It might have a prohibition-era name but, as with Bootleg, Speakeasy doesn’t feel like an illegal 1920s saloon. Instead, it has the air of a small and cosy wine bar, albeit one with a cow-skin covered sofa, brothel-red lamps, Latin music and paintings on the red and black walls that, as far as I can make out, seem to depict tortured mermaids.
I first come on a Saturday night with my friend The Pap, a media photographer who’s currently in town, and the place is so busy we only just manage to secure a small table. However, we’re almost immediately served by a mohawked waitress who’s incredibly friendly and we grab the Dusty’s Desire Barossa Valley shiraz, which is peppery and smooth.
We leave soon after that but I’m drawn back a week and a half later when I then have a drink with the Fiery Redhead, an off-duty bartender who’s known to give people tongue lashings for serving inadequate spirits and sazeracs.
Even though it’s a Wednesday, Speakeasy is as packed as it was on my last visit and for some reason I’m sad to see that the mohawked waitress has shaved her head (it was actually quite becoming) but she’s just as friendly as before and remembers me from last time – and for a fragile ego like mine, that’s always a bonus.
The tapas menu here has a Moroccan/Spanish/Italian feel and although I’m tempted by fare such as the chicken wings in yogurt and Moroccan spices, the Fiery Redhead and I order the grilled haloumi which is served with tomatoes. Admittedly, haloumi is the safest of all tapas meals to order but I still think this is great for what it is and it’s nice to get tomatoes that are bright red and ripe rather than the sorry excuses you often see around town. I also order a glass of the Pindarie tempranillo sangiovese shiraz, which to my mind is good but not spectacular, but I love the Kilikanoon Clare Valley grenache shiraz mourvedre that the Fiery Redhead orders: it’s earthy, full of flavour and aromatic (I like my wines to smack me on the nose).
With a decent wine list and great service it’s hard to fault Speakeasy, even though the painting of a drowning mermaid might haunt my dreams for some time to come (as a teen I did have a crush on Daryl Hannah when she played a mermaid in Splash). And if you don’t find a seat at Speakeasy you can always try your luck at the Shop and Wine Bar, which is just a few minutes away on the same road.
Speakeasy Bar, 83 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach. Phone 9130 2020. Open from 5pm to 10pm weekdays and from 8am to 10pm on Saturday nights (why do Bondi bars close so early?).
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Speakeasy?