After a two-year hiatus from stepping out in Manly, imagine my sheer delight to discover that there are a few new kids on the block in this seaside town who have cropped up in my absence. In particular, one bar that is small in scale but BIG on style: Donny’s Bar.

Photo: Michael Wee

Fact: there is no ‘Donny’ here. The name was chosen because it means something along the lines of “the perfect place for a get together” in an ancient Asian dialect. In fact, the name is about the only reference to the Asian food theme apart from the red warrior painted on the far back wall upstairs.

Donny’s is tucked away in a pedestrian only area in Manly (separate from the chaos of The Corso) which, on account of it’s sexy interiors, was recently shortlisted for the 2014 International Restaurant and Bar Awards, and the Australian Interior Design Awards.

Owner Matt is completely personable and was happy to have a yarn about how he and designers Luchetti Krelle pulled this extraordinary space in all its industrial rustic-chic glory together. Quite an impressive feat, given he has no formal background in interior design.

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The vibe is fresh and funky, an injection of edgy industrial chic set amid a backdrop of a distinctly surf-based and beachy culture in an area known as the insular peninsular by both locals and those outside the confines. You could say it’s the odd one out.

But Matt has nailed it. The bar is completely sophisticated, yet warmly accessible and devoid of snobbery, thanks to an earthy flavour that’s a little bit country.

“I grew up in Central West NSW”, says Matt. “After six years in New York and LA recently I wanted to combine the different aesthetics from these places.”

Sure, Matt’s former working life at Merivale has equipped him with some pretty valuable industry know-how. But there’s no denying that his vision for Donny’s was completely unique and inspired, and totally his own baby.

That baby has grown into something exquisite, after some knowledgeable input from the crafty folk at Luchetti Krelle.

“The existing space was a white plasterboard box with a commercial look and feel,” says the design duo. “The brief was to create a warm and friendly New York style loft bar… on a tight budget.”

“The design is sustainable – both in our design approach and its potential for longevity as a thriving small bar.”

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Chain-link fencing lines the upstairs ceiling. Salvaged sleepers from an orphaned railway track languishing on Matt’s family farm out west, are casually stacked to form the bar. These contrast with a shiny copper rectified bar top and the angular and neatly mitred timber panelled ceiling. Copper piping is exposed and totally celebrated. Recycled pallets line the ceiling of the new adjoining bar offshoot. Subway tiles adorn the walls of the unisex bathrooms, where turning the taps on is reminiscent of cranking the wheel of the hydrant.

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And the lighting? Oh the lighting. From the stunning installation hanging on high from the lofty ceilings to the intriguing fluorescent tubes upstairs (who knew that could work?); it’s mood meets function against a backdrop of brick and timber.

The downstairs bar is a happening scene with live music and heady drinks. Up the spiral staircase, the loft restaurant area and adjoining lounge still enjoy the music but the atmosphere is more conducive to conversation. And savouring seriously tasty food.

Oh, woops – did we just order the entire tapas menu? From $12 – $16 per dish, you can expect a mix of some really tasty, completely fresh flavours. Sure, there’s a loose asian theme, but throw in some to-die-for sliders and grilled haloumi and you’ll be embracing the concept of fusion like the hand-rail on the steep spiral staircase after a few drinks. The Peachy Keen share carafe echoes of Sangria and hits the spot complete with a false sense of sobriety.

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You pine for New York or you’d like a fresh take on the industrial aesthetic.

Laid-back outback meets urban loft cool

Matt Clifton
Luchetti Krelle

Tapas plates from $12, dumplings from $11
Mains from $21, Cocktails start at $16


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