Too often, bars in trendy districts rely on run of the mill, overpriced drinks and non-existent food to get by, because really, most people that I know of would walk up to the bar, order a spirit/mixer drink, and walk away without even considering a specialty menu (if there is one).

So when a bar promises quality drinks and quality food? Well this, I’ve gotta see.

The Cliff Dive is a new bar from the owners of Tio’s Ceveceria in Forster Street. It promises to merge low brow drinking with high brow drinks with creative direction from Michael Chiem (ex Sokyo), with Yakitori inspired Asian street food served by tuckshop Yurippi.

The mood is set the moment you step in – a huge tiki statue greets you at the door and immediately puts you in the groove for a island party!

From left: Statue at the entrance of the Cliff Dive, Don the beachcombers Zombie
From left: Statue at the entrance of the Cliff Dive, Don the Beachcombers Zombie

Michael greets us and walks us through the history of Tiki bars. First created by Donn Beach in 1933, his bar in Hawaii showcased all the South Pacific knick knacks that he picked up during his time in World War II.

In a nod to the history, The Cliff Dive have included a cocktail called Don the Beachcomber’s Zombie, $22, named after the popular rum-based Zombie cocktail in the Donn Beach’s original bar. This drink is also rum based, and includes the citrus notes that was in the original with the inclusion of lime and orange. Served in a striking tiki glass, this drink is lots of fun and really shows off the sense of humour of the bar team.

From left: Von Tiki, Bali Ha'i
From left: Von Tiki, Bali Ha’i

We also tried the Von Tiki, $17, and the Bali Ha’i, $10. The Von Tiki carried flavours of allspice, which I’m told come from a house made infusion. Served with a maraschino cherry, this sophisticated cocktail was deceptively light, and hid that usual acrid after-burn of alcohol with an almost fruity sweetness that wasn’t too cloying, but moreish all at once. The Bali Ha’i cleverly made use of a mix of sugarcane juice and citrus flavours to transport you to the South Pacific (yes that is a musical pun).

But what about the food?

A quaint sign for skewers from Yurippi at The Cliff Dive in Darlinghurst

The food menu was short and sweet. The Hungry Honky, $16, gives you the opportunity to have one of each skewer ($3 usually), and paired it with pandan coconut rice and house pickles for a more substantial meal.

A selection of skewers from the menu is served on a platter with house pickles and steamed coconut rice in a bamboo basket.
A selection of skewers: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Octopus and Tofu is served with house pickles and a coconut pandan rice. $16.

The skewers were flavourful and each had their own unique identity. I thought that the rice and pickles were a nice touch, and the whole platter was presented in a way that told me the chef had put thought and effort into making a menu that would suit the theme. The tofu and octopus skewers were my favourite, but I was a little disappointed to see that there was just a single octopus on that skewer.

In all, The Cliff Dive to me is more than just a bar. Thought, effort and heart went into creating a menu and theme that would transport you to another time and another land – almost like a mini holiday. The music was also right up my alley – a mix of oldies with a big swing tempo that makes you want to get up and dance! Kudos to the creative team. After all, if I’m going to pay bar prices in trendy Oxford Street I wanna know that the team behind it is giving me as good as they’re getting.

Insatiable Munchies dined at The Cliff Dive as guests of The Cliff Dive and Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

The Cliff Dive
16 Oxford Square
Darlinghurst, NSW 02010

The Cliff Dive on Urbanspoon

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