Sunday, June 22, 2008

North Bondi Italian Food

NBIF menu
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
I think I’ve found a reason to want the Sydney winter to continue.

The Global Corporate Challenge has awakened my latent competitiveness and I now find myself walking everywhere. The planned walk from Spit Bridge to Manly had been cancelled (due partly to inclement weather and partly to 74 sub-standard Margaritas at La Cita the night before) but I had a terrible urge to “get the steps in”.

This is the only reason I have for why last Sunday, I was one of only three people walking along Bondi Beach in the sleeting rain and a force 12 gale. I’m fairly sure that the other two were also British.

If any Australians had spotted me, I’m sure they would have rolled their eyes twice. Once for the fact that they don’t think Bondi is “all that” and find my obsession with this beach risible. And twice because it was bloody cold.

But I was walking with purpose and I figured I would treat myself to lunch at North Bondi Italian Food, little sister restaurant to Icebergs.

It’s a casual (but not inexpensive), chic place, which doesn’t take reservations. It was already rammed at 12.30pm and the wait time for a table was an hour. Luckily, you can also eat at the bar, and given I looked like the wild wombat woman of Wooloomooloo (I love saying that. More “oohs” than a lorry load of adult DVDs), I can imagine that the Maitre’d was quite happy for me to be hidden by the door, away from the far more glamorous Sydney residents who’d already bagged a table. I love restaurants with a bar that solo diners can eat at. You feel much less inconspicuous (not something I generally worry about, but last night’s mascara was halfway down my cheeks and I was wearing a Yahoo t-shirt), you don’t feel the need to tip double (which I generally do in a nice place when I’ve taken up a two-top) and you can flirt with the hot barman (which, given I discovered the mascara when I got home was perhaps over-ambitious). The menu is utterly eatable and it took me a whole, very delicious, latte and about 26 complimentary monkey nuts to make my decision. It was meant to be a light lunch, so some salami and bread to begin and soup to follow.

Doesn’t sound like it’s going to amount to much, does it?

But this is a restaurant that takes its sourcing very seriously. So the salami is a cacciatore salami made from 90kg Black Berkshire pigs that have clearly had a very happy life. It’s served with some exceptional breads from Sonoma bakery and Fratelli Fresh olive oil. My only complaint was that you can’t get a tasting plate of the salumi and I really want to try to cutaletto and the guanciale. Next up was a massive, steaming bowl of twice cooked chicken broth with chicken polpette and chunky carrots. The bowl’s big enough to drown in and is everything that chicken soup could ever be. The stock was beautifully clarified, full flavoured and sparkling. The meatballs were firm and tasty, the chunky carrots all sweet and…well, chunky. It’s so easy to do chicken soup wrong, but all of the components were carefully thought-out and a lot of extra effort had gone into making this a wonderful dish.

I would have stayed for an averna (this place has a great digestive list) but it was getting hugely busy and I was being bumped and clattered from all sides. The noise level was unbearable. I’ll never understand the fashion for restaurants made entirely of hard surfaces that don’t even think to put some linen on the tables. I can imagine that this isn’t a problem in the summer, when the huge French-windows open and you can both see and hear the waves, but for now, my only criticism can only be righted by beautiful velvet drapes around all of the walls.

I cannot wait to go back here. It’s my new favourite place. Next time I want to get stuck into the (be still my beating heart) offal section of the menu, or perhaps try a roast of the day. And the marinated sardines. And some pasta. Oh God. I really can’t wait to go back.

North Bondi Italian Food is at 1 Notts Avenue, just opposite Bondi Beach.

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