While most trek to Bondi to lap up the sun and sand, it's worth noting there are plenty of ace restaurants to check out too. Whether it's a long lunch at Sean's Panorama or Bondi Icebergs Dining Room and Bar or a sandy-footed post-swim snack at Porch and Parlour or Pompei's you'll find somewhere great to eat in North and South Bondi and beyond.
Sean’s is freshness, simplicity and fun on a plate – it’s the antidote to every bad meal you’ve ever had. Chef and owner Sean Moran cooks his own food his own way. And has done since he opened the restaurant in 1993. The restaurant looks straight out over Bondi Beach – it’s some of the best real estate in the country. The breezy coastal friendliness, the welcoming room and the fiercely produce-driven menu (very often specials will change depending on the week, or even the day) is an all-seasons win.
Icebergs can be everything you love about Sydney, or it can be everything you hate. Those with even a slight case of reverse snobbery might accuse this top-shelf Bondi restaurant of being a little private beach club at times. Admittedly, fellow diners do have a tendency to give off a ‘comfortable on any size yacht’ vibe. But letting that get in the way of what could potentially be an epic lunch would be a mistake. Because when it’s good, it’s very, very good. At the height of its excellence, it gives you the feeling every restaurant should leave you with: utter refreshment.
Pompei's is a great restaurant. That's not to say the service is slick, but it is friendly. Start with some grissini (that's breadsticks to youse) with a plate of prosciutto while you think about pizza. Play it straight with a margarita (tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil) or try the broccoli topped with mozzarella and ripped up chunks of pork sausage. They also make an excellent pizza biancho (that's pizza sans tomato) with thin slices of potato, sea salt and rosemary. The bases are thin, wood-fired and made on a stone (all very traditional) and if you fancy your dough folded, this is the place to come - the salami and ricotta calzone is a ripper.
There’s only one place you need to be right now, and that’s face-first in a focaccia con porchetta. The outrageous sandwich is a hot, fatty, rich and juicy pile of chopped-up roast pork straight from the rotisserie, laid with crisp cos lettuce leaves and grilled eggplant, all smooshed between pieces of pizza bread in a happy delicious mess. And that’s what happens when you put Popolo’s Orazio D’Elia in the kitchen and catch Maurice Terzini at full power.
Why Granger waited up till now to open in Bondi is a total mystery. The queue’s a mile long, but nobody seems to care – partly because it’s a scene in itself waiting for a table and everyone seems to know each other, and partly because the turnaround is unusually quick. It's even easier if you pop in for dinner and order miso salmon, a high-end schnitzel or something off the barbecue menu.
China Diner offers a cross-pollination of Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese dishes. They're doing a menu that’s been designed with big groups in mind, which might explain the caveat at the bottom of the snacks section. And that is ‘a minimum order of two per item’. There are Vietnamese sandwiches (the smoked tofu with pickled carrot, cucumber and coriander is the winner here) and sticky, sweet Malaysian-style Marmite chicken wings. Puffy and addictive rice crackers flecked with seaweed go strangely well with a side of Cantonese-style pickled red cabbage.
While its name may suggest this bar/restaurant is only about Pisco Sours and Malbec, its food and bar offering traipses all over the Americas. For snacks, the menu ducks-and-switches depending on the time of day. Tacos and po’ boys are available all afternoon and evening – super tasty and well prepared. The Southern fried chicken with creamed corn, corned bread and gumbo sauce is a calorific indulgence, while the burger and the grilled hanger steak with battered buttermilk onion rings are great mates to the boozy drinks.
This giant restaurant, fronted by Chiswick and Aria’s Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan, is what’s become of North Bondi Italian Food, which closed in 2012 after previous owners Maurice Terzini and Robert Marchetti parted ways. Order the raw kingfish with ponzu, rounds of raw green chilli and maybe the calamari. Also make sure you get around the wine list (written by Matt Dunne) which is brilliant – short, but really thoughtfully put together. There are very few places you can schlep into and order a Sancerre straight from the beach, sandy feet and all. It’s certainly the only place in town we can think of where you can drink natural wine in your swimmers.
This small-but-punchy café by day, restaurant by night has been impressing locals with hungover brunches and late night wines since 2012. In the evening, go super Bondi and order up air-dried biltong and a glass of biodynamic white. If you're after something bigger try, the braised ragu (on our visit it’s done with lamb, but you’ll also find rabbit on the menu sometimes), which sees silky ribbons of soft fettuccini, mixed with strands of slow cooked lamb, freshened up by a handful of herbs on top. Porch is just a stone's throw from the beach and the people watching here is second to none, so get a spritzer and some snacks and find out why this place is so darned packed out all the time for yourself – you'll thank us later.
A white and golden mosaic proclaiming 'You are here.' greets you as you enter the Nine. And aren't you lucky that you are, because you've just stepped foot in one of Bondi's best cafés and restaurants. The Nine have been pumping out excellent Mediterranean inspired breakfasts for a bit over a year now and are now doing dinners.
It’s all about the diffusion restaurant in Sydney right now. Casual offshoots and upmarket spin-offs are popping up all across town in a move by chefs and owners to extend their offering. And the Hill Eatery is just that: a little more fancy, a little more upmarket and a little more sophisticated than breakfast hotspot Porch and Parlour, the other Bondi venture by Sarah Hendricks, Michael Benson and Sam Smith.
Chefs Joel Best and Ross Wilson have been trained by the best. Their résumé boasts time in the kitchens of Sydney’s best fish-focused restaurants: Pier, Fish Face, the Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay and Flying Fish. When they set their sites on North Bondi, they went a bit smaller, opting to offer wares out of a room the size of a broom closet. As expected after working at Fish Face, they fry an excellent piece of beer-battered flathead. The chips, little hand-cut nubbins, are OK, but the potato scallops are excellent – nice and thin, not too wide and beautifully flaky. The joy is in the chaos at this bustling little diner. Get amongst it.
Want to explore more of Bondi?
Ahhh Bondi – once an outpost for the vain and backpacking, now one of Sydney's most exciting emerging food and drink hubs. Suddenly, there's a reason for the bus-train-bus trip east to the beach. We're loving the transformed Gould, Hall and Curlewis streets, with their nook-y cafés for coffee and their relaxed, comfortable bars for a tipple. And does beachside dining get any better than a drink at Icebergs or the Da Orazio? Or a piece of fresh fish at Matt Moran's North Bondi Fish? (The answer is a no, if you were wondering).