PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Rather than doing the whole "we're too busy to need reservations"-thing, the owners of Bondi Hardware have made a compromise. Half the restaurant is for bookings, while the other half is reserved for walk-ins. What a great idea, or so I thought.
A week before my desired dining night, I rang to book a table for three. Politely, I was told that there were no reservations available but walk-ins were welcome. "But I don't welcome walk-ins", I wanted to respond. Instead, I decided to live life on the edge and simply rock up on an extra-chilly Friday (and hope that the Gods would be on my side.)
As we approach Bondi Hardware, a happy clamour of noise leaks out the door into the street. A small crowd are gathered in a small huddle trying to escape the gusty coastal winds, clearly waiting for a table. There was no way we would get straight in. The waitress politely warns us that there would be atleast an hour wait. Feigning optimism, we add our name to the list and traipse down Hall Street in search for a drinking spot.
Three vodkas down and my phone trills into life. We rush to the restaurant to secure our seat. Perched on high stools, we watch as two vivacious bar staff pour, shake and sip on an array of serious-looking cocktails. The lights are fairly low and the music is playing so loudly that we can hardly hear a word that the waiter says as she rattles off drink suggestions. But it doesn't really matter – our conversation is somewhat exhausted after we have just spent the last hour in idle chit chat at Ravesis, waiting for the call.
The calculatedly rustic setting feels like a cross between Shady Pines Saloon and Grasshopper, but more elegant. Exposed bricks, low slung industrial lights and worn timber tables dominate the restaurant while bits and bobs are placed around the space in a measured and conservative manner. The crowd is a dizzyingly weird mix of middle-aged suits, leggy blondes and some chilled-out surfer bros. And despite the unusual clientele, the room has a happy and excited buzz.
Head Chef Justin Walshe has created a diverse menu of share plates, wood fire pizza, snacks and cheese boards. The food arrives quickly, thank goodness. Pan-fried ocean trout with a rocket, goats cheese and pickled red onion salad is robust and flavoursome while the salt and pepper squid is as it should be – crispy and tasty. The prawn, roasted garlic and chilli pizza is simple but pleasant however it is the chargrilled zucchini, olive and anchovy pizza that really lets the side down. Service is as crisp and professional as a hatted restaurant but the food is mostly mediocre.
We must remember though, Bondi Hardware is not a fine diner – it is all about having fun, enjoying a cocktail and letting your hair down with some fine tunes. And Bondi Hardware certainly achieves this, better than most.