South Bondi's newish kid on the block, The Anchor Bar, is a smokin' margarita bar offering an evening's good time to the backdrop of Australia's white-sanded glamazon. Anchor offers up a mix of seafood-oriented tapas, (primarily) Western Australian wines, cocktail classics and one mammoth soundtrack (think Black Sabbath and The Police). Set within a sleepy fisherman's shack style setting complete with bench seating and open kitchen, this place is a welcome addition to Bondi's emerging small bar scene.
In the name of review etiquette, I find it only fair to relay both the good and the bad, so let's just get the bad over with. What was to eventuate into a pleasant evening didn't start out that way. We were invited in after 5pm by seemingly uninterested staff despite the website and signage stating opening hours from 4.30pm. Or maybe we didn't have the right password? Not hipster enough? Just saying. In addition to this, whilst the crew sat and ate their staff meals (tipple included) with their backs to the room, my companion and I started to wonder when we would be attended to. Having spent many years in the hospitality industry myself, this just didn't gel. Rant over.
Luckily for me, there was an accomplished wine list to dilute my unhappiness, handed down by charismatic barman, Colin Perollo. The Ponte Trevino Italy Extra Dry Prosecco ($11 glass) to start went down well with our Sydney rock oysters ($4 ea). Next was the Amelia Park Margaret River Cabernet Merlot, 2009 ($48 bottle) – velvety texture with black current and spice – enjoyed whilst considering the new menu (debuted that evening).
Unusually, we skipped the cocktail menu. I'm willing, however, to make the assumption that Anchor's tequila inspired cocktails are the go to choice when the joint gets heavy, a bit later on. Because really, what can go wrong when a bar offers their margaritas shaken, blended, thrown, rolled, stirred or blazed, served long, short or up, in single, double or dobles? Yikes!
Head chef, Zac Pauling (ex Porteno and Pink Salt), was next to get the tick. Serving up a menu that is predominantly wheat, gluten, and dairy free, Pauling's tapas are true to their environment: the sea. The fried local school prawns (eaten like whitebait with the shell on) with chermoula spice, fresh lime and preserved lemon aioli ($17) is rich in citric goodness and laced with Mediterranean flavour. For non-seafood eating vegetarians, the seared haloumi, watercress, grape tomato and green olive salad with smoked tomato sorbet ($16) has a perfect oiliness to it's green leaves that dilutes the initial salty punch of the cheese.
A more hefty meal for the carnivores could involve one of Pauling's more substantial dishes like the grain fed Gippsland beef fillet, confit field mushroom, caramelised onion, smoked potato mash and red wine jus ($35) or the pan seared barramundi, coconut and camarind curry, vermicelli noodles, and lime yoghurt ($28).
So, in all fairness, for an evening that started out with flailing first impressions, it turned out OK in the end. Well, more than just OK. I take my hat off to the Anchor crew for their contribution to Bondi's groovy status and recommend you set sail towards 8 Campbell Parade and anchor in for some good old-fashioned fun.
Want to live near this spot?
Check out our handy Neighbourhood Guides to find out how you can.