203 180 Campbell ParadeBondi Beach, NSW
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat 11am-1am; Sun 11am-midnight|
|Features||Bar, Gluten-free options, Groups, Pub dining, Wheelchair access, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
When Maurice Terzini transformed the corner bar of St Kilda’s George Hotel into the Melbourne Wine Room in 1996, food writers were left scratching their heads trying to define it. Was it a pub, a bar or a restaurant?
No one was quite sure, but with a 24-year-old Karen Martini cooking cotechino on braised lentils, an outstanding bottle shop, and grown-up good time vibes, everyone agreed it was a bloody nice place and Melbourne fell in love with it.
Terzini’s mid-’90s reimagining of what a pub’s walls could contain continues to influence hotels across Australia. The Icebergs restaurateur delivered Surry Hills a new riff on the model when he opened The Dolphin in 2016, featuring chef Monty Koludrovic leading the kitchen and wine bloke James Hird pouring sustainable grape juice.
Koludrovic and Hird are on board for Bondi Beach Public Bar too, Terzini’s latest pub for the people, which opened on Campbell Parade in late December. Eastsiders haven’t been able to get enough of the place and by 6pm on Saturday there’s already a seven-metre line to get in.
There are no “is at a pub or a restaurant?” conversations at BBPB. This is a thong-friendly Aussie pub all the way, even if it could pass for a streetwear store if you replaced the drinks fridge with a rack of hoodies.
Interior architect George Livissianis has done a bang-up job realising Terzini’s “Rick Owens goes to Palm Springs via Bondi” brief with hard lines, raw finishes and concrete flourished in hot pink.
You’ll be hard-pressed to nab an inside table at the weekend, so try for an outdoor bench if you’re keen to get across Koludrovic’s Italo-Australian pub classics in comfort.
The cotoletta alla holstein ($26) is one of the best schnitzels in town. Chicken fried in olive oil, as the gods intended, turbocharged with anchovies, a fried egg, capers and lemon.
And I’m still thinking about the fish sandwich ($18) on a daily basis, where golden-fried crumbs give way to white fish cradled in the softest of white bread. You can eat it in six bites while your other hand nurses a Grifter pilsner ($9). Next time I’m ordering an extra one and taking it to the beach.
The Double Squish cheeseburger ($20), however, takes two hands and 10 paper napkins. Squashed into a weapon of atomic density, it’s a delicious beast licked with flame-grilled flavour and perhaps the most Instagrammed thing at the pub, after selfies of punters with perfect teeth.
Unless you’re training for the Hypertension Olympics, sharing one Squish between two is a sensible idea. Balance the burger madness with a caprese salad ($24) of shiny, happy tomatoes partnered with basil and rough cuts of mozzarella. Viva il tricolore.
A fridge of pre-batched cocktails stocks negronis ($16) next to White Mike Russians ($16), a tribute to wine writer Mike Bennie’s White Russian love and made with vodka, coffee liqueur and macadamia “milk”. It’s the perfect post-swim refreshment.
Terzini has also flicked post-mix soft drink from the venue, a bold move for any pub and perhaps deadset bonkers for one of BBPB’s size. It can’t be too profitable to replacing Coca-Cola with Capi mixers and keeping drinks prices competitive.
Hird’s small and easy-drinking wine list features a large percentage of Australian drops and most of them are available by the glass. A Bird and Fox semillon for $9 a pour is terrific value. Why can’t more pubs offer sustainably made wine at the same price point?
Terzini doesn’t open one-size-fits-all venues, and BBPB isn’t for everyone. Heck, I’m 33 and I think I might be too old for it, especially at the weekend. I’m very happy it exists, though. A pub of this size, serving food and drink made with top-line integrity, is a great thing for Bondi and Sydney.
All power to everyone involved and all power to the Aussie public bar.
If you only eat one thing: the crispy fish sandwich ($18).
If you only drink one thing: the White Mike Russian ($16).