When we first heard about Rhonda’s we imagined it was run by an auburn-haired wild child a la Nicole Kidman circa Days of Thunder. At the very least a female.
But Terrigal’s newest cocktail bar is actually the brain child of former Wamberal lifeguard Ty Van Emden.
In Rhonda’s, Ty, who now calls Picketts Valley home after a stint away in the mines, has created a super chic cocktail bar – it’s just what the Coast needs.
From the neon lights to the Aussie Crawl vinyl and the geometric Lenny Kravitz designed wallpaper, it’s obvious from the moment you walk in the ruby red doors that Rhonda’s has been dreamed up by a 1980s baby.
As the owner and designer, Ty says he wanted to replicate the cool vibe of the distinct era – right down to the name, which began as a word play on classic 80s film A Fish Called Wanda.
The ethos being a stylish lounge sans pretention, where everyone feels welcome whether they’re after a quick bite, a gourmet treat, a late night groove or a glass of Some Young Punks Naked On Rollerskates shiraz.
Rhonda’s is also about concocting bespoke cocktails to be savoured in the comfort of a leather chair, under a wall of staghorns in the street-level sun room, curled up in a cosy booth or perched on a stool at the bar.
With one of the world’s best cocktail makers behind the bar and a wall of top shelf spirits, Rhonda’s has invested in the right ingredients.
When he’s not jetsetting to Kentucky or San Francisco as Angostura’s ambassador – an accolade bestowed upon him after taking out the brand’s Global Cocktail Challenge last year – “king of cocktails” Mike Tomasic is shaking up a storm in Terrigal.
Or should we say Stormy Days – one of the cocktails on the menu. Made with homebrewed ginger beer, bitters, lime and dark rum, it’s a refreshing and zesty take on the classic Dark’n’Stormy.
It’s sure to be a hit with locals. Since relocating from Sydney to a beach shack in Wamberal, Mike – whose resume includes Zeta bar at the Hilton and Bondi Beach bar Mr Moustache – has discovered that Coasties have a penchant for dark rum, Sailor Jerry in particular.
We also tried a Buttered Daiquiri, made with a Tassie butter-infused vodka. It boggles the mind.
Mike has deliberately left the ingredients off the menu to avoid preconceptions and encourage old school banter between punters and bartenders.
He promises every cocktail abides by the science of taste with balances of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami so vodka-lovers might find they like a rum concoction and similarly, rum-drinkers might be surprised by a tequila or gin-based beverage.
Officially it’s a tapas bar and while there are paella balls and saganaki prawns, the menu is packed with some seriously interesting dishes we’ve yet to encounter anywhere else on the Coast.
There’s a trio of saltwater crocodile sliders (don’t be deterred, they taste like chicken, truly), delicious morsels of tempura Moreton Bay bug with a ponzu sauce and a slab of blue eye cod dressed in a tasty miso sauce.
The Berkshire pork belly with scallops, seaweed and pickled ginger gets a big tick for flavour and it’s exotic spin on surf’n’turf.
Coastal Chic Tip: If you’re a fan of paella and mussels, you’ll love Rhonda’s great value mid-week local’s nights