You may have passed it a number of times on your way to Bondi Beach, a shop with an unassuming frontage and red lights that glow in the evening. But step inside The Rum Diaries and you are transported to another world. The venue resembles an old house decked out in dark timber including the walls and the bar, bathed in subdued lighting with an archway leading to another dining area. The rum-focussed bar/restaurant has an air of mystique.
The Rum Diaries, Bondi
The cocktail menu is presented in a leather-bound book entitled The Cocktail Diaries, and it is precisely that, a chronological list of rum-based cocktails dating back to the 1500s with each cocktail bearing a historical reference. The list moves onto the contemporaries with the likes of the Old Cuban, Dark & Stormy, and cocktails to share among two persons.
The choice is vast and you can’t help but admire the selection of rums that sit proud on the bar and on the shelving above the piano and adjacent to His Masters Voice gramophone, including the luxury Havana Club Maximo Extra Anejo. This is a rum collection that would make a pirate envious.
L-R: Fogcutter, Scorpion
From 1947 comes the Fogcutter, a mix of Havana Blanco, gin, brandy, lemon, sugar and orange juice, served tall, a drink to sip on long, hot, lazy days lounging in a hammock. The Scorpion starts fruity on the palate, followed by an orange flavour from the orgeat mingled with the rum and finishes with a hint of bitterness that cuts through out the sweetness – a well-balanced rum cocktail that is easy to drink.
Astrolabe Pinot Gris
In keeping with the theme, the food menu is presented scroll-like. Executive Chef Gérald Touchard, has designed it around share plates and it is divided into “to share, entrees, main course, side dishes and dessert”, each section offering a choice of 3 to 4 dishes. The recommendation is to share 3 to 4 dishes among two persons, but as the portions vary in size, you may need on more depending on your appetite.
Tempura zucchini flowers
Tempura zucchini flowers ($11.50) are difficult to resist, and they make a good starter while sipping on the rest of the cocktail. The dish has 5 pieces of zucchini flowers, sliced lengthwise in half, lightly battered and filled with melted haloumi and a sprinkle of pine nuts with a pomegranate vinaigrette. The red pepper puree adds a little heat to this tasty vegetarian dish.
The fragrant scent of the scallops ($17.50) wafts through the dining room before the dish is placed on the table. Plump, crunchy on top and tender on the bite, the seared scallops are dressed with a yuzu lemon puree and a coriander gremolata amongst edamame bean and nashi pear salad. It’s a delicious combination of flavours, and with six scallops, you are not left to share them equally.
Rum smoked barramundi
Next is the barramundi ($24.50), three pieces smoked with black tea and vanilla, and served with cracked bulgar wheat, celery and spinach leaves with vanilla and onion puree with rum salt on the side. The fish has a lovely smoky flavour with a crisp skin, flaky texture and moist flesh. The bulgar is underwhelming in flavour but as one renowned chef once told us, let the flavour of the fish always be the star. The rum salt is an utter delight to sprinkle on the fish.
Chickpea Jenga tower
For a side dish, you can’t go past the Chickpea Jenga tower with paprika aioli ($8.50). The crunchy fingers of chickpea with a spicy and flavoursome dipping sauce are moreish.
Wagyu rump of beef cheek
The Wagyu rump of beef cheek, pomme puree, heirloom carrots, watercress and truffled salt ($26.50) is a hearty and comforting dish. The meat is so tender that it falls apart as you serve it, leaving a delectably rich flavour.
To finish, indulge in a fun and decadent dessert with the Chocolate marquise, with OP rum and allspice Chantilly with orange sparkle dust ($14.50). Suck a line of orange sparkle dust, hold in on your mouth then sink your teeth into the chocolate marquise for a taste sensation. The line of powder is like an orange sherbet and popping candy on the tongue. This is definitely a dessert to share with a special someone, be it a first date, a date night, or a hot date.
Hot Buttered Rum
If you are in the mood for an after dinner cocktail, the Hot Buttered Rum which dates back to the 1700 goes down like a treat. Thought to have been developed from the Hot Toddy, the mixture of Angostura 1919, Rum Diaries’ spiced butter and cloudy apple juice puts a warming finish to the evening.
The Rum Blazer
Or if you like theatrics with your drink, you can’t go past the signature cocktail, The Rum Blazer. Bartender Ian Brettell will tell you a little history as he prepares the cocktail laced with Angostura rum, fruit and spice, sugar and bitters.
Flaming the blazer
The Blazer is warming, delicious, with a hint of sweetness, spice and it makes you feel good all over.
Photographs of The Rum Diaries below:
Booth seating, for 5-6 people
Chef Gérald Touchard
Máximo Extra Añejo rum (Havana Club)
There is something about The Rum Diaries that embraces you from the time you step inside. Whether it is the warmth of the dark timber fitout, the welcoming and relaxed ambience, or the rum-based cocktails that come with a side of history and dishes that win you over on flavour and presentation, the casual dining experience is one that is most enjoyable.
If you are after more intimate dining, you can book the room at the very back (6-8 persons) and dine amongst old clocks, typewriters, a vintage chest and records and other paraphernalia. And with The Rum Diaries offering half price food and drink (excluding premium rums) Tuesdays to Sundays between 6 pm and 7 pm, you are tempted to come back and work your way through the cocktail list as you graze on delicious food.
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