Images by Tim Brand
The explosion of small bars in Sydney this decade saw a bit of shrapnel hit Terrigal three years ago, with the opening of Pocket Bar in November 2013. A regional sister for the original Pocket Bar in Darlinghurst, the House of Pocket didn’t mess with what was already working, and Pocket Bar Terrigal has a very similar fit out, feel and ethos to the original venue.
This is probably the result of both a winning formula and a personal aesthetic with the interior designed and constructed by House of Pocket partners Karl Schlothauer and Christophe Lehoux. As with their Darlinghurst venue, the bar, tables and shelving are solidly crafted from timber and galvanised piping, lights are mostly upcycled bottles and various intriguing ephemera is scattered about the place, seemingly haphazard but with the air of an art installation.
I thought I could easily categorise Pocket Bar. It’s urban, it’s gritty and edgy. It’s artisanal, with an artistry that I assumed would give it a certain amount of smugness … It’s seriously ‘cool’ with purposeful inverted commas.
Yet it’s also warm and welcoming, casual, cosy even. It‘s oddly beautiful, and fun and cheeky and exuberant. It’s like an old bar in a small European town. Glass jars of spirits infusing for cocktails and beautiful dried fruits and herbs add an apothecary vibe to the mix. Just for good measure.
This is a thoroughly modern bar though with sustainable practices and minimised waste. Vintage furniture and secondhand materials have been used. Recycling is taken to impressive levels with empty bottles repurposed, not just as lights, but also as glassware created by local artist Beverley Beck. Another collaboration with 42 Below Vodka sees the fruit waste from the bar turned into the hand soap that’s used in the bathrooms. Pocket also sources as much local ingredients as possible including many of the herbs, grown or foraged by staff.
The idea behind Pocket Bar is simple – an engaging, intimate and welcoming space with an outstanding bar and unexpectedly good food. Topped off with faultless service Pocket Bar is the perfect regular watering hole and an exciting place to discover for the first time.
The Esplanade at Terrigal, with its beach, cossies and ice creams still seems an odd place to transplant an edgy inner city bar, but when Karl’s parents moved to the Coast he saw exactly the same gap in the market here that he had identified in Sydney a couple of years previously.
The property they acquired is surprisingly perfect – a long, thin letterbox of a building with a high ceiling but few windows. It creates a cavernous yet cloistered space once you’re through the doors. It’s cool and calm on weekend days. And you’re definitely made to feel you can stay as long as you like.
And it’s definitely worth staying for the food. Its not quite as elegant or ‘on point’ as the food at Darlinghurst but it’s not a case of dumbing down, just offering each clientele what’s appropriate. This is still bar food done very well. The dishes here are a little heartier and a little easier to consume. They’re stunning, with chef Cameron Hackney taking immense care with the presentation and flavours of each dish. Meals like the cured Ora King salmon are perfect whether you stroll in off the beach late afternoon or you’re enjoying a night out.
The impressive array of bottles behind the bar, dazzling on golden uplighting, is no empty promise. Pocket Bar is very serious about their drinks. Nobody misses out here.
The bar does a good trade in cocktails and covers the classics, but always with a twist – try the Pocketmelon Martini, summer in a glass – as well as an imaginative collection of Pocket originals.
The cocktail list is a fun read and it’s hard to not take a punt on the Kylo Ren, so named because its main ingredient is as changeable as the temperament of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens character. The fact that it’s served in a tiki mug with a ferocious Polynesian face is a lovely combination of cultural reference – a fusion of nerdy and worldly.
Pocket’s homegrown cult classic the Crusty Knob is also a must-try. Have a snigger over the name and then enjoy the simple pleasure of Bourbon, freshly pressed apple juice and a hint of ginger. The apples are locally sourced ‘seconds’, rejected for their less-than-perfect looks, but fresh and full of juice.
Beer drinkers are looked after with a great range of boutique brews from Doss Blockos and locals Six String Brewing Co. In fact Pocket have collaborated with Six String to produce their own house brew, the second incarnation is on the shelves now. There’s more to choose from, including Coopers and Little Creatures, and Monteith’s for cider lovers.
The wine list isn’t exhaustive but it’s very well curated, with mostly New World wines, including a good range of locals, and organic and biodynamic choices from Chile. There’s a Sancerre for those who prefer flint to passionfruit, and French champagnes, available by the bottle.
It’s no surprise that spirits are well represented. Take your favourite whisky drinker with you, they’ll be very happy with the selection of single malts and quality blends, and might even be persuaded to give one of the many Japanese whiskys a try. Whatever your spirit you’re going to be spoilt for choice.Once night comes the crowds arrive. Somehow Pocket Bar maintains an inclusive, warm and friendly feel despite the numbers. Staff are friendly and helpful and things don’t get so crowded that’s it’s uncomfortable. It feels more like a house party really. It’s a mixed crowd and they’re all there for a laid back, fun evening.
It’s this overall vibe that made me realise how great a venue it would be for a private function … And yes, Pocket are more than happy to help you with your special occasion, from work parties to birthdays and hen’s nights, they’re open to any ideas. You can accommodate around 50 guests and they have a few catering options for you to choose from.
Pocket Bar is open Monday to Friday, from 4pm
to 12am, Saturday, 12pm to 12am, and Sunday,
12pm to 10pm.