Nu Bambu isn’t the sort of restaurant you’d expect to find in a club, let alone in the Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL. The club is located on an unloved corner of Canterbury Road in an area of Sydney better know known for its schnitzel and McDonald’s than upmarket modern Asian food.
The opening is part of a growing trend of clubs upping their food game. The Garden in Wests Ashfield opened a farm-to-fork restaurant, while a hawker precinct, District 8, was added to the Cabra-Vale Diggers Club. “The market is shifting. The club knows it has to do something or it’ll be left behind,” says chef Freddie Salim.
Salim has worked in some of Sydney’s most well-known Asian eateries, such as Sokyo and Longrain. His heritage is Indonesian but at Nu Bambu, he takes inspiration from right across Asia. “If you want to have really good Vietnamese food, you go to Marrickville. If you want to have dumplings, you go to Ashfield,” he says. “In Canterbury I want to create a little bit of everything in one place.”
The Thai salmon ceviche made with lean salmon topped with thick coconut shavings, coriander, mint and red nam jim is spicy, sour, sweet and pungent, a delightfully refreshing entrée that showcases the chef’s skill. The rich flavours of the twice-cooked beef from the large-plates menu is perfectly balanced by the tart cucumber relish. The tender short rib is first braised for three hours and then grilled.
The scallops are served with meaty shitake and king mushrooms cooked with Salim’s master stock. “We never throw it away,” says Salim. “We keep it rolling and refresh it with Chinese cooking wine, ginger and shallots, so it just gets better and better.”
Thanks to his time at Longrain, Salim is a deft hand at curry-making, and the vegetable green curry is outstanding. Chunks of roasted pumpkin and cauliflower are cooked in a spicy sauce that’s best tempered with the white-pepper-laden special fried rice.
Many of Salim’s dishes are inspired by his mum, who ran a catering business from their family home. Although she often shooed him away from the kitchen, he credits her as the inspiration for his cooking. The wobbly, sweet Mum’s Egg Tart on the dessert menu is a tribute to her.
Prolific Sydney designer Paul Kelly has created a distinct, open space for Nu Bambu at the back of the club, away from the pokie machines. It’s understated, with elements of ebony and natural timber, punctuated by pop artwork. Above a long communal table hangs a vast sculpture made from hand-dyed, pleated crimson silk.
“I never dreamed I’d work at an RSL, but it’s been such a luxury,” says Salim. “We have this beautiful fit-out, I got to hand-pick my team and suppliers. It’s making my dreams come true.”
Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL
20–26 Canterbury Road, Hurlstone Park
Mon to Thu 5.30pm–10pm
Fri to Sat 11.30am–3.30pm, 5.30pm–11pm
Sun 11.30am–3:30pm, 5.30pm–10pm