Last night media were treated to an epic 15 course degustation at Sydney's newest restaurant hot spot, Bruno's, downstairs at Hunky Dory on Oxford St. The restaurant first opened a year or so ago, though last night was the celebration of the restaurant's relaunch with Chef Daniele Trimarchi (Icebergs / Fratelli Paradiso) in command. Our meal tonight followed cocktails and music from Jess Higgs - best known for her work with Flight Facilities (pictured below) - at Hunky Dory.
The cocktails they serve at Hunky Dory are of wide variety. We were primarily drinking margaritas, however there is a book of cocktails at every bar in the venue. I was treated to a honey daiquiri later in the night which was quite a treat, and I'm sure you'll find something to fit even the pickiest of tastes.
When it was time to sit down for dinner, we prepared ourselves for the onslaught of food that was to follow. Here, we were given a good cross section of the menu - from their share plates (Cicchetti) to their salads (Insalata) and Woodfire Pizzas (Pizza Del Forno a Legna).
If the menu names provide any indication, Bruno's have focused their attention away from the current trend of restaurants attached to bars (and small bars): e.g. American and Mexican food. Chef Daniele has drawn on inspiration from his Italian heritage and created and impressive menu full of meals to share amongst friends. Here's a look at some of our favourites from the menu, which we enjoyed with an Elvis soundtrack in the background, on share tables in a room with a very homely feel.
Highlights of the menu:
For fans of Olives, the Olive Misto sharing plate is a must to get the meal started. The pork and fennel stuffed olives are served lightly crumbed and are a find. The Sicilian olives, marinated in fennel and chilli, are tasty, though nothing out of the ordinary. But with olives that good not much is needed - a perfect accompaniment as such. The Sambuca Gaeta olives, however, are something else: deliciously sweet and a must try. Price: $10
The most daring (and justifiably expensive) of the salads on the menu is the Insalata di Lenticchia - featuring beautiful blue lentils, goats cheese, wood fired baby beetroot, mint, parsley, basil, spanish onion and tomato. A healthy serve of balsamic is drizzled over and presented well in a white bowl. The blend is perfect and will keep the vegetarians at your table very happy! Price: $18
We enjoyed three wood fired pizzas at the dinner - the Ortolana (Vegetarian with Eggplant, Zucchini, Capsicum, Rocket and Pesto), the Sporchino (featuring chopped asaparagus, procuitto, chilli and the pungent though delciious tallegio cheese), and the Inseparbile. This final pizza was my favourite of the trio, being presented with a perfect crust, a healthy serving of a delicious tomato base, a perfect drizzle of mozzarella, with bites of gorgonzola thrown across the slices. But it's the combination of roman sausage and red onion that makes this one a winner.
By the looks of the rest of the pizza menu, you really can't go wrong, though if you can't make up your mind, you can always "trust the pizzaiolo" with Lorenzo's Selezione. Pizzas are served throughout Hunky Dory up until midnight.
Price Range: Pizzas range from $15 for the basic Margherita, to $21 for the Frutti di Mare (Seafood). The pizza pictured (Inseparbile) is $18.
The most interesting dish on the menu... well, certainly the most interesting dish we had last night... is the Salmone Curato con Vodka: thinly sliced salmon cured in vodka and beetroot. The generous helping is served with pickled beetroot, watercress and horseradish cream. The combination is inspired - who would think to combine beetroot and salmon!? - an original take on a classic. This could easily become the signature dish of the venue. Price: $18
The signature dish competition may be fierce, however, with the Pancia di Maiala - a twice cooked pork belly served with braised moscato pears, promegranate fennel salad, crackling crumble and perhaps the most important part of all: apple sauce.
At its price, it is the most expensive dish on the menu (with the 350g rib eye matching it), but for lovers of pork belly, it's a delectable feast worth every cent. The pomegranates explode in your mouth as the beautiful pork belly and its crackling crumble disintegrate, while the braised pears and accompanying apple sauce give it the "homely" feel that made most of us at the table remark - it's just like Christmas! A sentiment supported by the decor of the venue. With cowhide covering the roof, and a dark and cosy atmosphere, you could be in just about any room in the world. Price: $32
Though the dishes I liked the most are arguably the more adventerous dishes, there's plenty of standard fare included - all with a little something extra to ensure Chef Daniele Trimarchi leaves his mark on your taste buds.
The rustic style Caprese ($12 - pictured above left) is a simple salad served with tomato, basil, olive oil, balsamic and the magic ingredient: buffalo mozzarella that melts in your mouth. The Calamari Fritti ($19 - pictured above right) comes served with aioli, lemon and kumara chips, and is a standard affair, some pieces a little too chewy, though the battering was particularly nice, and the kumara chips were a welcome surprise. I would definitely suggest the salmon, however, if you're looking for some seafood in your meal. Meanwhile, the Affettati Misti ($19 - pictured above middle) - a selection of Italian Cured Meats with an almond skordalia - is another great option to kick off the meal. The prosciutto was a particularly delicious component.
Haloumi Grigliato ($14) is standard fare, though the roasted red peppers push it over the line, and again the serving is generous. The haloumi could not have been cooked more perfectly. The wood fired bread is particularly delicious, though not recommended if you're about to do a 15 course degustation. We had some served with our starters, though unfortunately we missed out on the balsamic and olive oil on the side. You can order this dish (Pane di Casa) for just $7.
For me, the only dish that didn't quite work was the slow braised veal ($18 - pictured below left), with an in house tuna dressing and capers. Though the saltiness of the capers compliments the dish well, it would be hard to tell the slow braised veal apart from the sliced cold meats you'd find in your supermarket - presentation excepted (which was exceptional; the meat shaped into a flower). Meanwhile, the field mushrooms filled with gorgonzola ($16 - pictured below right) will not be for everyone. Served with pine nuts and spinach, it's a beautiful dish, but for lovers for the cheese only - though the spinach does serve its purpose in balancing it well. Meanwhile, the pork pate of the Nduja di Casa ($13) will be enjoyed by all who love their pate spicy, and goats cheese - with a beautiful serving accompanying the pate.
Though Bruno's doesn't sit too far outside the comfort zone of similarly positioned restaurants, they certainly delve outside of places of music/"upmarket hipster" venues such as Good God and the Abercrombie which lean towards American and Mexican cuisine. Given the price range, and the style of cuisine, this is perhaps a risky move but one I envisage will pay off. They will attract a wide range of clientele and I doubt many will leave unsatisfied, and vegetarians will similarly love the variety, with 11 dishes appearing on the menu.
On the whole, the presentation of each dish is exceptional and the servings are fair. The service was wonderful and we had a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir with our meal. This is definitely a place to come with a group and indulge. If you're looking to come on the weekend, book well in advance.
It's obvious that the top chef (pictured above) and the owners of the venue have poured their hearts into each and every dish. The recipes are at times inspired (see the Salmon) and at other times something you know done well (the calamari). Then there are the pizzas, which while the weakest part of the menu we had this evening, are a standout all the same in their variety and in many cases the creativity. It's my understanding they do $10 lunch pizzas, which I would highly recommend.
Hunky Dory Social Club and Bruno’s Restaurant is open 6 days a week, Tuesday to Sunday, 12 ‘til 12.
Address: 215 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Contact Number: (02) 9331 0442
Photos by Johnny Au