Finally made it to Hemingways today, on a cold wet rainy Sunday. I had the best plans to practice catching waves before meeting up with E, but a glance out the window meant more pillow time than wave action.
Thankfully there was a table available. I cosied into a corner and browsed through a couple of very old books, including a funny Scottish poem that looked like it came from the waistcoat pocket of a chap from about 1910, and a lovely old copy of Treasure Island (perfect sea side reading).
Old, vintage and authentic is the theme of the place. Along one side is a creaking dark wood book case, loaded with vintage books. A singer sewing machine sits at the end of a bar, an old porcelain Hendricks gin bottle decorates a table. Aside from the dark wood, it’s mostly white with touches of red. Behind the counter is an impressive array of bottles – E tells me that the place is very busy at nights and may, to some extent be a victim of it’s own success in that some of the charm may get lost in the crowds and busy-ness.
I venture up a wooden stairwell lined with old mirrors, to the second floor which has lot of little tables covered in black cloth, and a couple of old brown leather coaches huddled around a fireplace and facing windows which look straight out to sea. A couple have just arrived and are making themselves at home. I suggest it’s a great place to spend an afternoon and they agree, but one of the staff comes to tell them there’s a private function in this upstairs room starting soon – this is a very busy place indeed. There’s another bar here too, although not as well stocked as the one downstairs. Pictures of Hemingway line the walls – he and his cats; Hemingway in spar position, wearing boxing gloves; chatting with Fidel Castro; shirtless and drinking whisky with an attractive blonde woman. Bathrooms are painted in Florida hues – fuchsia for girls, cobalt for boys. In the girls bathroom there’s another old singer sewing machine and I had a vision of a dedicated sewer never needing to leave the room.
Menus are printed onto plain paper and stapled into books. Ours comes in a Dr Seuss style kids book titled ‘Ten Apples on Top’ and between the pages of lunch and breakfast menus I see the adventures of a cat-like creature balancing apples on its head. Coffee is good, sadly not to die for, but I’m glad because it is a bit of an adventure coming across the sea from the east to see E and I’m not sure I could handle finding coffee I’d be addicted to. E orders tea, and the soy milk she asked for comes in a glass science beaker. We both order avocado on sourdough toast ($5) – the avocado is perfect and ripe, and is lovely in its simplicity with only salt, pepper and some herbs as a garnish. The other breakfasts look good – in particular the egg & bacon roll ($10).
People come in and out, the tables are always full, but we don’t feel rushed. A storm which we spied on the horizon rolls in, bikini-clad girls and surfboard-clutching guys run past the windows and it’s time to go.
Would Hemingway like it here? I don’t know as much as I would like to about the author, but I reckon he probably would like the avocado toast, vintage books and relaxed feel as much as I do. And if I were an author and a local I could easily sit by one of those windows and work away with the inspiration of the Pacific Ocean just 20 metres or so away.
48 North Steyne Manly NSW 2095, Australia (02) 9976 3030
7 days a week from 8am to midnight (10pm on sundays)