North Bondi was chosen as the location for Rocker, a high-profile new opening from Sweet & Chilli’s Cam Northway and the always-excellent Darren Robertson, best known for being one of the driving forces behind Three Blue Ducks as well as his new stint on My Kitchen Rules. Reputation is nothing without execution though, and fortunately this casual all-day restaurant and bar delivers, both with it’s locally-appropriate laid-back atmosphere and gorgeous share-style dining.
Chef Stuart Toon and sommelier Chris Morrison take care of the everyday operations here, working with two distinct spaces – one with a long communal table and the other with comfortable cafe-style seating – full of typically by-the-beach tones to offer locals and visitors a superb selection of food, wine and cocktails that’s successfully set apart from anything else offered around Bondi.
It’s worth digging through the bar snacks immediately. For those who like to start with a digestif, go for the Regal Rouge ($8) built with rose vermouth poured over a thick ice cube and topped with grapefruit. It’s a smooth, clean way to wake up the palate before eating through the shared snacks like the Olives & Myrtle ($4), the crunchy and moreish Chickens & Native Salt ($3), or – my favourite – the beautifully crisp Potato Bread ($8) served with sweet cauliflower hummus. Though the most interesting snack is the sizable croquette of Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit ($3), a deep-fried ball with smokey cured pork fat on top, blended with strong creamy cheese inside. It’s irresistible and easily begs for a few more orders, at least for those who are feeling extra indulgent.
For seafood lovers, dive straight into a bowl of Baby Octopus ($17) with creme fraiche, nasturtium and preserved citrus. It’s the summer-fresh essential of the menu, with generous chunks of chewy octopus lifted by the interesting blend of ingredients. To further the love of the sea, move away from the pasta-heavy focus of the mains (although the orcchiette with clams, sea lettuce and urchins does sound fantastic) and order up the John Dory ($36) with burnt butter, capers and sea succulents as a main. It’s masterful; simple and fresh with the highly textured fish cooked perfectly, soaking up its drizzle of burnt butter and salty sea succulents for strong flavours.
For something meatier opt for the Pappardelle ($27) with ox cheek ragu, orange, thyme and parmesan. As with all pasta dishes on the menu, the pappardelle is made in-house, perfect when mixed through the stew-like ragu, rich from it’s careful treatment with orange and thyme. As far as hearty, soul-warming mains go this one is a must. Pair it up with a nice tower of Broccoli ($12) with mint and burnt yoghurt on the side for best results.
Save room for dessert. What is perhaps my personal favourite dessert of the year is the menus stand-out Salted Rye & Treacle Tart ($13) with vanilla ice cream. It’s as if Christmas came early, the addictive tart mirroring the recognisable flavours of the holiday season with a dark and rich fruit-mince filling. It’s far superior to the crunchy, so-so bowl of Chocolate, Parsnip Ice Cream and Roasted Chestnuts ($13) which contains too many jarring textures for its own good.
Word is that the kitchen is preparing a Rocker-by-night style dinner-only menu, and with that right around the corner plus a separate menu for breakfast this lovely addition to North Bondi is most definitely one worth traveling further up Campbell Parade for.
Address: 39-53 Campbell Parade, North Bondi
Contact: (02) 8057 8086