First published on 7 May 2010. Updated on 2 May 2012.
This dark, intimate room, festooned with exquisite bottles of rum, wood panels and an eclectic selection of furniture, is staffed by smart-looking bartenders and filled with Bondi locals. Rums dominate the back bar and cover another wall illuminated by chandeliers dramatically dripping with wax. Cocktails are listed in chronological order, beginning with early creations from the 1500s, moving through the classics. Half the fun is reading the stories (the "diaries") that accompany the beverages. Get stuck into the list and discover gems like the gently spiced Angostura 1919 or the honeyed, viscous Goslings Gold Seal. Alternately, give the credit card a good workout and discover why rum makes a bold challenge to Cognac as the ultimate post-dining tipple at the heavy end of the list.
Owners Brody Petersen and David Quinton have created a narrow, dark space where Bondi locals cram in like sardines, ramming each other for room at the bar or one of the few and therefore highly sought-after seats. Drink a Bloody Caesar (a bit like a Bloody Mary only with Clamato juice), which the guys here bring in from Canada. (And before you ask, Clamato juice is a mix of clam broth and reconstituted tomato juice with a dash of corn syrup. It's tastier than it sounds, we promise.) The tapas menu has a Span-Asian flavour so you can settle in for the night. Having trouble finding it? Look for the sign/lightbox filled with sand and the remains of unloved Barbie dolls.
The Corner House
Anyone living halfway down Bondi Road must be seriously happy not having to shell out thirty bucks for a ride to the Cross to find a good, affordable cocktail bar. Flying Squirrel and Rum Diaries set the scene for tapas and drinks, and now The Corner House is continuing the tradition with flying colours. With cocktail competition veteran Kass Hill behind the mahogany, you're guaranteed a good tipple - even if it's not on the list. Hill will stir, mix and shake anything within reason, but we recommend a Hendricks Martini with a twist alongside some of chef Brent Mills' seriously good snacks. Sure beats the olden days of pub grub and a schooner of Carlton while avoiding trouble at the once-was-dodgy Royal Hotel across the street.
Whether it's a soul-soothing glass of Fernet Branca, an awesome Old Fashioned or something from the wine list, Icebergs has you covered. Sit back in one of their swinging cane egg chairs stuffed with cushions and gaze into the azure Pacific panorama just metres away, or look beyond the headland to the eerie majesty of Waverley cemetery. Their bar snacks rock too - crisp, fat polenta chips with sour cream and foot-long grissini with prosciutto. Sunday afternoon has never looked better. (Too exxy? Try the rammed RSL beneath.)
Beach Road Hotel
If you need a change from the little beach bars, try this megapub out for size. It may be tucked in a back street a good block from the beach, but the Beach Road Hotel is more quintessentially Bondi than most of the suburb's other venues. Immense in scale, this one-stop pub has something for most people. The airy front bar is an old fellas' sanctuary. Out back is a sun-filled beer garden, spilling into the recently refurbished family friendly bistro. Hipsters, students and trashbags find solace upstairs at the Rex, a cavernous band room offering an often impressive line-up of DJs and Australian indie bands - especially on a Sunday night. Across the hall, copper-domed light shades and graffiti-splashed walls give the Regis Room a little edge, while the Wednesday meal and Coopers longneck deal give the young crowd a reason to visit. The Beach Road Hotel is a microcosm of Sydney's eastern beaches - a hodgepodge of tourists, locals and those out for a good time all the time.
Speakeasy is the kind of bar that you would stop to investigate if you happened to walk past. The hole-in-the-wall glows enticingly with red lamplight, and through the window you can see and hear the chatter of many people perched on low couches and stools. Don't worry if it looks full: the friendly staff will do their best to shuffle the furniture around and squeeze you in somewhere. Although it operates as a cafe by day, think of it as a wine and tapas bar at night. The food doesn't disappoint either. The not-so-small small dishes offer good value; three plates are enough for a light supper for two. Be sure to make use of the specials wall where some of the most interesting and substantial options are. Although Speakeasy is just across the road from similarly tiny wine bar the Shop and Wine Bar, it's a little more comfortable and holds up strongly enough to be its own destination. It's a great addition to Curlewis Street.
Shop and Wine Bar
There are only a handful of seats available and if it's raining there are even fewer - but it's a wonderful way to while away a Sunday afternoon after a morning on the beach. A great daily selection of wines by the glass, as well as half bottles and a little snack on arrival means you can expect plenty of choice and good value for money. Take a punt and try their ‘mystery wine'.
If you've ever listened to Bondi FM radio you'll know that it's local, relaxed and beachy. The same can be said of Bondi FM Café and Bar, which is the site from which the station now broadcasts. As you walk in from Curlewis Street (follow the yellow paint thongs) you'll pass the glass booth where a DJ is live on air. Pretty nifty, and the coolest thing about Bondi FM is the venue itself; they could serve burned toast and old wine in polystyrene cups and we'd still return. There aren't many places where you can legally get drunk in a deck chair. Or on a couch, a cushion on the floor, or in the teepee pitched in the backyard. The yard is shared with neighbouring Roy's Tapas, but the two venues blend like cabernet and merlot, and everyone seems to get along fine - everyone being local hipsters packing a surfboard, a dog, or a vintage designer handbag from Bondi Markets.
North Bondi Italian Food
This bar/restaurant sits on the north end of Bondi Beach like a little jewel of boozing goodness. The room-length bar sits adjacent to the constantly packed-out restaurant. On weekends you'll have to hustle and elbow your way to the counter, but it's well worth the wait. The bar staff, dressed in their little denim rompers (bless 'em), work hard at their drinks, squeezing the blood orange and grapefruit juices fresh. If fancy drinks don't float your boat, there is an impressive selection of local and imported wines and beers that offers great bang for your buck. As for seating, the outside back steps or wall provide the ideal perching place (provided you can maintain your balance after six Camparis) while the wide timber verandah out front affords sweeping views of the shoreline.