After clocking some serious hours at the Dive (and it really is a dive – you'll smell it before you see it) we’re here to tell you to stay away from the Monkey Hats. It’s a cocktail built for two made with two types of rum, a little absinthe, orgeat, pineapple juice and, according to our beardy bartender, "every piece of fruit you can imagine". It’s served in a giant ceramic monkey head wearing a fez. Like most deliciously refreshing tropical-style drinks, it delivers the gift of getting you pretty well jingled before you know it’s happened.
In other Monkey Hat-related news, owners Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore (you’ll know them from their tequila bar Tio’s
) bought several thousand of the drinking vessels and are tossing up whether to sell them as souvenirs, which we’re quite behind. Shady Pines
may have stubby coolers but nothing says ‘Welcome to Cliff Dive and have a nice day’ like a monkey in a Moroccan hat.
What we should tell you right about here is that Cliff Dive is a nightclub. But it’s a nightclub with soul. You can get a drink here early of an evening but it does feel like arriving five hours too early to the party. Having now visited for both a pre-dinner Supa Colada – a blend up of rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and house-made coconut sugar syrup dressed with a sprig of mint – and also danced till close while drinking tins of Brooklyn lager, we’re pretty equipped to tell you it’s all about the latter. The good news is that even if you still decide to make an early evening visit, you’re guaranteed a spot at a booth or one of the two bars (one is covered in shells and lit like a little grotto; the other sports half a tribal boat).
While this basement-level hotspot is a bit of a tropical wonderland, don’t mistake it for a tiki bar. The design influences here are Indonesian. It’s all dried-and-woven seagrass, carved wooden statues, shell lights, a dancefloor lit to look like the bottom of the sea with floating paper fish gently swimming above. You can imagine sailors on shore leave and lucky ladies drinking here, and maybe doing the cha cha after a few Pandangs (a super-sweet mixed drink of rum, fresh-pressed apple juice and pandan syrup).
On Friday evenings, they’ve employed rock’n’roll record spinner Marc Rondeau to play 45s. Saturdays, it’s reggaeton and hip hop. So one night you might dress to impress and take a twirl under the fishes, and on another you might find yourself getting low surrounded by high ponies and cut-offs. And if you get a little snackish, there are all-night dumplings.
Watch out, Coconut Grove.