Harlem on Central, Manly

You won’t find a sign directing you to Harlem on Central in Manly. Just keep your eyes peeled for a shiny plaque along Central Avenue bearing the name of the speakeasy bar at bottom of entrance.

Step through the dark brown doors with the letter “H” on the windows, and you’ll find yourself in an elegant, dimly-lit New York style bar. A guard dog statue curiously located near the door is the first thing you will notice, along with lavish lounges, plush furniture, intimate seating for two and cosy banquettes set against the back wall. The décor channels Uptown Manhattan, right down to the graffiti-covered corridor that leads to the shared bathrooms outside.

Harlem on Central, Manly
Harlem on Central

Harlem on Central is one of four venues owned by Kieran Bailey and Adam Clarke, who have built a reputation for being pioneers of the cocktail bar scene in Manly. Other bars under their wing are Sugar Lounge, Miss Marleys and Brklyn.

Hip hop, jazz and smooth beats give the small bar a classy and upbeat vibe, and on a wet and wintry Saturday night, patrons are gathered around the bar with some couples huddled on intimates lounges.

Harlem on Central, Manly
The Bar

The front page of the menu sets the ethos and tone of Harlem on Central. This is a sophisticated cocktail bar offering table service where staff take care of your needs including seating arrangements. Should you choose to sit at the bar, your eyes will be drawn to a fully working 1940s fridge and caged boxes housing bottles of spirits which guests have purchased. According to Bar Manager, Davide Zanardo, they have sold many bottles that two cabinets had to be added.

Harlem on Central, Manly
A Section of the Back Bar

The focus at Harlem is on cocktails, spirits, hospitality and good times. This is not the place you drop into for a beer or a vodka, lime and soda. This is where you go to indulge in some of the best cocktails Sydney has to offer. The spirits collection impresses with a solid range of whisky, rum, and gin and rare finds such as the Tanqueray Malacca Gin.

Harlem on Central, Manly

The cocktail menu is divided into three sections, Vintage Classics Revisited ($17-$19) such as Corpse Reviver #2 and Knickerbocker a la Monsieur, Harlem Creates ($17-$21) such as The Welford, and Players Deluxe Classics offering classic cocktails using premium spirits ($21 to $29).

Smoking Aces ($18) is a take on the Manhattan, made with Appleton 12 yo rum, Punt e Mes, maple syrup, and lapsang tea with a Laphroaig wash. There’s smokiness on the nose, a balanced sweetness on the palate with a hint of smoke on the finish. A barrel aged version is available for an additional $2.

Harlem on Central, Manly
L-R: Smoking Aces, Aztec Old Fashioned

The Aztec Old Fashioned ($21) is a wickedly delicious marriage of Don Julio Añejo with agave water, chocolate bitters soaked sugar cube and an orange twist. The smoothness of the añejo tequila is complemented with a balance of citrus and agave, and the chocolate finish is simply divine.

Harlem does not proclaim to be a restaurant and the bar food menu offers six types of sliders ($7 each or $18 for 3) with crisp fries and onion rings. Each slider bears a New York reference such as Shizzle Ma’ Nizzle (buttermilk fried chicken with hot pepper mayo) and Coney Island (beer battered fish and habanero tartare).

Harlem on Central, Manly
Graffiti Corridor with Vanity

Thursdays are Tanqueray nights when the lights are turned green and ten drinks are available at a special price. Live music continues on Friday and Saturday nights with local DJs.

Harlem on Central, Manly
Plaque Near Entrance

Harlem on Central is the kind of cocktail bar that grips you from the first time. The vibe is sophisticated, friendly and welcoming, and the cocktails will have you planning your next visit.

The Manly bar scene is certainly burgeoning and catering for sophisticated tastes. If you live on the north side, you are fortunate to have this gem of a bar is in your vicinity. Otherwise, it’s an easy 30 minute hop by ferry from Circular Quay.

Coming up soon in the Manly Bar Hop series…. Sugar Lounge, Brklyn, Miss Marley’s

Harlem on Central
Shop 4, 9-15 Central Avenue
Manly NSW
Ph: 9976 6737
Open Mon-Sun, 5pm-midnight


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.