Just a few days out from the opening of Bondi Beach Public Bar and executive chef Monty Koludrovic is pumped. “I can already feel the tremors of excitement,” he says.
He's excited because Bondi Beach Public Bar, the latest venture from Maurice Terzini (of Icebergs Dining Room and The Dolphin), is finally opening – a 300-person venue within the slick Pacific Bondi Beach building complex on the corner of Campbell Parade and Curlewis Street, home to the QT Hotel, a couple of shops, restaurants and some really nice apartments.
But while it’s within one of Bondi’s best addresses, don’t expect any pretension. Both Koludrovic and group sommelier James Hird make it clear this is a public bar, the kind of place people can come to straight off the beach for a meal and a drink.
“Our main focus is how people want to use the venue,” says Koludrovic. “At a pub, the food and beverage is just part of what people want to do there. Being social is the priority, so the product needs to fit around that.”
The food and wine will be restaurant quality, but patrons will still need to order at the bar and take a number back to their table. “They’re not getting laboured over, that’s in keeping with the level of casualness [we want] here,” Koludrovic says.
The price tag reflects this also. “You want change from $10 for a drink at a public bar,” says Hird. Wines by the glass range from $9 to $13 and spirits (even with fresh-squeezed juice or boutique mixers) will hover around the $10 mark. Nothing on the food menu is over $30, except for a shared antipasto plate that is pushed just over by the inclusion of Holy Goat cheese. But it’s worth it, says Koludrovic, “It’s the best cheese in the world.”
The food philosophy is consistent across the group’s venues, but here it’s less oysters and caviar and more deep-fried cheesy ham croquettes. Josh Carrick, former head chef at Icebergs, will be in the kitchen.
The squish burger is the dish everyone’s been talking about pre-opening, and it does sound seriously good. “It’s an amazing double cheese burger. While it’s warm we press it down with a weight. It gets squished but stays soft because there’s no heat. It’s pretty incredible,” says Koludrovic.
He’s also excited about the chicken schnitzel, which is served with brown butter and a biodynamic egg from a small family-run farm in Bowral, which has just 24 hens per acre. “The eggs are absolutely knock-out amazing. I’ve never had anything like them.” Pizzas will be thin and crisp, a la The Dolphin, and there’s its version of favourite Belle’s Hot Chicken called Bellas.
Hird has created a short, sharp list of 12 to 15 wines based around what he would like to drink with the food. “Drinkability is my number one thing. People are definitely going to want to have that second glass.”
As a bonus, everything on the list is organic or free of additives. “Bondi is a lot about health and alcohol in moderation is not unhealthy,” Hird says. “You need to remember that grapes are a crop, so if they’re farmed well there’s a better natural flavour and you don’t have to add anything to it.”
Terzini adds: “We’ve reinterpreted drinks like Harvey Wallbangers and White Russians. The [latter] will be served in a can and be called a White Mike Russian because it’s a collaboration between Mike Bennie and Mr Black. We’ve tried to have a bit of fun with it."
The venue is one large room with a bar in the centre. Terzini describes the design as sharp, raw, contemporary and “punk”, tapping into the energy and attitude of the ’70s and ’80s Australian pub scene. “It’s a reflection of modern-day Bondi. It’s very much my tastes as well, so everything’s grey, white and black. Plus with lots of concrete,” he told Broadsheet earlier this month. The space includes an installation by Matthew Bax from Melbourne’s Bar Americano and photos by the late Australian social photographer Rennie Ellis. The soundtrack will be late-’70s Australian punk, so expect the likes of Sydney’s the Celibate Rifles.
Bondi Beach Public Bar opens Wednesday December 20
Bondi Beach Public Bar
203/180 Campbell Parade, Bondi
(02) 9132 5777
For the city’s latest, subscribe to the Broadsheet newsletter.