Canadian chef Eli Challenger serves up inexpensive dude food at Bondi Road's latest small bar.
Eli Challenger is a great name. Up there with Buzz Lightyear, Frank Ocean and Hulk Hogan, Challenger is a moniker that pretty much must live up to the name. It belongs to the 25-year-old head chef of the new Bondi tapas bar Fat Rupert’s. Despite his youth, the dishes this Canadian serves up are right on the money for inexpensive tapas/dude food.
Fat Rupert’s is an odd name itself, inspired by owner Aaron Pearce’s overweight dog. In fact, the pooch theme is evident in the decor, with doggie-related books scattered throughout the bar. The location used to be home to the Flying Squirrel, a Bondi regular haunt for seven years before Pearce took over in late June. The interior pretty much remains the same, with a few mainstays from the former menu to keep locals happy.
The tapas menu is on first appearance familiar, with mini burgers, polenta chips and some kind of mod twist on fish and chips standard bar food these days. But this fish and chips ($17) is sesame-crusted tuna with deep-fried artichoke flakes replacing chips, which are more akin to tasty, salty cornflakes. The Yeezy burgers ($17 for four) are served in a huddled quartet of small buns, delicious in-house grounded wagyu beef, chipotle and swiss cheese. Even though sliders are served everywhere these days, Fat Rupert’s rank among the best, and show off Challenger’s background with meat at his former employer, Porteño in Surry Hills. There’s also a great fried chicken that’s been soaked in buttermilk and served with coleslaw and honey butter ($14).
As for the drinks menu, there’s a range of Berto’s Cocktails, by former Golden Sheaf bartender Alberto Goodman, including the Lagarita, a combo of XXXX beer, guava nectar, vodka and ginger and apricot liqueur ($17).
As Bondi’s bar culture grows, the competition is getting hotter. Rupert’s is now open for weekend breakfasts and plans a Sunday BBQ roast, with Challenger’s homemade sauces and North American sizzle. A trial run for the City2Surf event proved successful, so there’s staying power with this promising underdog.
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