Make a reservation at Bondi Hardware, and you’ll see your name written in chalk on the table when you arrive. This is just one element that carries the theme of a restaurant and bar that was a hardware store for nearly thirty years.
Opened in mid November 2011, Bondi Hardware is a hop away from the main drag of the beach and Campbell Parade, up along Hall Street. Step through the glass doors, and you’re in another world of rustic design, exposed bricks, bare floors industrial lighting and a central communal table under a skylight with draping fernery.
Owners Ben Carroll and Hamish Watts have gone through great measures to create a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue built along the concept of the original hardware store, and one that is welcoming and accessible. They’ve engaged no interior designers but a creative builder who translated their vision into a space that sees their characters behind it.
“We wanted the venue to be accessible,” Ben says. “Our patrons are mainly locals and regulars, so we keep it fresh. This is the third menu in 5 months. We change it often to maintain diversity.”
With extensive hospitality experience, including working together the last five years, their passion for the job is evident in the regular patronage and the number of tables being turned on a busy weeknight.
The bar is a cool spot to sit and watch the bartenders at work. You’ll even find hooks on which to hang a handbag. The cocktail list has a summery theme starting with the light, fruity and floral such as The Geisha with Hendrick’s Gin and strawberries, and moving to heavier rum-based drinks such as the Old Cuban and Dark and Stormy with Pampero rum. The cocktail menu carries the “hardware” theme with diagrams showing the shape of the drinking vessel beside the drink.
L to R: Green Grass, Lychee and Elderflower Martini
The Lychee Elderflower Martini ($16) made with St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, vodka muddled lychees and lime is well-balanced and not overly sweet, making it easy to drink as an apéritif.
Green Grass ($16) lives up to its name with Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka mixed with pear syrup, lime and green apple juice. You get the green apple taste on the front palate followed by the grassy flavour of the Polish vodka.
Keep an eye for Loco Coco ($15), a whole coconut filed with Pampero Blanco and a splash of coconut syrup. And if you’re after something more fun, try the Elderflower Ice Pops ($6), served with soda on the side.
The wine list skips around the world from the antipodes to Argentina, Italy and France, with many available by the glass. Beer and cider are also on offer on tap and in the bottle.
The food menu is diverse and built around the concept of share plates. You’ll find wood-fired pizzas, the popular sliders, NY dogs, sizeable salads, dips, mezze plates and snacks for groups. But where the kitchen really shines is under Head Chef Justin Walshe, ex La Grillade in Crows Nest in the assortment of share plates.
Different cuisines are represented offering the diner a global choice with 3 to 4 dishes recommended between two people. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are catered for on request.
The Kingfish ceviche with avocado and toasted baguette ($18) is a burst of fresh flavours with sizeable chunks of fish in lime juice with avocado and diced tomatoes. Overall, a great choice for a first dish to whet the appetite. It goes down well with a glass of 2010 Viticoltori Pinot Grigio from Italy.
Jamaican curried goat
Spicy and very tender, the Jamaican curried goat ($17) is topped with yoghurt served with a side of steamed rice. This dish is an absolute delight with just the right amount of curry not to overpower the flavour of the meat.
Forest mushrooms on polenta
White wine and garlic sautéed forest mushrooms on soft polenta ($15) is the type of dish that makes you want to recreate at home to impress your dinner guests. The polenta is soft and creamy with an incredibly smooth texture. The earthy flavour of the mushrooms topped with generous shavings of cheese permeates the polenta making this dish a winner.
Keeping a watchful eye on what other diners have ordered, all dishes looked appetising particularly the sliders in a row of four, the Chermoula lamb rump chops and the nicoise of ocean trout.
Nutella and banana pizza
Desserts change often and at the time of visit, the only option was a Nutella and banana pizza. Generous lashings of Nutella on a light pizza base, a crispy banana and chocolate topping, a sprinkling of mint leaves and walnuts to cut through the sweetness, make a fun dessert that can be shared among four persons.
The bar area
L to R: Tool display wall; Batlow Cider wall
Much like the new generation of Bondi eateries we’ve reviewed recently (the Anchor Bar and the Bucket List) Bondi Hardware grips you from the first visit with its relaxed vibe, unpretentious attitude, vibrant food and drink menu. With its share plates concept, the dishes don’t take long before they are served, making it an option for a quick meal if you’re in a hurry. They are usually served at once which makes it a little difficult to juggle plates on an intimate table for two. Funky tunes contribute to the ambience but not so loud as you can’t have a conversation. Service is attentive and Bondi-friendly, with the complement of staff looking at ease in their roles no matter how busy it is during the night.
When the evening crowd disperses and you’re kicking back against the comfortable banquette sipping on a glass of Arido Malbec, you’ll already be making plans for your return.
Gourmantic dined as guests of Bondi Hardware. Opinions, as always, are our own.
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