I’m not sure how to write this review. On one hand I genuinely like this bar – a lot. On the other hand, I’d rest easier if they hadn’t named it after Papa himself. But, before I explain why, I’ll start with what I like:
- The location. It’s directly opposite Manly beach – so you can have a cold drink while watching the surf. They’re also open during the day, which many other Manly bars aren’t. Quite frankly, if I want to splash around in the water in the middle of a weekday when normal people are working, then I don’t want to wait until 5pm for a drink. This bar respects that.
- The service. Even though the Amazonian Croatian and I arrive in our daggiest beach clothes (and I look like a drowned rat after coming out of the water), the service is so genuinely friendly that we feel welcome enough to stay and eat despite us only having originally intended to have a quick beer here.
- The food. I’m impressed that they have pastrami sandwiches ($10) and meatballs ($15) but we opt for the chicken nuggets ($12 – and only $5 during happy hour) and sliders (which are basically mini burgers with bacon, cheese and pickle – you can get two for $14) – which we love. The nuggets with chipotle sauce are DRAMATICALLY better than the fast food nuggets I remember from childhood (to the point where we order a second serve afterwards) and the sliders are perfect.
- The décor. I like the clean white and red walls and the bookshelf wall on one side, although the book snob in me wishes it held more interesting books. I’m not so keen on the bar counter itself, though, which has a photo of a bookshelf pasted on it. Papa would not approve. In fact, I think Papa would prefer a bar filled with boxing memorabilia, animal heads on the walls and rifles. Then again, on second thought, maybe it’s just as well this bar doesn’t reflect Hemingway’s interests too much.
And so now we come to the cocktail list. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what to write here. You see, Hemingway was a HUGE cocktail fan. He loved mojitos, daiquiris, martinis and sidecars – hard, classic cocktails with a lot of booze and no frou frou. And yet I don’t see any of Hemingway’s favourites on the cocktail list before me (although I do like the menu itself, which is inserted in an old encyclopaedia). Instead, I see drinks such as Hemingway’s Cup, which is made from Hendricks, rose and apple tea, cucumber, sugar and spice (all cocktails are $15) – which is more of a cocktail for girly girls than the man who personified machismo (as well as male insecurities, ego … but that’s a whole different matter). Having said that, when I go home and check their web site out I then see that they do make drinks such as the Hemingway daiquiri and the sidecar – so maybe my menu was missing a page. Or I had sun stroke and missed it. Or they took the manly drinks off the physical menu but left them listed on the site.
Regardless, I still could have asked the bartender to make me a manly drink – but instead I threw a girly hissy fit and only drank Little Creatures Pale Ale ($6.50) in protest at the bar’s desecration of Hemingway’s name, even as the Croatian called me a pedantic bore. I get that a lot.
And on that awkward note that hints at confused notions of male identity in a time of emasculation, I will conclude by saying I still think this is a great bar. I love its laid back atmosphere, friendly and professional service, the great (and affordable) food and the stunning view – even though I still think they could cut the frou frou.
PS There’s also a more formal dining room upstairs that can be booked for private hire.
Hemingway’s, 48 North Steyne, Manly, see the Hemingway’s website. Open 7 days a week from 8am to midnight (and 10pm on Sundays).
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Hemingway’s?