The other night I would have gladly shouldered the burden of an extra $700,000 on our mortgage.
In the midst of economic winds that shriek ‘hold onto your hats’ someone’s got to ask what has got into me.
The answer is the Bronte road bistro.
When times get tough some steal from the rich to give to the poor, or plan escapes over the hills and far away – here opposite the Robin Hood hotel and Flight Centre there’s a third option that’s perfect for those of us craving simpler; just a local place to sit with friends and take mental refuge from the storms.
This newly opened haven is equidistant from the devil (Westfield Bondi Junction and its seven circles of car parking hell) and the deep blue sea of Bronte Beach. From the front there are large umbrellas for shelter, with round tables and chairs which comfortably seat four. The long dining space evokes an open plan extension to a California bungalow and the inside bar is more akin to a sitting room, begging for cooler weather so the fire can be lit.
Jessica Parsons and her partner Stuart Parsons have swapped the shiny glass of previous roles (Stuart comes as ex-manager of Pier) for a warm aubergine glossed space whose kitchen hosts the talents of David Pegrum (ex Tetsuyas, Forbes and Burton).
The menu; printed on earnest recycled paper is as perfectly crisp and clear as some of us are capable of absorbing on a Friday night.
Price points are simple; entrees come in good serving sizes for $15 and mains at $26. Both the duck rillets and chicken liver parfait take you straight back to Parisian sidewalks- the rillets shredded and lightly bound with fat ( it helps if you keep repeating to yourself that fat equals flavour) and the chicken liver parfait is mousse-like and velvet toothed, swaddled in a collar of clarified butter. Both come with cornichons and bread- anyone feeling thrifty could easily share an order either with a couple of extra portions of local hero ‘Iggy’s’ bread($1 each).
Other winning entrees are eggplant and zucchini beignets; batons of vegetables, given a fluffy and crispy coat of batter which is then dipped into a fresh tomato dressing which, along with the vegetable interior helps restore a balance of virtue in what is essentially a deep fried indulgence. Then there’s a raft of house- cured pink salmon, topped with shaved cucumber and spritzes of dill- the perfect thing for the well manicured local ladies who will no doubtably take up residence for Thursday and Friday lunches.
Mains continue a similarly pared back, French tipped style, from a fillet of silver dory swimming in a mussel tinged sea to a wagyu onglet steak (similar to a skirt steak)which makes friends with a bowl of crunchy frites, a bisected roasted tomato and anchoide- a chimichurri style tapenade/ relish bringing the saltiness of anchovies and kick of garlic with a range of green herbs.
For those looking for comfort food it’s hard to go past a mound of soft polenta, topped with sweet braised onion and still pink sliced duck breast, and then there’s peace of mind for those with dietary restrictions with the cleverly pieced together vegetarian/ gluten free option of socca and mushroom lasagne, layering sautéed mushrooms with flat pancakes made from chickpea flour.
If you opt not to have the selection of cheese- with four for $21 you’ll kick yourself later when someone tells you you missed out on piano hill gouda and a woodside goat cheese, wrapped in wine soaked vine leaves, all having a little party with brillat savarin, crisp croutons and muscatels.
The staff feel like they could be your friends; slightly cheeky but keen and refreshingly honest- ‘she knows most about the cheese- I’m just hear for window dressing’ . Others will you to bring on the weekend and cast away any work worries with wine- which considering the breadth of choices at reasonable prices on the list isn’t hard (when was the last time you saw a crisp, friendly Bordeaux rose on a wine list for $32 in Sydney?)
There’s a sense of luxury and economy in so much of this place; nowhere more so than in the three desserts; $11 brings either a thick wedge of citron tarte, vanilla cream and champagne strawberries or a gooey crème brulee flecked with vanilla and scented with blood orange- a thrifty use of the refuse from the fennel, orange and olive salad ($10).
Sitting outside on one of the first warm nights of spring you don’t mind if the table tops aren’t the ones they initially ordered, or if at the end of the evening you’re reading the menu by the light of your mobile phone. When they get a chance to swing by staff are affable as can be and seem committed to keeping prices sensible, so the neighbourhood takes them in as one of their own.
At the end of some soothing iKOU equilibrium herbal tea ($4) we’re keen enough to be included in the local, inner circle that we start looking into real estate in Bronte- until smacked by some unfriendly fiscal reminders. So, suffice to say until we stumble upon an extra , say, $700 000 for a shiny three storey terrace down the road we’ll have to be content to cool our heels and stoke our jealousy of those who can claim this worthy nugget as their own local bounty – and focus on saving our pennies so we can keep coming back.
Bronte road bistro
282 Bronte Rd
(02) 9389 3028
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday
Lunch Thursday to Saturday