Address: 5 Garema Place, Civic
Ph: 02 6262 6968
Hours: Wednesday – Friday: 4pm-2am. Saturday – Sunday: 2pm-2am.
Spring is here, and the temperature is rising. Heaters are being turned off, clothes are becoming more revealing, and people are starting to sit outside, enjoying the sunshine as they eat and drink. It is a time of year where Canberra becomes more relaxed.
With so many of my posts from the past few months being about surviving the cold of winter, it only seems right to now celebrate the better weather. The opening of an exciting new bar spilling out into Garema Place provides the perfect opportunity.
I have been waiting for Honkytonks ever since seeing the demise of Mama’s Trattoria. A few months of walking past the hidden refurbishments just made this anticipation greater. When it was finally revealed, I was not disappointed.
The first thing you notice about Honkytonks is its décor. With mismatched garden furniture surrounded by hanging plants, high stools pulled up to rough wooden benches, and a bar covered in brightly painted old chair legs, Canberra has nowhere that looks like this place. And yet, it would not be out of place in any other city in the country.
A careful balance between trendy and relaxed, this feels like one of the cooler places in Surry Hills. It gets the Merivale style crowd, but they mingle with people who just want to grab a drink and chill.
And the drinks are worth grabbing, too, although a little unfocused. Honkytonks isn’t really specifically a beer bar, wine bar, or cocktail bar. The place and the feel seem more important than the particular drinks, but they still taste good. Quality beers are on tap, although on the Sunday I was there a number had run dry, and the wine and spirits lists are very solid, with a few gems.
But what the crowds are scrambling for are the jugs of sangria. Originally a way to use up bad wine, this has turned into an internationally popular dish. Both white and red versions are available, and both have their value, though the fresher tasting white sangria is the clear winner.
So I can pretend that this is still somewhat of a restaurant review, I will mention the food. With its short list of hot dogs and tacos, Honkytonks have finally brought the dude food trend to Canberra. Not before time, too, as taco cravings hit us all at times.
The tacos are kept very simple. Beef or chicken, each of them marinated and slow cooked, are served with avocado, salsa and sour cream. They are both fresh and clean, and served on proper tortillas. Not the most exciting tacos in the world, but certainly a good start.
They are a little more adventurous with the hotdogs, although why someone made the decision to go with mini versions is beyond me. Nevertheless, they are good quality sausages, whether beef or pork, in soft, white buns, with interesting toppings, and are a good addition to this town.
Sure to be the most popular is the NY Chill Dog, with cheese, chili beef, and a good squirt of mustard over the top. It’s a classic crowd-pleaser, and is guaranteed to fly out the door.
But for my money, the real star is the Japdog. Here the porkiness of the dog comes through strongly, then topped by a significant number of Japanese condiments. Heavy on the umami, with touches of sweet and salt as well, it is not the most familiar of combinations, but it is definitely worth a try. You might enjoy it as much as I did.
Honkytonks is run well, which is not surprising considering its owners come from Trinity and Hippo. What is more unusual for Canberra is that it fits perfectly into the current trends. Which is why the crowds are so big.
So pick your times. For me, there are going to be many Sunday afternoons that find me perched at a table outside.
Honkytonks is just what Canberra needs this spring, so be glad that it is here.