What’s in a name? Everything when endeavouring to describe The Bolt Hole in Byron Bay to a visitor recently. Overlooking Fletcher Street and the rooflines of Byron Bay, The Bolt Hole lives up to its namesake as a place where you can go to get away from your usual life and escape for a while. Essentially, it’s an upstairs whisky, cocktail and craft beer bar serving slow cooked barbeque eats to seasoned drinkers with an appetite for dude food. It’s a blokey (but fun) escape when seeking a grown-up drink and refuge from the throngs of tourists in Byron’s hotels and bars.
The Bolt Hole is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 5pm serving food until last drinks. The venue sits in contrast to most of Byron Bay’s light and bright and breezy coastal venues. It’s dark, with splashes of recycled materials, chesterfield lounges and antique metal and copper accents. The bluesy soundtrack is ambient, but you can still hold a conversation. At the rear of the venue is a private tasting lounge where cages of prized whiskys are on display.
To say the drinks list at The Bolt Hole is extensive is an understatement. The six-metre bar showcases more than 200 whiskys and gins and serves craft cocktails, artisanal spirits, organic wines and canned craft beers from all around the world. To my delight, the Gin menu is one page long, and features two vintages from Italy and England. Local loves, Brookies and Ink Gin, are featured along with a mix of Australian imported gins. Then there are whisky, scotch, bourbon and rum offerings as well as other artisanal spirits. For the aficionados, there are tasting boards of gin or whisky served neat with matching nibbles.
If spirits don’t float your boat there are organic wines and canned craft beers or ‘tinnies’ and ciders. Cocktails make a mention as well. Try the Cape Fizz featuring Brookies Gin, St. Germain liqueur, fresh lime juice and rosemary syrup topped with tonic. During Sunset Happy Hour held daily from 5-7pm it’s hard to beat the $10 Negronis.
If you’re hungry the food at The Bolt Hole has a definite dude food slant. The kitchen houses a handcrafted purpose built smoker from Kansas in the United States for slow cooked barbeques. But first, start with some small bar snacks like local olives, fried chicken wings or Nimbin Valley cheese and crackers. Then there are two options. You can either keep snacking with generous sized sliders like The Cheesy American – a classic slider with a house made beef pattie, American cheese, bacon, pickles, mustard and aioli or try the Grilled Rueben Sandwich with house smoked beef brisket. Or, for something much more substantial, it’s The Bolt Hole’s signature smokehouse platters for one or two (vegetarian available), featuring BBQ pork ribs, smoked pulled pork with beans, smoked beef brisket, fried chicken wings, pickled vegetables, hand cut chips, grilled corn and crunchy coleslaw. Be warned the platter for one is more than generous. It does feature some of the best flavoured and most tender beef brisket you will taste. The rub on the pork ribs has nice heat, while the pickled vegetables are crunchy and good contrast to the rich smoked pulled pork and beans and the hand cut chips. The slaw and corn on the side bring some balance. It’s all super tasty and authentic.
For dessert, it’s back to the drinks list. Maybe a Prince Harry with refreshing vodka and pineapple and ginger juice to help digest the barbeque?
We’ve been to The Bolt Hole plenty of times in the past few years; sometimes just for fivesies, other times for whisky tasting events and other times with groups of friends. Each experience has been different. In Winter, The Bolt Hole is a cosy haven, but it can get hot and a bit glary upstairs during Summer until after sunset. Whatever the season, The Bolt Hole is certainly a fun place to get away from your usual life – unless you are a bartender, or a pitmaster or a whisky maestro – then you will just feel like you’re at home.