Review: Drake Eatery’s Producers Dinner – Bondi (Sydney)

Drake Eatery’s chic yet homely decor would only be half the reason Bondi passers by would gravitate towards a place named after two things, the street Head Chef Ian Oakes’ grandma lived on and his favourite poultry. Focussed on simply prepared dishes that hero quality locally sourced and sustainable produce in a relaxed setting, it seems that on the eve of the venue’s first birthday any uncertainties this venture wasn’t going to fly (pun intended) may have been quietened for the time being.

Designed by ACME & CO who have a stack of creative restaurant and bar fitouts such as The Grounds of Alexandria, The Incinerator and Archie Rose Distilling Co under their belts, the eatery’s decor sings of their trademark natural yet neutral palate. Blonde wood, concrete and cobbled stone create simple, clean finishes warmed by a welcoming open kitchen, draped plants, and touches of copper and zinc throughout.

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Kicking off birthday celebrations in style it seems that Drake’s team are veterans when it comes to showing their guests a good time, putting together a 3 course feast with canapes and matching wines supplied by Ergo Wines, suppliers and curators of some of the best restaurant wine lists. As a big thank you to the key producers who stock the kitchen, Chef Oakes used the event to provide guests greater insight into the industry and the passions that drive food to their table.

Items on the eatery’s menu were revamped for the occasion including a silky rich Redgate farm duck liver pate (usually with chicken at $16) with Cumberland jelly, orange marmalade and a Salumi charcuterie board with choko pickle ($9) served with thin slivers of uber crispy bread.

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It’s a shame this item isn’t a regular offering because it would easily warrant a daily trip, utensils at the ready until it’d run out. Second entree Hermitage Farm 7+ raw Wagyu with duck egg cream, pickled shitake, and wild garlic equated to heaven on earth. First rate beef offset by the shitake’s beautiful acidity and an extremely flavourful, rich duck yolk cream.

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Managing Director of Origin Meat Chris Du Plessis took guests through the selection and rearing process of his premium stock, some full blooded others crossed with differing breeds. Animated about his move from NZ and his leap of faith into the meat industry selling lamb chops out of a freezer to the likes of Chef Oakes and Colin Fassnidge (4fourteen, four in hand). Du Plessis candidly mentioned that all his cattle are named after dishwasher brands and we’d unwittingly consumed ‘Westinghouse’. Note full-blood twins Fisher & Paykel and set to make their way to Drake’s in a few weeks…

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The hailed Aussie king of seafood John Susman made an equally amusing appearance as the prime supplier for Drake’s seafood and regaled the crowd with stories of sourcing the Pacific Reef Cobia in the first main, joking ‘the way the fish swims means it collects more fat on it’s belly, like me!’. Either way, seared and served with pomello, black nasturtiums and ruby grapefruit dressing it was ceviche-ish and deliciously delicate.

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Another regular menu item with a twist the Steamed Mount Cook Alpine salmon (usually served with trout and whey dressing $19) with smoked leek, sorrel, rye crumb, and macadamia presented perfectly flakey fish countered with a moreish nutty crumb.

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Protein however does not rule this establishment’s menu with fruit and veg given equal representation, sourced by Tim and Liz of Johnstone Kitchen Gardens (they also supply Quay) who passionately and sincerely ‘work on the ethos that the growing of produce should leave no mark on the land and travel no distance to the table’. The care put into the produce shines through in a meticulously prepared mix of Brussel sprouts, haloumi, Pickle Hill organic soybeans, sunflower seeds, Bondi honey ($19).

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The same could be said for all sides including popular dish spiced grains, almonds, labne, pomegranate ($12) offering a deliciously wholesome contrast between coarse grain, thick labne and fresh bursts of pomegranate seed, a refreshing combination of Iceberg, Johnstone’s radishes, basil, parmesan, buttermilk dressing ($10) and the crispiest Highland Gourmet potatoes, thyme salt ($9).

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Almost last but definitely not least the most decadent mains truly showcased the finesse at which Oakes prepares his meals, a pan roasted Redgate Farm duck, quince, hatsuka radish, bronze fennel, liquorice ($33) smacked of a decadent aniseedy sweetness whilst another (and thankfully regularly available) Origin Angus Beef Cheek, pickled onion, charred sugarloaf cabbage and sauce soubise ($35) slow braised in Young Henry’s Real Ale until melting tender and shining in a coat of sticky glaze is an absolute must.

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Complementing the dishes were a fine selection of wines all very well chosen symbols of the fantastic reputation this country has in the industry. Lively, crisp and citrusy 2010 Kate Hill Sparkling, Huon Valley, Tasmania made the perfect welcome apertif whilst a bright, fruity 2016 Helm Reisling, Central Ranges NSW will convince anyone who’s gone off Reisling that it’s back in fashion again. Highlight of the night had to be a full-bodied yet oh so easy to drink 2012 Moorooduc ‘Robinson’ Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, VIC. Young Henry’s also made their prescence felt in their range of fine craft beers and cider.

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A signature and long standing dessert the White chocolate and honeycomb parfait, salted caramel ($15) lacked some form of tartness to cut through the cloying sweetness of all the elements but would’ve sated the palate of any sugar addict. A fantastic selection of Local cheeses, Pickle Hill sugar plums, bread, crisps calling attention to a velvety, slightly sour goats cheese, finished off a very satisfying meal.

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An eye opener of an event, every course contributed to the very personality of its creator and the eatery itself, understated quality that draws attention on merit and substance rather than airs and graces with just a hint of mischief and fun. When Chef Oakes opened this place he said “Drake is a neighbourhood eatery, easy to drop into any time of the day, whether it’s for a snack, drinks or a full meal. Simply put, it’s the sort of place I would like to eat on my days off.” I concur.

Drake Eatery

Address: Curlewis Street & Gould Street, Bondi Beach

Contact: (02) 9130 3218

Website: http://drakeeatery.com.au/

Opening Hours: Weekdays 7am – 10pm, Weekends 8am – 10pm

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