The words bubble and Bondi partnered up years ago and now enjoy word association royalty status, a factor that the local haunt (and aptly named) Neighbourhood is taking full advantage of with its lounge room feel. A few blocks back from the beach and almost worth its own Bondi Hipsters meme, this place was packed last Sunday. Ah, well it was — until you hit the back. Think cafe-esque frontage, a cocktail bar that looks decked out with pieces from a shipwreck, and that garage your dad turned into a den.
As much I honestly enjoyed being away from the hordes in the front section, you do feel a little forgotten by the waitstaff (I overheard one customer ask the owner if there was table service), and the sparse decor reads: we spent the budget on the front.
The menu is a marriage of Sydney's two favourites fusions — Americano and Asian — so it kind of ticks all boxes. Or it comes off as confused. It's a little hard to orientate a meal with words like ponzu and tempeh flying around alongside mac and cheese ($12), a whole load of jaffles and no staff guidance. Maybe we aren't ready for fusion fusion dinners? So we opted for a few snacks and saved all our attention for the cocktail list.
Scofflaw ($17) has a way of catching my eye during a menu skim, so the barman poured some Bulleit Rye, bianco vermouth, lemon juice and real pomegranate grenadine into his tins and we were away. Generally this list is geared towards simple twists — often involving something sweet and American— on lesser-known classics, such as the cutely named Poste-Haste ($17): a riff on the Airmail using smoked honey or an old-fashioned pimped out with buttered popcorn and salted caramel ($17). The smokey wallop of spice in the Neighbourhood Bloody Mary impressed across the board, but next time I will definitely be taking the suggested mescal option (as a substitute to vodka) just to stand up to that flavour hit.
Next up: snacks. Okay, I will admit it: The BBQ wings were delicious, with a sticky sauce of beef stock, Coca-Cola, maple syrup and secret herb selection — this is the kind of dude food I can get behind. It's a shame the Big Momma's Southern Style Coleslaw ($8) didn't come out at the same time, though. We ended up with a generous serving of slaw and not a whole lot to do with it.
Alternatively, the Eddie's BBQ Margarita ($17) practically drunk itself; shaken with fresh lime agave syrup and grilled pineapple and well balanced with a habanero salt rim over ice. But if you're not a fan of hot, you should probably heed their disclaimer: "That means spicy!" We wrapped up the night with an old rye classic, the Rattlesnake ($18) and kicked off to sample more of Bondi.
This is definitely not a bad spot. Sure, the service is casual and almost naive, but that ultimately makes sense within the space and there is little doubt that Neighbourhood will be absolutely pumping this summer. So next time your throat is dry and sunstroke has you seeking shelter, grab a Neighbourhood Bloody Mary on Curlewis Street.