Neighbourhood Bondi: Post-Lockdown Party Perfection
Having survived two years of lockdowns, Bondi gem Neighbourhood is back open delivering great cocktails, good vibes and even Sunday roasts under the new management team of Benjamin Campbell and Brendan Darcy (Beej).
Both hailing from Manchester, England, the hospitality gurus were destined to become best mates long before they met. The pair’s trademark joviality is evident throughout.
Benjamin spent six years working at Neighbourhood, first as bar manager and then as general manager, before being joined by Brendan to take over ownership of the venue in 2019.
“It was the first place in Australia that I had a drink, the first place I worked, and I was only in Bondi for seven days before I knew I wasn’t going home,” Benjamin told The Beast.
The pair have created a home away from home with an eclectic staff of Mancunians and other ex-pats that aims to bring their northern charm to Bondi.
“Staffing in Australia is very expensive, so venues manage it with things like ordering apps at your tables and customers getting their own drinks,” Benjamin explained, “but we want there to always be someone who can welcome you in and have a natter; we want everyone who comes in to have a good time.”
“It’s a little bit of a tropical haven even though it has that charm from home,” Brendan added. “It’s kind of like a classic UK beer garden but with way better weather!”
The pair have certainly succeeded in creating a fun and welcoming establishment that has been very well-received by the Bondi community.
“We want it to be like people coming over to our house or our backyard, but with ‘boujeer’ drinks,” Benjamin laughed.
Recreating the venue in their image hasn’t come without its challenges though, with the bushfires and COVID characterising much of the time they’ve owned the business.
During the bushfires, many Europeans were told their travel insurance would be void if they visited Australia, stemming the flow of Neighbourhood’s typical ex-pat clientele.
Add to this the deflating reality that none of their cosmopolitan staff members was eligible for the government’s COVID payments during either of the lockdowns. During this dark period, the boys sent regular care packages to their staff and organised online quiz nights to lift morale.
Unfailingly optimistic, the pair now look back on that challenging time as a formative era for their business.
“After the first lockdown, we were having these ten-person parties. It didn’t make sense to hire a chef, so we’d get the jaffle maker out and do a couple of back-to-back parties every weekend, and it evolved from there,” Benjamin told The Beast.
Jaffles have now become a fixture of the Neighbourhood menu, including the British inspired Northern Dip – a roast beef, cheese and onion jaffle that comes with a side of gravy.
Mix this with staff party shirts, a no-bookings policy and a new drinks menu created by fellow Mancunian Elliott Berriman, and you have the perfect post-lockdown spot to get reacquainted with the real world.
Looking forward, Ben and Beej are just happy to see their customers again.
“We’ve got one of the best jobs in the world, a job based around socialising. It’s tumultuous but packed with flavour,” Brendan said.
Their newest venue, Chuck Trailers, just around the corner from Neighbourhood, is also set to open by the end of the year.
“It’s going to be a dive bar that’s even more debaucherous than Neighbourhood. Think ‘90s cocktails and chicken wings,” Benjamin told The Beast.
Neighbourhood is located at 143 Curlewis Street, Bondi.