There are not a lot of bars that bring out the inner kid in me. Not really that they should be, I mean, maybe that's sort of weird, usually, but not here. Not at Bedford Soda and Liquor.
With its tick-your-own meal combos (yeah, I'm talking laminated menus on which you can tick your own meal choices with a red whiteboard marker), chocolate peanut butter whisky shakes and meatball meals, it's basically a sophisticated alcoholic American tuck shop. And I like that.
But before we get to the drinks [it is a bar after all], let's talk some more about the menu first. What you've got here is your standardised meatball menu, with a vegetarian option (tofu and rye balls, if anyone's asking). So you've got three basic choices: bedford balls, subs or sliders. The balls come served on an assortment of carbs (your choice which) - polenta, spag, risotto etc., sauces - parmesan, pesto, tomato, gravy etc., and if you're still hungry, or watching your summer waistline, you can tick a side option - a garden salad, caesar salad, seasonal veges or something like that. The sliders are tiny $5 hamburgers with your choice of meatball and sauce, and the subs are the same situation, but twice the size, with two meatballs and cut in half, all for a modest $8.
I myself had some vegetarian balls on polenta covered in parmesan sauce, which had about the same comforting factor that my mother's Sunday dinners have. These vege balls on polenta were the ultimate drunk munch food, better tasting than any 2am maccas burger situation has ever been. From what my friend tried I gathered that the pork ball sliders are fantastic, but the chicken balls, not so much. Also, although quite popular in the Land of the Free, the dessert deep fried oreos are strange contraptions; best suited for deep fried-enthusiasts.
By far the most exciting part of this bar are the drinks. Jason Clarke, the drinks genie behind Bedford gathered inspiration for his drinks and menu from the streets in New York, and one in particular - Bedford Street in Williamsburg, which according to JC was particularly inspiring for its fusion of upmarket and casual street patrons, industrial and victorian buildings, and was all in all "the hippest street in the world".
No surprises then that Bedford Soda and Liquor, even 48 hours from its opening is fast becoming the hippest bar in Ponsonby. Your drinks choices are wide and varied, all interesting takes on American classics with a decent dose of JC's individuality and genius. For something with a little showmanship, you'll want to try one of the Bedford Baller drinks ($17 each). I had a Brooklyn Cocktail, the preparation of which involved JC swirling around a giant clear cauldron filled with smoke. It was magic to watch being made, as well as drink. The New York Silver Sour ($17) also deserves a special mention for its sheer beauty and 10/10 taste.
Although the alcoholic options are a plenty, the cool thing about Bedford is that it also has a pretty fantastic line-up of non-alcoholic options too. Bedford's soda philosophy comes from times past, before all the toxic acronyms and unnatural sugars were added. A time when when soda was pure and actually used for medicinal purposes (albeit this was also the period when cocaine was considered medicinal). So, in keeping with that general philosophy, Bedford's simplified their sodas - adding real fruit to their sodas, and although they don't completely veer off using fruit syrup, it's guaranteed to be better for you than your average glass of commercial soda. My favourite pick from the soda menu was a cheeky non-alcoholic blueberry pomegranate black tea, lemon, honey and soda ($5) -the best $5 you could spend on a drink.
Part bar, part soda bar, Bedford finds a way to neatly sidestep any concrete expectations, except to have a good time, which you will.