It all started when they couldn’t find any waves. Ben Carroll and Hamish Watts – co-owners of Applejack Hospitality – which also counts Bondi Hardware and The Botanist as part of its burgeoning empire – were on a Californian surf trip last year, and there wasn’t a wave in sight. “So instead, we ended up eating and drinking our way down the coast and fell in love with the food, drinks and ambience of the place,” says Watts.
“Once we got back to Sydney we noticed a lack of Californian-style restaurants in the market and poured our experiences from Cali into our third venue.”
Airy, sun-drenched and incredibly upbeat – like that feeling after spending a whole day at the beach – SoCal (an acronym for Southern California) is an intelligent addition to the pair’s existing ventures. Where Bondi Hardware is gritty and The Botanist is slick, SoCal is enchantingly casual. What all three have in common is a menu devoted to sharing (from raw seafood reminiscent of “the 101 coastal highway” to tacos, quesadillas and plenty of pork) and an extensive drinks offering including the ‘Laguerita’, which comes in a red solo cup with an upturned corona peeking out.
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It’s this sense of humour and relaxation that give SoCal its unique atmosphere; the Californian ease translates well to Sydney. Wait-staff chat to you like old friends, the food – such as tequenos stuffed with oozing cheese – is made to accompany robust conversation. Design firm Luchetti Krelle – of Momofuku Seiobo and Ananas fame – is responsible for the fit-out, featuring bright colours, pale wood and a plethora of fresh greenery. The outdoor terrace is strung with coloured lights and evokes the beach bars of San Diego. “The perfect place to park yourself with a Margarita on sunny afternoons,” says Carroll.