Chef Darren Robertson's reputation precedes him — those who do not already know him from his time at the tremendously luxe Tetsuya's or as one of the main minds, and palates, behind Australian restaurant group Three Blue Ducks, will surely recognise him as the newly appointed judge on My Kitchen Rules. Now, the famed chef has opened his new 100-seater in Bondi in the former site of The Hill Eatery.
The name Rocker refers to the nose-to-tail of a surfboard, which ties in with both the style of cooking Robertson is known for and with the surf-crazed Bondi community. This local vibe is echoed in the fitout, which includes timber floorboards alongside concrete panelling and navy blue tiling and table surfaces that give the space a nautical feel. "We utilised a lot of existing materials to create an industrial yet warm vibe that combines coastal elements with hanging greenery," says Robertson.
With Rocker, Robertson is again collaborating with Bondi local Cam Northway (Sweet & Chilli) and the project has moved fast since we first chatted about the restaurant back in March. Running the kitchen day-to-day is Stuart Toon, who has a decade of experience as a butcher working with Jamie Oliver. The precise, seasonal menu will be distinguished by regular specials and fresh ingredients.
The coffee bar is currently open seven days a week, offering up single origin brews with takeaway toasties, pastries and cakes. For more substantial breakfast options, think locally grown pomelo and rhubarb bircher and brekkie bowls, along with a white bread sandwich of maple-cured bacon topped with brown sauce — which happens to be Robertson's favourite item on the menu. "I know it sounds quite simple but the bacon sandwich is truly, truly amazing," says Robertson. "It's not glamorous, but we're really excited about it."
The all-day lunch and dinner service starts from noon, with 'smalls' including parfaits, oysters and salads, as well as Welsh rarebit croquettes. For 'bigs', think pasta dishes like clams with sea lettuce and a wintry beef cheeks and tendon ragu with orange and thyme. Diners can also expect a fresh fish of the day and a rotating steak cut on offer. Desserts included a cheese platter with roasted fig jam and pumpernickel crisps and a parsnip ice cream with white chocolate ganache and roasted chestnuts.
On the drinks side, sommelier Chris Morrison (ex-Bistro Guillaume) is at the helm, creating a wine list that is a mix of old school and new school wines from young and exciting winemakers. The short cocktail list will included a house Negroni on tap and a Dark and Stormy made with kombucha, ginger and in-season finger limes. Local craft brewers 4 Pines and Young Henrys and Byron favourite Stone & Wood will appear on tap. It all sounds almost too good to be true, but, from Robertson, the proof is in the pudding.