A Manly hideaway that proves big things really do come in small packages
Processing it all might take a minute. A sandwich-heavy hangout that playfully salutes American delis and diners of days gone by, with a sizeable, fun-loving cocktail list? Just blocks from the beach? In Manly? The Nook sure sounds like a few different places squeezed into one and sometimes feels that way, too.
It’s a small spot, like the name suggests, with a generous spirit and a good deal of inspiration kicking around. But with ideas, as with space, less is often more. Thumping disco tunes don’t require a hanging mirror ball to get the point across. And there’s probably a tidier way of injecting a tequila-driven Jalisco Martinez with botanical brightness than shredding a small mountain of cucumber straight into the glass.
The chicken wings need no adjusting. They arrive un-sauced and intensely smoked, with a brick-tinted, crisp and brittle skin. Dunk them into the bang-on blue cheese and buffalo-ish sauces on the side, preferably at once, then ask yourself why more kitchens don’t treat this almighty finger food with as much respect. A smooth, sweet and stingingly spicy Red Snapper, the gin drinker’s Bloody Mary, makes a fitting chaser.
At some point, the sight of a towering sandwich on a nearby table will catch your attention. Don’t be discouraged should you tick any or all of the gluten-skipping, lettuce-loving or animal-byproduct-avoiding boxes — there are alternatives, including a vegan take on the Reuben. Even so, the more-is-more approach is in full swing, and you’ll need both hands and an empty stomach to tackle this section of the menu.
The one-two punch of smoked ham and slow-roasted pork in the Harlem Cubano makes a strong case for a widespread revival of the Cuban sandwich. Skip the fries, and split a Southern Belle with an equally ravenous pal; the juxtaposition of textures and temperatures that comes to life by layering fennel-laced slaw with a cheesy, garlicky braise of collard greens might persuade you to make a sandwich out of side dishes more often.
So is it more bar or more diner? The expansive sambos list is a strong vote for food destination – a sharper range of beers and a more imaginative selection of wines would make it definitively more bar-like. Then again, maybe that’s not the goal. A nook, after all, is a cosy corner that offers shelter, security and comfort; this one is no exception. It also happens to make a hero of mezcal and mandarin in a mean Oaxacan Sour.
|Venue name:||The Nook|
49 Sydney Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 4pm-midnight; Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-10pm|