Bondi is known for many things — picturesque ocean pools, crowded coastal walks, dietary requirements — but, until recently, its range of wine bars was not one of them. Over the last six months, this has started to change. What was once a select handful of good drinking holes has grown into a convincing case for heading to the eastern suburb after dark. And Bondi Hall is one of the new openings (alongside Bondi Beach Public Bar and Native Drops) putting forth a persuasive, natural wine–soaked argument.
The cafe-cum-wine bar — run by the hospitality masterminds behind Reuben Hills, Paramount Coffee Project and the soon-to-open Paramount House Hotel — opened for daytime trading in early 2016, slinging good coffee, ginger and turmeric lattes and brunch. Then the space had a facelift, and it relaunched in late 2017 with an impressive lineup of night-time snacks and a walk-in fridge packed with funky wines. As well as being open during the day, seven days a week, the cafe now opens for dinner and drinks Wednesday to Sunday.
The new menus are illustrated by connector-pen wiz Anna Vu (known on Instagram as Good Food Crap Drawing). On the after-dark menu, your eyes are drawn to the sanga in the top left corner — the standout mortadella sandwich ($21). The edible version is equally impressive, a Brickfields panini lathered with salsa verde and hot mustard and stacked high with layers of LP's mortadella. The meat-to-bread ratio is similar to that of a reuben (for the uninitiated, that's a liberal two-to-one).
The sandwich is available all day (thankfully) as is the cafe's take on a Welsh rarebit ($14). A dish more commonly seen in UK homes than on the menus of Australian restaurants, it sees aged cheddar, lightly spiced with cayenne pepper, grilled on thick-cut toast. At Bondi Hall, it's served with a handful of herbs and tangy pickled onion. If you're eating this in the latter half of the day, I suggest pairing it with something textural off the mostly-natural drinks list — a glass of amber Pheasant's Tears from Georgia, say, or a Tasmanian ale made from Australian natives by Two Metre Tall.
Other menu standouts include the DIY canapés of chilli-pickled mussels and prawns served with potato chips ($18); the bechamel-heavy slab of lasagna ($22); and the smoky LP's sausage ($26) served sliced with hot mustard, marinated capsicum and salmorejo (a light Spanish tomato purée). If the sweet-tooth calls, end with a slice of the dense, dark chocolate cake ($14) — it's rich, bitter and served on a bed of light mascarpone.
Next time you're looking for a feed and a drink out east, keep travelling down Oxford Street, past Paddington and Woollahra, and settle yourself on a stool at Bondi Hall.
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