Winter in Sydney, for the most part, means that things change around the city. The weather gets colder (more of a fierce mild than actually cold), Sydneysiders overreact in their clothing choices, and restaurant menus shift into a more homely, comforting style, filled with roasted meats and seasonal veg that warm you to your bones. In general, at least. The fact is, though, that this is not entirely the case at Bondi's drinking institution, The Bucket List.
This Bondi Hipster haven by the sea, has long been famous for buckets of beer and prawns (different buckets) in the sun on Sundays, or a chilled cocktail on Friday and Saturday nights. But, now that the biting, winter winds sweep the beach, The Bucket List has added a new facet to its repertoire — a damn fine winter menu.
From the word go, it's obvious that the menu takes a different approach to winter than the rest of the city. It embraces citrus, biting herbs, chili and light fruits, all used to embellish a beautifully cooked protein element. Take the calamari starter, for example. The calamari is served warm, cooked to that perfect medium between underdone chewy and overdone chewy. It's soft, and falls apart on the tongue. The balance of coriander and chili on the squid add a crisp taste to the dish, without any of the heat.
On top of that, the lemon and pomegranate that dress light salad could be two equal sides of a scale. Delicious. The same goes for the delicious haloumi salad — crispy on the outside, soft in the middle with the flavours enhanced by a dribble of balsamic and a smattering of walnuts. They're summer-style entrees, but when you're in Bondi, you need to embrace the warm nature of the place despite the weather outside.
It's a damn good idea to couple these particular starters with an Italian Pinot Grigio, which boasts ripe stone fruits on the nose with a crisp, dry palate, finishing with vibrant pear.
The mains, however, bow to a more traditional sense of winter. The flank steak is cooked to a perfect rare, served with crispy potatoes and a generous helping (maybe too generous) of broccolini. It's paired perfectly a lovely Barossa Shiraz characterised by a rich cherry pip flavour and mild tannins.
Although a staple dish, chicken is a food you can always judge a chef by. There's a fine line between well done chicken and horribly done chicken, and it's easy to overstep that line. At The Bucket List, however, it's spot on. Served up with a fantastic creamed corn and soft, rich jerusalem artichokes, it truly is winner, winner, chicken dinner (drink a chianti with this – soft and understated, it takes on a whole new flavour with food).
An absolute must, however, is the side of Brussel sprouts. Always a favourite on winter menus, these sprouts are charred on the outside, with each layer becoming softer and softer all the way through. The creamed corn makes another appearance, this time with a savoury hummus. Absolutely premium.
Chef Tom Walton is also pumping out specials most nights, the most impressive being the fish pie. Made from the freshest seafood available that day, it's all topped with potato mash that's then chucked under the grill to give the mash those crispy peaks that really add texture to the dish.
Although the restaurant is set just off the main bar of a busy and sometimes noisy pub, the decor is not unappealing — and it's lifted by a stunning view of the most beautiful beach in the world. Throw in the extensive list of local and imported beers (try the Mexican Negra Modelo with the chocolate brownie for dessert), and a slew of spirits and cocktails available, The Bucket List is a not-too-shabby way to while away the winter nights by the sea.