Actually, there is something better than both the long bar counter and backpacker voyeurism – and that’s the cocktail list, which is filled with the type of classic cocktails that I like. I order the Alonquin, made with Sazerac rye, Noilly Prat vermouth and pineapple juice ($19) while my friend orders the Georgia Julep, made with VSOP cognac, peach brandy, sugar, soda and mint ($18).
The mint in the Georgia Julep has definitely seen better days, which is a pity since the cocktail itself – and mine – are both beautifully made, and I like the silver mug that the julep is served in.
The food here follows the trend of US-style diner food, and we try the pork slider (slow-cooked crispy pork, nashi pear, red cabbage slaw – $7) and the Harlem hound (pork chipolata, mustard, sautéed onions – $6) – both of which are packed with flavour. We also like the complimentary popcorn that comes in a cocktail glass.
I’m not a fan of the hip hop playing on the sound system, which seems incongruous with the décor, but the service here is friendly and professional. Provided you can actually find this bar (there’s no sign outside, other than a floor plaque in the footpath) this is worth going to if you want a touch of New York in Manly.
Harlem on Central, Shop 4, 9-15 Central Avenue, Manly. Open every day from 5pm until midnight.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Harlem on Central?