The Nook Manly offers up the perfect combination of style and substance. It probably didn’t hurt that co-owner Harrison Maher’s partner is an interior designer...
Taylor Heywood has really excelled in producing a stylish small bar with a New York deli vibe, all the way from the perfectly chosen font on the exterior signage, to the retro mosaic floor tiles on the floor.
Soft lighting from dimmable white ball pendants hanging over your gold-edged table, and a warm red glow from the exposed brick mounted neon that proclaims: It was all a dream; combined with distressed white-gold mirrors give The Nook a blurry charm, like memory.
Having Kieran Bailey – the other half of The Nook – designing the drinks, doesn’t hurt that blurry aesthetic either. Bailey’s extensive experience in bars includes Jamtown, Sugar Lounge, Miss Marley’s, Harlem on Central and Brklyn, and it shows in The Nook’s next-generation, sophisticated list.
The aptly named Smoke’n’Mirrors ($19) takes a hard-hitting list of ingredients – Chivas 18-year whisky, Benedictine, Antica Formula vermouth, dandelion and burdock bitters, and a Chartreuse rinse – and smooths them into a deceptively easy-to-drink cocktail. For something more frivolous, the TN Swizzle ($19) takes plantation pineapple rum, and mandarin oleo-saccharum (an ‘oil-sugar’ that extracts the fragrant oil from mandarin peel) and swizzles it with powdered lime, fresh grapefruit and bitters.
It is bright and punchy, something you might actually need to cut through the excesses of pork-on-pork in the Piggie Smalls ($22). This crackling topped pork roll is taken from The Nook’s succinct, nine-sanga menu. It teams four kinds of pig - chilli, fennel and sage porchetta, maple pancetta, pork and apple stuffing, and everyone’s favourite bit of pig: bacon – with garlic collard greens, making for a rich and intensely porky mouthful.
Despite being a pork aficionado, it was actually the well-crafted Club 49 ($23) that won my heart. This classic sandwich teams hot smoked turkey, streaky bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, a fried egg and cranberry-mayo into a well-balanced triple-decker that – while slightly too tall for my mouth - did leave all of Sydney’s five-star hotels in the dust. We shared it against frosty glasses of the Pirate Life Pale Ale ($9), and even then it was so substantial, we felt a bit of buyer’s remorse about ordering sides.
Now, that’s not to say the shareable items aren’t great. Tossed Sprouts ($12) are a health-inspiring plate of charred Brussels sprouts with maple bourbon, scattered with toasted almonds and non-quite-enough creamy blue cheese. They’re big so a tad too crunchy for my liking, but it is getting past their peak season.
PK’s Stack ($18) is even more fun! This large plate is loaded with shoestring fries and scattered with the burnt ends of the house-cured and smoked pastrami they make for PK’s Reuben ($19). There are also McClure’s pickles, house mustard, Lillie’s Q Smoky sauce and Swiss cheese on this baby, which can be amped up even further with a dabble in the on-table vinegary hot sauce.
A final shout-out to our personable waitress, who was bubbly despite having already worked since 9am (at a second job to afford the rent in her Manly abode). Despite plenty of other guests, she was generous with her time. Her personal story, menu favourites and recommendations for our next visit washed over us like warm honey, making us feel all the more inclined to return.
49 Sydney Street, Manly